Some things in life just come down to ‘I just do’. Cats and dogs. Ice cream or frozen yogurt. Beaches or pools. Holden or Ford.
There’s not always a reason, but sometimes it’s worth looking at the detail.
The Ford and Holden debate rages on as we near the end of the production of their staple vehicles. I’ll admit that I went into driving the XR6 wary. Wary that I’ve always had the tendency to lean towards Ford in the past.
I collect the keys to the chunky, three buttoned, flip key remote, flip open the doors and slam the clunky door shut. I’m
greeted by dials sporting a simple yet pleasing blue hue, surrounding an oblong LCD display giving you the vitals. The build quality is typically Ford. Clunky, chunky, and plastics which while aren’t the soft-touch that you’d expect in some premium vehicles, are firm yet, somewhat warming. Some piano black inserts feature in the passenger’s side of the dash and doors, with a silver plastic facia surrounding the central computer and media centre.
Turn the key and you get a little blip of the motor as she springs to life. The engine is keen to rev, with a nice low range torque pull and the handling is very compliant.
The XR6 does a very good job of remaining nimble, seeming like a smaller car than it is. It corners relatively flatly given it’s type and girth, with the traction control kicking in to stop things from getting too out of shape, with all the sideways rotation you could ask for with it disengaged.
The styling is sharp if not a little to neutral towards the rear, but the muscular front, reminiscent of the new Mustang, wrapped in gorgeous, angular, almost art-deco-esque LED daylights is amongst the high points here.
You’d think then, that the Ford is ticking all of the right boxes – a suitable end for the lineage. But it’s from there that the holes start to surface. Little things, the sum of which dampens the overall package.
I’ll start with the motor. The Autobox is by no means bad, but it does feel like an old Olympian showing his age. Nail your foot to the floor and you’ll get a slight hesitation and then kickdown, and unless you hit it at just the right time, after a second of thinking about it, you’ll get kickdown again. That means rather than an instant pull into the back of your seat, you have a second, which feels like an hour of hesitation as the box second guesses itself. And speaking of the gearshift, although the manual mode wasn’t too slow to respond, the action of the lever was stiff, rigid and with little motion. As if it was never expected to be used.
Fuel economy compared to the SV6 on a similar run seemed to be heavier. After doing the same run, the Holden needed $58 of fuel, the Ford needing $75. But then familiarity breeds confidence, and confidence breeds more flat out acceleration. Perhaps in hindsight a better test would have been to have taken both cars on an already familiar run to ensure the same steady progress. There is of course the confidence in the car which has a similar effect and I feel this was a little higher in the XR6, with the SV having a slightly greater tendency to understeer.
A mixed bag then.
Then we have the interior. The plastic facsia, whilst firm and sturdy, is made of two halves, I suspect to allow the same parts to be used for Falcon’s supplied without the computer/sat nav. This means there is an unsightly line between the two halves. Again, menial – but something that was in constant sight. The Dash, lacks the soft backed leather that the SV6 we drove recently had. The media centre features a messy mess of buttons which although I suspect will become second nature with time, for the short term did little but take my eyes off the road. ‘’no problem. Use the voice control!’’ I hear you cry. Well yes and no. Although on the basic level the voice control works perfectly – change temperature, set radio station etc. But where it becomes clunky and frustrating is when you try to use the satnav. It requires an extremely rigid set of commands, no ‘navigate me to spud shed please’ here. (as a note – another issue was that several locations were mis-spelled. “spuo shed anyone?’’) You have to go through each menu step by step which often features the sat nav asking you to repeat yourself with added frustration as it fails to recognise words like ‘Airport’. This is of course not a unique problem to ford, more a qualm with voice activated naviagion in general. The rest of the voice functionality works surprisingly well and unlike the SV6, the bluetooth connected each time without drama.
So the XR6 offers an armchair driving experience, ample legroom for passengers whether in the back, or tied up and blindfolded in the ample boot, and comfortable if not truly sporty handling. The bland exhaust note is no doubt the result of the eco-fairies sprinkling their pixie dust, but the car delivers ample if not excessive power.
I simply can’t call it a bad machine, because it isn’t. All in all it ticks a lot of boxes and comes at a good price point; As a driving experience, the XR6 does what you want. It delivers in my opinion a slightly more settled ride than the SV6, with ample power to keep things entertaining, albeit with less modulation. But as a package, the one touch down only driver’s window, the lack of keyless start, the lack of controllable parameters from the centre, the finish – all hints at ‘less effort’ put into the final product which is shown up by Holden’s all guns blazing approach.