“She’s the last of the big V8s mate . . .” – an immortal line from possibly the greatest cult movie classic to ever come out of Australia – Mad Max, starring the then ridiculously gawky and brooding Mel Gibson who, of course, went on to much bigger things.
And Ford has gone on to bigger things too, with the BF Falcon Mk II and its flagship workhorse, the almost cult status XR8 ute.
But why the Mad Max reference? Well, you only have to slip into the bucket seat of the XR8, take the wheel in hand and look up and over the characteristic bonnet bulge as you ready yourself for a tyre searing take-off down the deserted tarmac.
Or you could just plug in your favourite Akka Dakka/ Angels/Jimmy Barnes CD and cruise off to the building site, which is probably much more likely to be the case.
That being said, this ute has to be every apprentice’s dream. People go into the building game just to get their mitts on vehicles like this – it’s an aspirational vehicle which serves as a demonstration of success, a handy little business perk/powerful worker and not a bad set of wheels to be seen in when cruising down Queen Street with the missus on a Saturday night.
The BF Mk II upgrades have seen some signifi cant changes right throughout the range, and that includes improvements to the XR8.
With the XR8 you get the ZF 6-speed Sportshift which gives you the flexibility and fun of a manual with the convenience of an automatic. And you get the performance version with upgraded clutches, rather than bands, and extra plates in the clutch packs, to increase the torque capacity for use with higher torque output engines such as the Barra 260kW at 5250rpm with 500Nms at 4000rpm.
When towing heavy loads at low speeds, such as in city driving or through hilly terrain, converter clutch lock-up in all gears assists with better transmission cooling and reduced fuel consumption, delivering a more direct and refined shift quality.
Smooth power delivery
This all equates to a very smooth power delivery in automatic mode, with sophisticated kick-down in all the right places – not around corners for instance, where car control is an important consideration and traction may be lost. The ZF “clever cogs” will hold the car in gear until it’s safe to shift.
In manual mode, the shifting is super crisp and allows the transmission to determine that you are actually looking to play and so offers a sportier shifting pattern. The interior of the car stays noticeably sporty with a little fabric enhancement here, a little satin alloy insert there and a refreshing look to the still sporty instrument cluster.
One of the more intriguing elements of the XR8 ute is its driveability. Many manufacturers in the commercial world are releasing models which emulate car-like driving qualities. The XR8 ute already has it.
Other than the sight of the tray and the tonneau cover out of the rear vision mirrors, the XR8 ute might just as well be a car.
Oh yes, when you really want to play, you can get the back to step out a little, but you have to be trying to do it.
As to car-like equipment, the ute has everything it should, including dual airbags, the sophisticated driver assist mechanisms, a six-stack CD player in the dash and very comfortable seats, well suited to long distance driving.
Leg space is excellent, and there is no trade-off in useful centre console and glove box space.
If you will insist on carrying copious quantities in the cabin, there’s a good sized, behind-the-seats storage area too.
And the cargo area? The BF Falcon Mk II XR8 has a payload of 423kg, with the deck being 1818.8mm long, 1394mm wide – 1154mm between wheel wells – and from floor to the tonneau cover with its external mounting points, 410mm deep. The paint is safe too, as the deck has a plastic shield fitted as standard.
Is any of this important? Of course it is, but not as important as the thrill you’ll get from driving one of the more impressively aggressive utes on the road.
And the price? $53,990 will buy you the car Mad Max would have grinned to own.