Having your cake and eating it too has typically been a rare luxury when it comes to LPG cars.
Sure, LPG is around half the cost of petrol, but this has traditionally been tempered by diminished performance, efficiency, gas availability and a boot with the usable space of a shoebox.
Ford’s new generation LPG Falcon, the EcoLPi, is challenging most of these old stereotypes.
The way Ford has successfully made the EcoLPi perform like a petrol car while still offering the advantages of LPG has contributed strongly to its victory in the large cars under $60,000 category of Australia’s Best Cars.
In considering the Falcon EcoLPi, the majority opinion of the judges was that Ford’s efforts in producing an LPG Falcon that was as good to drive, if not better than a comparable petrol Falcon deserved recognition.
One of the key advantages of the EcoLPi is its liquid phase LPG injection system, which was a major step forward from the venturi-style vapour system used on the previous E-Gas Falcons.
According to Ford, traditional vapour LPG systems turn liquefied gas into vapour form before feeding it into the engine via a venturi in the throttle body. In the EcoLPi Falcon, the liquid phase injection system takes the LPG in liquid state all the way to the injectors.
Ford says this means the LPG can be injected into the intake ports in a more precise and controlled manner, which delivers better fuel economy, reduced CO2 emissions and greater engine performance.
Like the petrol Falcon, the EcoLPi utilises Ford’s tried and true 4.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine. What will surprise some is that the LPG-fed powerplant has slightly more power and torque than the petrol version.
It makes a healthy 198kW at 5000rpm and 409Nm at 3250rpm, which compares to the petrol’s 195kW and 391Nm. Of course, the EcoLPi is also considerably more powerful and efficient than its E-Gas predecessor.
This translated well into the judges’ scoring of the EcoLPi, where it rated highly for its performance and running and repair costs.
The new LPG Falcon also did well in the areas of safety, comfort, ride and smoothness and quietness.
As you’d expect in a powerful rear wheel drive car, the electronic safety equipment has its work cut out, but the EcoLPi’s electronic stability control and traction control systems are up to the task, even in the slipperiest conditions.
The big six under the bonnet can sound thrashy at higher revs, but its strong torque means there’s seldom a reason to wind it up past 3,500rpm in normal driving.
It was behind the pack in the area of depreciation cost, but this was partly due the Falcon’s high list price, which doesn’t always equate to the actual sale price.
It was also pipped at the post by the Skoda Superb on build and finish quality, but made up the points in the aforementioned areas.
At the time of writing, the Falcon EcoLPi was the only locally made dedicated LPG car on the market, but that is set to change with the planned arrival of Holden’s LPG Commodore in early 2012.
Ford FG Falcon Eco LPi XT
Skoda Superb 118 TSI Ambition
Peugeot 508 Allure
2010 - Skoda Superb 125 TDI Ambition Wagon
2009 - Toyota Aurion ATX