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With its combination of performance, space and luxury, the Ford Fairlane has been an icon in the Australian big car segment for more than 30 years. These features, plus its reputation of being able to stand up well to tough Australian conditions, have endeared the Fairlane to a large number of buyers over the years, despite the car's relative lack of refinement.
Now in its latest form, the Fairlane gets a brand new suit of clothes based on the AU Falcon, plus a revamped interior, extensive changes to the powertrain, chassis and suspension, and extra standard equipment.
The sum of these changes is a better car that represents even better value for money than before, yet in some ways the new Fairlane disappoints. There's still a lack of refinement in areas such as noise and harshness, and the ride/handling combination falls well short of European standards. Also, the quality of detail finish isn't up to those of imported cars in the same price range.
Two Fairlane models are available in the new series; the 4.0 litre six cylinder VCT (variable cam timing) Ghia at $50,990 and the 5.0 litre V8 Ghia at $54,490. LTD versions will follow in a few months time.
Equipment levels are much the same on both the six cylinder and V8 models. Standard items include dual front airbags, climate control airconditioning, traction control, anti-lock brakes, power windows and mirrors, remote keyless entry to doors and boot, premium sound system with 11 speakers and a six-stack CD changer, leather trim and power-operated driver's seat.
There is also a trip computer, cruise control (with steering wheel mounted controls), a mobile phone mount, a headlights auto-off function, new alloy wheels and height-adjustable front seatbelt mountings. A notable omission (of particular importance to country buyers), is the lack of mudflaps to protect against mud splash and stone damage.
One of the most appealing features of the Fairlane is the amount of space it provides for rear occupants. Even with the front seats set right back, there's still plenty of leg room. Comfort is very good in the two outer seating positions, but not so good in the centre, where the occupant is perched high with limited seat padding and a large floor hump to contend with.
Front occupants enjoy good leg room, but the steep rake of the windscreen puts the top edge closer to the driver's head than I'd like. The button to adjust the electric driver's seat is awkwardly placed, low down between the seat and the side floor panel.
Though six cylinder Fairlanes have never been short on performance, the extra power and torque of the now standard VCT engine are most welcome. Our tests showed an improvement in acceleration times over the previous model, particularly in overtaking situations. We also recorded an improvement in fuel consumption, despite the new car being slightly heavier.
The standard traction control has tamed the previous model's tendency to break rear wheel traction in loose or slippery conditions.
But while traction has improved, I was a little disappointed with the ride and handling combination. The new car is fitted with low profile (55 series) tyres and some thumping could be felt at lower speeds over bumps and irregularities.
Generally, out on the open road, the Fairlane handles quite well. But when pushed a bit harder through tight corners, or when an abrupt change of direction is required, there's quite a deal of wallowing and body lean.
Buyers who traditionally choose Fairlane because it's powerful, roomy and luxuriously equipped, won't be disappointed with the new AU series. These long-time strengths of the Fairlane have all been improved upon and there are plenty of other innovations, inside and out.
But despite the many improvements, the Fairlane still lacks refinement in some areas. Compared to many imported cars around the same price, the Fairlane isn't as quiet or smooth in the way it drives, it doesn't match their standards of detail finish, and its ride and handling package isn't as good.
Then there's the styling. Ford's global "New Edge" design has certainly polarised opinion about the new AU Falcon and the situation is sure to be repeated with the Fairlane. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I wonder if to many Australian eyes, the Fairlane could be too bulky and too 'American' in its looks. Only time will tell.
Test vehicle supplied by Ford Motor Company of Australia Limited
|Model||Fairlane AU Ghia|
|Price of vehicle tested||$54,490|
Interior space and comfort
Refinement below expectations
|Country of manufacture||Australia|
4.0 litre six cylinder VCT Ghia
Ghia - $50,990
|Number of cylinders||6|
|Engine size||4.0 L|
|Induction||Electronic fuel injection|
|Claimed max power (kW)||168 kW @ 5000 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||370 Nm @ 3500 rpm|
|Wheel size||16 "|
|Width (including mirrors)||2138 mm|
|Fuel capacity||68 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||2300 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||65|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||4.5 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||6.6 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||6.6 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||9.4 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||12.0 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||15.5 L/100km|
|Average on test||13.2 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||30.5 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||66.0 dB(A)|