Large cars in this country have always been either a six cylinder or a throbbing V8. But that’s changing as each year passes, and the Ford Falcon Ecoboost proves it by hitting the market with just four cylinders. But how does it drive?

In this day and age, the environment is a huge factor for big companies, both to push their green credentials, and to tap into an ever concerned consumer market. Another key factor for drivers is the hip pocket cost of filling up these huge family cars.

Ford has ticked both those boxes by taking the successful “ecoboost” technology and incorporating it into their Falcon range in an attempt to stop the sales decline they have experienced over the last year.

It does feel a bit weird saying to anyone that the Falcon you’re driving is a four cylinder. But Ford has packed the this model with its very latest technology, adding a turbo charger to lift its power past small car expectations and even match those of the owners of six cylinder large cars.

It’s not just the engine that differs here, either. There is a reduced ride height, changes in the front stabiliser bar (and rear in the G6 model), tuned damper rates, different steering pump, better insulation and sound packages to increase acoustic appeal, different tyres and tyre pressures and much more.

But at its heart, it’s still a Falcon. It’s still a classy looking vehicle with an iconic design, although for some reason Ford designers still think it’s appropriate to put the in-dash trip meter controls on the dash itself, hidden behind the steering wheel and requiring an uncomfortable stretch to adjust. This is XD Falcon stuff that has no place in a new car in 2012.

That aside, let’s remember the average buyer is going to be a current Falcon owner, walking into their dealership and taking their prospective new car for a test drive.

You’re going to get a few laps of the block, or at best maybe a few hours to yourself depending on your relationship with the dealer. In that time you’re going to struggle to realise you’re in a four cylinder. Off the line the car performs as well as you would hope, if not better. Jump through a round-about or on some twists and turns and the EcoBoost Falcon feels slightly better even than its own six cylinder stablemate, mainly due to those subtle enhancements to the underbody.

Flick the trip-meter into Fuel monitoring mode with instant use and averages on show and you won’t immediately notice anything remarkable.

Checking the Government’s Green Vehicle Guide website, you’ll see that Ford look to be getting an 8.5L/100km fuel economy on the G6 version, which is down from the 9.9L/100km expected of the six cylinder. In urban driving you’re looking at 12.2 compared to the six’s 18.3L/100km which is where the real savings are to be had.

Driving the car for a week now, I’ve consistently seen 11-12L/100km numbers on average with mainly urban driving but at odd hours and some nice stretches of green lights. With motorway driving included, a 9L/100km seemed quite an achievable number. These are not Hybrid comparable numbers, but they compete well with the market, especially for a large car.

Interestingly, Holden took a different approach, with their smaller six – the 3.0 litre, which aims at 8.9L/100km and 12.3L/100km in urban driving, so this ecoboost is a clear competitor to that range from Holden.

I own a Holden Berlina with that 3.0 litre engine, and while the car itself can’t be compared (it’s a wagon) the general get up and go performance is notably better in the Falcon with off the line and general acceleration not seeming to require the full ‘grunt’ of the engine which could also be down to those other refinements in cabin acoustics and ride handling.

Overall this is one impressive four cylinder car. Take the Ecoboost badge off the back and you could get away with never telling your mates you’re driving a four – perhaps that’s a marketing angle Ford could take – I’m not sure a Four Cylinder Falcon would be welcome at the top of the mountain.

One important note, to achieve the fuel targets set by Ford, you will need to fill up with Premium. Avoid the E10, although really there is plenty to say about avoiding E10 for fuel economy reasons in any car, but that’s a conversation for another day.

The G6 version I drove is a $45,000 model, priced the same as the six cylinder version, making the decision to go to four cylinders and likely save money in running costs a bit of a no brainer.

Web: Ford