8

10

Model

RSPEC

Price

$76,990

The Numbers

5.0-litre supercharged V8, RWD, 335kW, 570Nm, 13.6L/100km, 0-100km/h in 4.5secs

The Topgear Verdict

The sharpest, meanest Falcon ever. There's a new king of the jungle.

2013 FPV GT RSPEC

They call it the Panther. That’s not the official name, but the working title Ford Performance Vehicles used during its development. It’s actually sold with the rather dull title of GT RSPEC. No kidding. Earth to FPV: you can only put an R after the letters G and T if you are Nissan, or if your car can lap the Nürburgring faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo.

We’re sticking with Panther, and they should have, too, because there aren’t enough cars named after cool animals that eat other animals. An even better moniker would be Sex Panther, the name of the cologne featured inAnchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

The “quite pungent” scent is reportedly so effective at luring women, it’s been banned in nine countries. And, of course, “Sixty per cent of the time, it works every time.” That’s hard to argue with.

The FPV Sex Panther is almost guaranteed to attract the ladies with its manly bonnet bulge alone, but if that doesn’t get them all 50 Shades of Grey, then surely the high-vis red wheels, stripes and random body panels will. We think the type of woman most likely to be lured by the FPV Sex Panther is obvious: the Cougar. We’re not sure if that’s the sort of thing they’ll want to mention in their advertising, however.

The Panther is a limited-edition model, although you could say that all locally produced Fords are limited editions now that so many of you are being unAustralian and buying foreign-made cars. No meat pies for you.

It costs $76,990, which is $6200 more than the standard GT, but less than actual panthers, which are notoriously expensive to buy and maintain. When it started developing this big cat, FPV set the goal of making it the fastest and most agile GT ever.

Agile is not usually a term you associate with the GT, unless you insert the words ‘bloody,’ ‘hell,’ ‘this,’ ‘is,’ ‘not’ and ‘very’ in front of it. So the engineers set about overhauling the GT’s under-bits, carrying out several suspension changes and fitting a much-needed set of wider wheels and tyres.

The Panther doesn’t get any more grunt than the regular GT, which is just fine because power was never an issue. Officially, the 5.0-litre quad-cam V8 pumps out 335kW, thanks to its Harrop supercharger with Eaton lobes that forces 1.9 litres of air into the engine per revolution, and also makes 570Nm of torque. The engine certainly sounds powerful enough when you turn the key in the ignition and press the silly Engine Start button on the dashboard.

I bung the gear-shifter, which has a knob the size of an apple, into first. With stability control turned off, I wind up the engine to about 4500rpm and step off the clutch pedal. Even with an extra inch on each rear tyre, the rubber doesn’t have a chance of maintaining traction with this kind of power surging through it. The rims spin faster than a raffle wheel at a body builders’ fundraiser. It sounds great, with a brain-addling mix of screaming supercharger whine, dramatic intake roar, thumping bent-eight exhaust and tortured tyre squeal.

I drop the revs and launch again. This time the balance is just right. There’s just a hint of wheel spin, but then the tyres regain their composure, hook up and send the Panther careering towards the horizon. It’s not easy to repeat. In fact, it’s damn hard.

FPV engineers feel your pain and have developed a basic launch-control function for the Panther, perhaps realising that a big hunting cat that can’t accelerate quickly is more than a bit rubbish. The system works on both the manual and automatic and uses the traction control to make sure you get the best start.

In the manual, all you do is rev it to buggery and drop the clutch. Just pretend you’re in a rental car. It’s much the same in the automatic, but you just build the revs and lift your foot off the brake when it’s time to go. The engine’s clever computer senses you are mashing the accelerator and brings the revs back to 3200rpm. It then allows just a little slip before preventing excessive power from reaching the wheels.

FPV doesn’t provide official sprint times for its cars, but an automatic Panther reportedly charged from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds during testing, which is seriously fast for a muscle car.

While the improved acceleration is welcome, it’s the extra traction coming out of the corners from those wider tyres that is the most valuable attribute. The Panther will still let go if you hit that right pedal with a club foot, but you can roll on much more power through the second part of the corner if you use a little finesse. The FPV guys didn’t stop after bunging on the wider wheels, they wanted to overhaul all of the car’s suspension.

What’s most surprising is the way this affects how it goes into corners. The mechanical trickery means the nose feels so much lighter. And unlike any cat I know, the FPV Panther also responds to your demands, and does so much quicker than the standard GT.. The Panther just stays flat and turns in straightaway. It’s the sharpest Falcon I’ve driven, more like a sports coupe than a sporty sedan, and it’s also the firmest.

FPV didn’t do much to the interior beyond an R Spec badge, and the soft-edged seats don’t provide much support – although they are La-Z-Boy comfortable. The eyeball-stabbing exterior combo of red and black, modelled on the Mustang, is not compulsory as there are also white, red and blue versions, which feature slightly more subtle black stickers and accents.

So that brings us to the question of whether the Sex Panther qualifies as an aphrodisiac. Does it draw the opposite sex towards the car like a giant tractor beam? The answer is yes, but only if the owner is a woman.

The only people interested during our test drive are big, hairy blokes – including one particularly tetchy cop. I ask him if he is arresting us for a traffic infringement, or because he’s finally worked out my neighbour’s chihuahua didn’t actually jump from the second-storey balcony. He looks at me strangely, glances longingly at the car and asks for a ride. See? Sixty per cent of the time, it works every time.

Reviewed by: James Stanford