Three years ago with my new (used) car.
It’s only a matter of time before a “big Aussie six” – a locally-made, six-cylinder, rear-wheel-drive Ford Falcon or Holden Commodore – is no longer a viable option for a first car buyer. Local production ended a few years ago and while our streets are still full of these cars, eventually many will be used up while those that remain will appreciate in value.
I thought about that this week as I signed over the registration of my 2009 Ford FG Falcon G6E to a young man, only 18 years old, who was excited to get his very own Falcon.
It reminded me of when I scrimped and saved for my first (technically second) car, a 2004 Ford BA Falcon XR6. I, too, was excited to get a big Aussie six which, at the time, was declining in popularity but wasn’t dead yet.
That car had a couple of issues but I loved it dearly, only selling it because I was moving overseas. When I returned, I was back in another big Aussie six, a 2007 Holden VE Calais V.
I’ve now owned three big Aussie sixes. It’s tempting to go look at a used XR6 Turbo or a V8 Commodore but it now may be time for a change.
A few days ago, on my last drive.
That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed the experience. Edie, as I nicknamed this Falcon (Edie Falco, Edie Falcon, get it?), has proved to be the best car I’ve ever owned. I’ll admit I got quite sentimental the day I sold her.
The 4.0 Barra inline six under the hood was smooth and tractable, much better than the 3.6 V6 used in the rival Commodore. With 261 hp and 288 ft-lbs, there was never any shortage of power while the six-speed automatic transmission was rarely caught in the wrong gear. There was a sports/manual shift mode but I rarely felt the need to use it, except perhaps if I wanted to quickly turn onto a street during a break in traffic.
I did look at the Falcon XR6 Turbo and G6E Turbo, which used a boosted version of the Barra six with 362 hp and 393 ft-lbs. Fortunately, they commanded far too much of a price premium. That’s just a tantalisingly unnecessary amount of power for day-to-day driving in Brisbane where there seems to be a speed camera on every corner, and I just know I would’ve gotten into trouble with that beast under the hood.
Almost everyone that was ever a passenger in my Falcon commented on how cushy and comfortable the seats are. They’re supportive but so very plush.
That goes for the rear seats, too. While there’s a large drivetrain tunnel, these are wide cars – an inch or so wider than a current-gen Camry – so there’s room for three people back there. The seats also split and fold 60:40, something I missed in my old Calais.
I liked the use of silver plastic trim to break up the black interior, while the G6E’s addition of leather/leatherette trim on the doors made the interior feel plush. The blue/purple ambient footwell lighting was a nice touch, too.
Lesser FG Falcons weren’t as nice inside. Before I bought the G6E, I looked at a G6, a rung down on the ladder. This trim level used a velour-esque upholstery which didn’t seem like it would age well. The trim was also used on the door panels and, in one model I test drove, the adhesive had disintegrated, leaving saggy, billowing trim. (The same awful adhesive must’ve been used for the headliner in my car, which failed about a year ago.)
I didn’t care for the XR6’s cloth trim, either, which seemed a step down from the nice cloth seats in my old BA Falcon, while the base XT was basically built for fleets and taxi companies and rarely driven by private buyers. Yes, the G6E was a good choice and, surprisingly, the black leather never seemed to burn my legs in our hot summers. The G6E came in a beige, too, but while I’m a fan of lighter interiors, I didn’t regret buying one with a black interior.
The colour screen was mounted nice and high but, as this was an FG model and not a more recent series, it wasn’t a touchscreen. My car also didn’t have navigation but that’s hardly a big deal – factory navigation is never as good as Google Maps and it requires relatively regular updates which dealerships will often charge for.
Fuel economy was typically around 12L/100km (19mpg), not amazing but something I was used to from past experience.
My Falcon helped me move house twice, took me all around south-east Queensland and into New South Wales, and proved a comfortable and capable companion. It didn’t handle quite as well as my old Calais, which used a clean-sheet platform instead of the FG’s extensive evolution of the prior BA/BF model’s underpinnings. The Calais, however, rode more firmly and had an inferior engine.
The Falcon certainly didn’t embarrass itself in aggressive driving (i.e. all my driving). Handling was more than competent, with little body roll and a firm but rather well-damped ride. All FG sedans used a double-wishbone-type front suspension and “Control Blade” independent rear suspension. G6E models, like the G6, used a special “Luxury Sports” tune of the FG’s chassis. It was more compliant than the tune used for the performance models (e.g. the XR6), while the base XT used its own softer suspension tune with greater ground clearance.
The variable-ratio hydraulic power steering in these FGs is terrific. It had a nice heft to it and plenty of feel. This was especially noticeable after driving newer cars with electrically-assisted units. These units are great in that they can support more safety equipment but there’s something especially lovely and tactile about a good hydraulic set-up.
Foibles? There was no Bluetooth audio streaming – that came a year or two after my car was made – and, right to the very end of the FG and FG X lines, Ford never put back-lighting in the steering wheel controls. Absolutely maddening.
Otherwise, this was one great car to own and to drive.
Yes, I loved Edie, but it was time for her to go.
At just under 175,000km and just over 10 years of age, it had simply reached a point where things were statistically more likely to go wrong.
A constant creaking at the front of the car took three mechanic visits to diagnose and fix – it turned out to be two control arms which I paid just under $1k to have replaced. That completely resolved the issue but it reminded me that all good things must come to an end.
I owned the Falcon for just under three years, longer than any other car I’ve owned. Up until those recent repairs, it was faultless.
Nevertheless, I realized the last four cars I’ve owned have all cost the same amount to buy and been roughly the same age when I bought them. It’s time to break that pattern and get something newer, preferably something with leftover factory warranty.
I’ve also been doing freelance work lately that has afforded me time behind the wheel of various brand new cars (I’ll explain later). Features like blind-spot monitoring and autonomous emergency braking have made me feel safer behind the wheel, adaptive cruise control and ventilated seats have coddled me, and one feature has proved extremely valuable.
I’m talking about Android Auto. Google Maps simply embarrasses factory navigation units in terms of usability, while the ability to use Spotify on the infotainment system or have messages read aloud means there’s no temptation to touch my phone while I’m driving. It works better than using Google Assistant (or Siri, if you’re an iPhone user) and it just makes life easier, particularly on busy days.
And you don’t want to be caught touching your phone while driving in Queensland – it’s now a $AUD1000 fine and four points off your licence. Yikes.
If there’s a third reason I sold the Falcon, it’s that I simply wasn’t giving it the attention it deserved. Thanks to the aforementioned freelance work, I’ve been spending so much time in other cars that I was driving the Falcon merely to make sure it was being driven.
I’m still likely to replace the Falcon but I have the satisfaction of having a car in my garage to drive while I’m temporarily not a car owner.
Edie being taken away by her new owner
Most importantly, I have the satisfaction of knowing my Falcon went to someone who will appreciate it. Someone who may be more than a decade younger than me but who is doing what I did – getting a big Aussie six for his first car.
The buyer’s father texted me just a day or two after the sale to tell me his son was really enjoying the car, as he’d been saving for three years and had been determined to get a Falcon. That put a smile on my face.
Thank you, Edie, for three years of fine motoring. I may never own a big Aussie six again, sadly, but yours was a high note to end on. Take a bow.
2017 photographs captured by Katrina Bentley