Some of you will point to the XR8 Sprint’s stablemate, the FG X XR6 Sprint, and suggest that it should occupy this rung on the ladder on the basis that’s it’s the best turbo-six Ford has ever offered.
And while that’s arguably true, the real number three in the pantheon of fast Falcons is the original BA-model XR6 Turbo. No, it wasn’t as fast or as powerful, but it arrived just in time to absolutely rewrite the book on the subject of rapid Falcs.
We Aussies have always had a bit of a soft spot for the straight-six. While the North Americans deride the layout, we’re smart enough to know that the engineering inherent in the I6 gives it perfect primary balance and lots of torque.
And, when it’s a long-stroke design like the Ford 4.0-litre job, then turbocharging it is a natural thanks to its characteristic of tremendous cylinder-fill. But Ford didn’t leave it at that. Nope, it also developed a DOHC head (which found its way onto the atmo version as well) to go with the new-for-2002 six.
As a package, the turbo-six gave the V8 establishment a real hurry-up. Sure, 240kW mightn’t sound earth-shattering today, but back when Ford’s then-brand-new, high-tech, quad-cam V8 had 260kW, the XR6T was breathing right down its neck. Oh, and it was just a handful of Newton metres shy of the V8, too, further eroding the bent-eight’s home turf.
Let’s not forget that a couple of our greatest-ever muscle cars have been six-bangers. The Chrysler Charger E38 and E49 twins were giant-killers in their day and, of course, there’s the legendary Torana GTR XU-1 that not only won Bathurst in 1972, but launched the career of one P Brock into orbit in the process. So, yeah, we get a straight-six as a performance powerplant.
The advent of the XR6 Turbo also helped the BA Falcon to erase the memories of the unloved AU – probably the BA’s first task back in the day. But by being such a radical and effective thing, the XR6T did more than that, it cemented the blown BA as an all-time favourite. Almost 15 years of turbocharged Ford sixes later, the impact of that first model simply can’t be ignored and that’s why it’s here, at number three.
Like any Falcon built after 2002, the BA wasn’t quite as scalpel-sharp through the tiller as the AU had been, and the excellent (but expensive) double-wishbone IRS of the AU had been bumped in favour of Ford’s Control Blade set-up, which was still good, just not as good. But the new styling finally purged Ford showrooms of the ungainly AU silhouette and the interior was a big step up in quality and ambience.
The XR6T in BA guise was still saddled with the old four-speed auto, but that was still preferable to the clunky old five-speed manual. And given the huge torque the engine could summon from low revs, the four-speeder was a ratio short, but only on paper.
The real downside to that relative lack of gearing was obvious when you sidled up to a fuel bowser; it was then you discovered that while the XR6T performed like a good V8, it also drank like one if you had been using the boost. Not that many owners worried, because of vastly more interest was that surging mid-range that gave the XR6T such a muscular feel. You could feel the boost build – although it happened pretty early on – and then it was game on for the next 4000rpm until she finally ran out of puff. Literally.
The other nice thing about the BA XR6T was that you could get the very same driveline in a ute. Yep, leaf rear springs and all. And it wasn’t detuned; you got the full 240kW complete with a lack of traction-control or anything other than a single airbag and ABS (the passenger’s airbag was optional). Suddenly, the rubbish was arriving at the tip in record time.
The only other catch was, like any non-FPV-spec BA Falcon, the Turbo was underbraked. One lap of a race-track was all it took for the pedal to go dead, then long. Not only that, but the front rotors themselves had a depressingly short lifespan when bolted to the stub-axles of the XR6T, and most owners soon switched to the FPV stuff or similar. And if that sounds like a shopping guide, it should, because you need to buy an XR6T now. Right now.
Engine: 3984cc 6cyl, DOHC, 24v, turbo
What's our fave Falcon? Check out MOTOR's take on the top 10 Fast Ford Falcons ever made here.