The Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo stands out like a beacon
on the Australian used car market. As second-hand XR6T prices tumble to around
AUD$25,000, it’s never been cheaper and easier to achieve truly supercar
performance in a full-size vehicle that offers all the practically, comfort and
handling you’re likely to need.
In this four-part series we’ll look at the
evolution of the XR6 Turbo, examine what goes wrong and investigate its immense
tuning potential. If you’re thinking about purchasing a pre-owned XR6T, this is
your one-stop resource!
XR6 Turbo Models
The XR6 Turbo was introduced with the rest of the
BA Falcon series in late 2002.
In these early-spec cars, the base 4-litre six
produces a considerable 182kW and 380Nm while the turbocharged version adds a
whopping 32 percent extra power and 18 percent extra torque – 240kW at 5250 rpm
and 450Nm spread between 2000 and 4000 rpm. To put that into context, the
previous generation ‘high performance’ AUIII XR6 VCT makes just 172kW/374Nm
while the supercharged Holden 3.8-litre V6 engine develops just 171kW/375Nm...
The BA Falcon engine has similar architecture to
the previous generation 4-litre six but the biggest improvement is
the switch to a DOHC, 24 valve head offering infinitely variable cam timing over
a 60 degree range. There’s also a dual-stage intake manifold, electronic
throttle, a massively improved engine management system with knock sensing,
coil-on-plug ignition and sequential fuel delivery.
The XR6 Turbo engine varies from its atmo cousin
by employing revised pistons (dropping the static compression ratio from 9.7 to
8.7:1), slightly modified conrods and Inconel exhaust valves. The turbo system
comprises a stainless steel exhaust manifold with a Garrett GT40 ball-bearing
turbocharger, a high-flow cat converter and exhaust, front-mount air-to-air
intercooler, Bosch blow-off valve and electronic wastegate control allowing up
to 6 psi boost. Fuel pressure is also raised to 4 Bar and 95 RON premium
unleaded fuel is necessary to achieve the quoted 240kW output.
There can be very little criticism of the XR6
Turbo engine but the driveline is a different story – in early models, at
Until late ‘04, the manual version of the XR6T was
built with a BTR Engineering T5. This is a relatively old gearbox design which
is noisy and unrefined – completely at odds with the sophisticated feel of
the engine. Fortunately, the T5 ‘box was replaced with a slicker shifting
six-speed when the Mark II XR6T was introduced – but we’ll come to that.
Auto versions of the XR6T kicked off using a
heavily revised BTR Engineering four-speed. Its electronic control system uses a
five-mode control strategy and there’s a sequential gearshift function for
sportier driving. This is quite an intelligent transmission but it can give
trouble when engine output is increased over standard. In recent months – with
the introduction of the BF-series XR6T – the four-speed transmission has been
replaced with a ZF six-speed auto. The new auto continues to receive
The suspension in the XR6 Turbo sedan – with
double wishbones at the front and a Control Blade IRS – offers an excellent
compromise between ride and handling. The XR6 Turbo employs firmer settings than
the base Falcon but it still rides comfortably and it’s swift and controllable
through corners. There’s also plenty of grip from the standard 235/45 Dunlop SP
Sport 3000s worn on 17 inch alloys. All XR6 Turbo models, regardless of
transmission choice, come with a LSD to get the grunt to the bitumen and
switchable traction control comes standard in the sedan.
Interestingly, the XR6T comes standard with the
same ABS-controlled four-wheel-disc brakes fitted to the base BA. These
brakes are pushed to their limit with the extra performance of the turbo engine
but, fortunately, Ford offered a Premium Brake option for new car buyers. The
Premium Brakes bring 325 x 225mm grooved front discs and twin-pot calipers to
provide a substantial improvement in stopping power. It’s just a shame more new
buyers didn’t tick the option box... The XR6T’s power-assisted rack and pinion
steering is well suited to a full-size, performance sedan but we would like
slightly more on-centre response and feel.
The XR6 Turbo is available in two body styles -
sedan and ute. The sedan tips the scales at approximately 1730kg while the
load-lugging ute adds about 20kg. The ute also employs a live rear axle and,
until recently, missed out on traction control. It’s a popular choice for
petrol-head tradespeople who must have a ute.
The XR6T sedan offers typical Falcon levels of
passenger accommodation and cargo space. In Turbo guise you also receive sports
trim, blue lit instruments, a leather wheel, dual airbags, cruise and four power
windows. Standard audio is a 100W single CD unit with a mono-tone LCD screen but
many new buyers splurged extra for the Premium six-stack CD package with a
colour screen, high-power amplifier, sub-woofer and expended trip computer
functions. A luxury interior package comprising leather trim and Fairmont Ghia
bits was also available as an option from early ’04.
The base BA is handsome if not adventurously
styled car. In XR6 guise it’s a little more eye-catching thanks to the quad
headlight treatment, body kit, full colour-coding and five-spoke 17 inch wheels.
But you need to look closely to pick the naturally aspirated XR6 from the Turbo
version – the only obvious give-aways are the TURBO lettering on the boot-lid
and the front-mount intercooler.
One of the biggest criticisms of the BA
Falcon is its weight – at almost 1800kg, the XR6T needs all the kilowatts and Newton
Metres it can muster. Fortunately, the XR6 Turbo has plenty of both and the
sedan version can easily sprint to 100 km/h in the low six-second range - and it’s
possible to crack fives in ideal conditions. The auto version is a few tenths of
a second slower.
BA Mark II and BF Updates
In late 2004, the BA Falcon range received the Mark II update.
The biggest news is the existing T5 five-speed
manual gearbox is replaced with a Tremec T56 six-speed with double synchros on
all forward gears and much improved shift feel. Gear ratios are selected
specifically for the turbo engine and the final drive ratio is also shortened
from 3.46 to 3.73:1. The BA Mark II XR6T also brings new 17 inch wheels, some
extra interior features, Mark II badges and a selection of new paint colours.
It’s a subtle but worthwhile update.
Next, in late 2005, Ford introduced the updated BF
Falcon range. The BF upgrade brings revised taillights, a new front bumper, new
wheels, minor interior trim changes, improved quietness, new colours and an
optional ZF six-speed auto replaces the old four-speed.
Perhaps most importantly, the BF XR6T’s 4-litre
turbo six is enhanced with the introduction of independently variable cam
timing, revised cam profiles and dual knock sensors. These upgrades improve fuel
consumption and emissions as well as elevating output to 245kW and 480Nm (gains
of 5kW and 30Nm). Ford has also introduced stability control to the sedan while
the ute gets its long-awaited traction control.
The new ZF transmission is rated for use with high
torque engines and – compared to the previous four-speed – its configured with a
lower first gear, higher top gear and smaller increments between each ratio. A
remote mounted heat exchanger also ensures stable operating temperature.
A new Performance Brakes combo also becomes
standard in the BF XR6T – Ford claims “the larger diameter brakes are based on
the specifications used for the higher braking demands of the Territory”. From
what we can determine, that means the new XR6T shares certain parts of the Ford
Territory braking system. Front discs are now 322 x 28mm (up 24mm over the
standard discs) and the rears are upsized to 328 x 26mm (up 25mm over the
standard discs). The latest ABS system is also employed.
Weight remains similar to the early BA XR6 Turbo
but with an extra 5kW and substantially greater torque, it’s reasonable to expect
a measurable performance improvement in the latest model. The manual BF XR6
Turbo should be more easily capable of sub six second 0 – 100 km/h and the auto
should trail by a reduced margin.
FPV F6 Typhoon/Tornado
In October 2004 (during the BA Mark II era), FPV
stepped in and unleashed the F6 Typhoon – essentially a tweaked version of the
The FPV Typhoon scores a larger air-to-air
intercooler, dual entry airbox and revised engine management allowing up to 9.4
psi boost (about 50 percent more than the XR6T). The engine internals are also
beefed up using heavy-duty conrods, high-strength valve springs and an oil
The FPV version of the Ford 4-litre turbo kicks
out a massive 270kW at 5250 rpm and 550Nm of torque from 2000 – 4000 rpm – not
surprisingly, it’s the highest torque output of any production-based Australian
high-performance engine. The Typhoon channels its immense grunt through a T56
six-speed manual teamed with an AP Racing twin-plate clutch which measures
240mmm diameter (more on this item later in the series).
Add 18 inch alloys, twin-grooved 325mm front
brakes (or optional Brembos), some eye-catching body changes, sportier interior
trim (including on-dash gauges for boost and oil pressure) and you’ve got a very
worthwhile improvement on the already impressive vehicle.
In early ’05, the FPV Typhoon was joined by the
Tornado – the ute alternative. The Tornado uses the same engine, driveline,
brake, body and interior enhancements as the Typhoon. However, at
1827kg, the FPV Tornado is around 50 kilograms heavier than the Typhoon sedan
and there’s a small variation in performance – the Typhoon typically accelerates
to 100 km/h in the high fives while the Tornado does it in around six seconds
From late ’05 (corresponding with the BF release),
new buyers have the option of a six-speed ZF auto trans. The engine is also
updated to include the BF series’ twin knock sensors, independently variable cam
timing and new cam profiles. Big Brembo brakes come standard and even bigger
Brembo brakes are available as an option.
So that’s the evolution of XR6 Turbo to date – in
the next instalment of this series we’ll look at second-hand pricing and reveal
the problems buyers should be aware of.
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