James G bought this Ford Falcon in 2020 for $14,000 (including all on-road costs). James G. would buy this car again because: “Despite discovering a few mechanical flaws inherited from the previous owner, the car presents very well for a 10. year old vehicle. It has been a spacious daily driver while Delivers a fun driving experience with a great engine and driveline. Not to mention drove me home just before the covid-tax wreaked havoc on the used car market.”
Now is the time to explain the mechanical ‘rates’ of the car inherited from the previous owner.
After buying the car and driving it two hours back to where I live, the rear wheel bearing failed just as I pulled into my driveway. After having the rear wheel bearings replaced, my local mechanic explained to the sellers that often tighten the wheel bearings to mask the noise when they wear too much to sell the car.
However, once hardened, they can fail very quickly which happened in my case…
Despite this, the XR6 has been reliable and gets me home safely every time during over 15,000 km of city and highway driving. Despite driving like crazy at times, it never overheated and the Barra inline-six has been as reliable as ever.
At 98,000 km it feels the same as when I picked it up with 83,000 km and I only had to replace normal wear items.
When originally in the market for my own car, I was specifically looking for an XR6 with a manual transmission because I love the fun it adds to the driving experience and the control it brings. I was looking for a car in good condition as I knew these native Australian heroes would increase in value especially with the rare combination of a manual transmission.
After learning more about the cars mechanical aspects, I began to discover that this XR6 may have lived a different life than its exterior would suggest. Although the interior and exterior of this car are in very good condition, some parts have been worn by the previous owner and have been replaced before Ford says so.
An example of this is various bushings that are known to last no longer than 100,000 km. However, the rear bushings on my vehicle were replaced before 80,000km for a stiffer rear set of bushings. Add to that the synchromesh on the second gear is a little worn and the car was sitting on cheap tires, this suggests to me that slipping was probably normal before I owned the car.
Otherwise, my ownership experience has been great.
In my opinion, owning a vehicle of this vintage is the perfect compromise between modern safety features and old-school engineering for those who like to work on their cars as well as drive them.
Not only has my XR6 helped me learn a lot about the car, but also about myself as a driver. This has allowed me to gain valuable experience driving a manual rear wheel drive car and learn its handling characteristics. The engine bay is spacious, and the car is relatively easy to operate and less computerized than modern cars.
As I touched on earlier, I was lucky enough to buy the car before Covid sent prices sky high, so I’m very happy with the price I paid. That said, it was a decent deal pre-Covid.
I’m also happy with the features of the XR6. The biggest feature in my view is its combination of features which suits me perfectly. First on my list was fun to drive and decently fast. Tick! The other was rear-wheel drive with a manual transmission. Another tick.
As I have been involved in many woodworking projects before, I also needed a car with some room. With the rear seats down, I was surprisingly able to squeeze through the woods. With the rear seats folded, the car comfortably fits four adult friends.
Last, but not least, is the XR6’s level of safety features. When released in 2012, it had a five-star ANCAP safety rating and an overall score of 34.61/37.
The FG Falcon had dual front and curtain airbags. Its complements include 4-channel anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, dynamic stability control (DSC) and traction control. Both DSC and traction control can be disabled if the driver chooses.
The heart of the XR6 is a 4.0L inline-six engine that carries the legendary ‘Barra’ name, albeit here in naturally aspirated form. Popular opinion is that the only way to have a barra is with a turbo attached and while the XR6 Turbo is probably great to drive, the N/A version certainly pulls its weight.
On 95 octane the Bara makes 200kW and 400Nm of torque. This lump of torque starts coming at 1800rpm and means you don’t need to go all the way to the 6000rpm redline to get the most out of the engine. Throttle response is good and punchy from 2500rpm and has decent in-gear acceleration even in higher gears.
However, being naturally ambitious, it rewards and motivates you to chase the red line. You can feel the power taper a bit after 5500rpm but it’s a great engine to its credit. I installed an X-Force catback exhaust that elevates the experience even more. It’s not obnoxiously loud and it gives the bara a uniquely harsh note rather than making it shrill and drowsy.
Combined with a very audible intake that sounds uncannily like a turbo with a screeching pipe, the car sounds great.
The Barra is mated to a Tremec TR6060 manual transmission. The shift action on the Tremec may not be to everyone’s taste but I like how crisp and direct it feels. It slips into gear almost telepathically and is a perfect match for the engine, especially at the Australian speed range. The ratios are reasonably close-packed and the car cruises to 110km/h in sixth gear at around 1700rpm.
The clutch on the XR6 is self-adjusting and feels very family friendly. The pedals are fairly light weight and not springy like many Japanese cars. The cutting point is also above the pedal travel.
It makes it easier to drive in traffic, but I’d prefer a slightly more aggressive clutch with a lower bite point and a springier pedal feel.
Now to what I don’t like…
The reinforced polyurethane diff bushes I mentioned earlier have a noticeable effect on the way the car drives. While they last significantly longer than the factory bushings, they go too far in the other direction and are too strong for my tastes.
As a result, noise, vibration and harshness are much higher and more clunks and driveline lash are transmitted to the vehicle body.
For a 2012 model car I think the technology is pretty decent. One of the main reasons for choosing the FG Mk2 Falcon over the Mk1 was the infotainment system.
The Mk2 system is a color touchscreen that can connect to your phone physically via an aux port or via Bluetooth. Unfortunately, my car was not optioned for satellite navigation nor a reversing camera, but I did install a patch harness and reverse camera kit from ASL Automedia that works like factory in conjunction with the stock reverse sensors.
It’s worth noting that the XR6 also gets disc-sensing headlights and a digital screen with a digital speedo (among other driving data) flanked by two physical dials. The dials are backlit in blue and both the dial and the screen are easy to read.
The rest of the interior is just average but on par with rivals for its age and actual price. There aren’t really any soft-touch plastics or materials on the dash, but at least the rear passengers get air-con vents.
Unfortunately, the plastic crunches and rattles on rough road sections and there aren’t adequately sized cup holders.
That being said though, the infotainment is pretty decent and syncs Bluetooth audio faster and more reliably than some modern cars. It’s not a bad place for his age.
For a large car, the XR6 handles well.
Being Australian designed and built, it feels right at home on the rough and tumble of country roads. The chassis naturally has great balance, helped by the weight reduction over the front wheels (compared to the more powerful V8 Falcons).
Front-end lightness and push into understeer can easily be neutralized by adding more throttle and adding more oversteer. It feels flexible on the limit. Grip levels are enhanced by Michelin Pilot Sport 4s (added after purchase) that demonstrate great wet and dry grip. They also have good relative wear resistance and are great for your buck tires.
The previous owner installed aftermarket shock absorbers (I’m not sure if this is because the original gave up or if he was chasing a perfect ride). It’s worth noting that I haven’t driven the XR6 on the factory shocks so I’ll only comment on my own car.
Body roll has been kept to a minimum, but this has come at the cost of comfort. In my opinion these shocks are too strongly damped for small imperfections. Thus, the car is not as consistent as I would like. Yet they feel too loose on high-speed undulations. The ride isn’t unbearable, it’s just comfortable but I will reinstall the factory shocks to see if they make a difference.
Steering is a highlight of the XR6. It has an electrically assisted hydraulic rack and the weight is perfect for this car. Driving in a car park is no chore but doesn’t feel light at high speeds like many modern cars.
The steering is quite communicative, you feel the front wheels react and try to follow the shape in the road. However, the rake ratio can be reduced slightly to aid turn-in and response. Regardless, it’s a great system and a breath of fresh air from the many electronic systems out there.
While the stock system was adequate, I changed the brakes in pursuit of a firmer and more responsive pedal feel with increased fade resistance. Rotors are slotted DBA T2 units closed by Bendix Ultimate + Pads.
Thankfully, this affordable upgrade has brought the desired firmness and responsiveness to the pedal. This allows the driver to stop as needed during low pedal travel. While the upgrade is nice, I’d still prefer if the vacuum assist was more powerful and the pedal stroke shorter to mimic the responsive firm brakes of many European cars without resorting to the aftermarket.
Writing this review has brought back fond memories of the golden days of Australian car production.
I’m glad I got to experience the glory days of Australian cars. Driving the XR6 with a manual transmission has taught me to better anticipate more potential hazards on the road and to drive appropriately for adverse weather conditions.
There was really no other vehicle on the market that matched the price, reliability, space, comfort, ease of operation, great engine, manual transmission, rear wheel drive and how fun it was to drive.