Road test

The Ford Granada GXL Automatic

New Standards of Quiet-Running, Handling, Ride and Convenience. Notable Value-for-Money in the £2,000 Class

As Motor Sport has implied in past write-ups, the latest version of big Fords, the new Consuls and Granadas, has set high standards in respect of important qualities which are looked for in cars of their price-class–quiet functioning, full equipment, safe fast cornering, a comfortable ride, and overall convenience in day-to-day, big-mileage driving.

At last Ford have got the independent rear suspension for their biggest models right, and the result is cornering power like that of a good Continental car without recourse to a harsh ride. This and the quiet running both of the road gear and the well-tried 60 deg. V6 3-litre engine, at least when it is cruising in the 3.45-to-1 top gear, are the outstanding impressions I got after testing the top-model of the Granada range, the Automatic GXL. I thought that the coil-spring all-independent suspension was about as supple as could be contrived for the very good road-holding it affords. The Granada rides bad surfaces with no conveyance of road shock, with a floating rather than jerky motion, yet its cornering qualities are excellent. I thought it was easier to set-up for awkward fast bends than the bigger BMWs, with a contrasting complete absence of discernible roll, and that it coped with sudden changes of surface better than a Citröen DS, for although the back-end would sometimes smack back onto the road, there was none of the “caught-out” sensation Citröens give over hump-back bridges.

So from the beginning of the faster, less straight roads the Granada surprised and pleased me. I had taken it over immediately after a quick run up the M40 Motorway in the BMW 2500 and the initial impression was “What have I let myself in for ? I want the BMW back!” This was caused by the lowness of the driving position, so that I could only just see the n/s front wing, the rather coarse adjustment of the lever-controlled seat back-rest, a slight feeling of roughness when the brakes were lightly applied, but, above all, by the vulgarity of the things immediately facing me. There is glistening “wood” on facia and doors and the instrument dials are buried far away at the bottom of long tunnels, their calibration confined mainly to lines and colours, with the speedometer speed divisions marked every 20 m.p.h., although also calibrated in k.p.h., and the tachometer engine-speeds in steps of 1,000 r.p.m. The small instruments dealt with oil-pressure, heat, fuel-level and alternator output, but seemed so remote that I contemplated keeping sweets in the latter aperture. I know the idea is to obviate reflections but I did not think them very easy to read, while the clock was located in the centre of the passenger’s facia shelf, where it was hard to see at the best of times and all too likely to be completely obliterated by hand-bags and similar oddments.

However, you can be too finicky about detail in an unfamiliar car, so let me say straightaway that after a day or two I felt I could very easily live with a Granada and even enthuse over it. This stems from the aforesaid excellent combination of good ride and excellent handling, on the also excellent but rather “talkative” 185-14 Michelin ZX tyres, the quite adequate performance, and the unobtrusive running of the V6 power unit, except that when instant acceleration is called far you kick-down frantically, dreading the lag, and the engine then hurls the Granada forward with a contrasting frenzy of revs. I would have preferred to have tried the car in manual transmission instead of “think-for-itself” form, but Ford decreed otherwise, and it has to be said that there is a “hold” for bottom and second speeds, if you want jerk-free pick-up. The T-handle controlling these selections, and the D, N, R. and P business falls, as they say, nicely to hand, but moves horridly reluctantly from N to D or R, and was sometimes casual in its selection of “D”. This caused lag before moving off and the hill-hold then became inoperative. But the changes go through on the whole in a fairly smooth manner, aided by part-throttle down-shift, and I was glad of the automation as I edged this big and very smart marine blue Granada slowly from Brentford to the office in the thick of London’s crawling traffic. This three-speed C4 transmission is made by Ford in America and is not a bought-out gearbox.

Another very praiseworthy aspect of the GXL Granada is its steering. It has such a reasonable feel of the road that at first I thought it was manual steering. In fact, it is power steering with rack-and-pinion mechanism, geared just about right at 3½-turns lock-to-lock, with a turning circle which is neither remarkable nor cumbersome for a big car and, which is the important point, not of that “flick-the-finger-and-it’s-off-the-road” lightness which characterises all too many “help-you-turn-it, sir” steering systems. No road shock, practically no vibration, is transmitted via the man-sized wheel, which has a rather nasty cross-spoke decorated and “upholstered” to match the body decor. If the engine isn’t warm you can stall it by trying to turn on full lock, however.

Having approved of the ride, road-holding, hush and the steering of the Granada I also came to appreciate its lack of road and wind noise. The former has been really well-damped, so that quieter cornering tyres would have been a slight improvement, and apart from a noticeable zizz rearwards, the atmosphere around the car seems comparatively undisturbed. Reverting to performance, you pay a penalty for resting the left foot and left hand through the absence of a normal gear-lever, because the Automatic Granada is about half-a-dozen m.p.h. slower than the manual gear-shift version, takes nearly three seconds longer to attain 60 m.p.h. from rest, and is slower by 1.3 sec. over a s.s. ¼-mile. This means that you can wind the fully equipped 3000 GXL up to around 107 m.p.h., get it to the legal British top-pace from a Standstill in 15½ seconds, and do 64 m.p.h. in middle speed. The 0-60 m.p.h. and ¼-mile acceleration times are, respectively, 12 sec. and 19 sec. or thereabouts, depending on load and conditions. This, admittedly, puts the top Ford in the luxury rather than the sports-saloon category, but only if you specify Automatic, because the target 0-60 in less than 10 sec. is comfortably exceeded by the 4-speed manual-gearbox car, which will also do 110 m.p.h. or more.

Leaving generalities for detail, the front seats are shaped and of generous size but I found them a thought uncomfortable and the special Ford cloth upholstery, which has a more open weave than that used on the Cortina, too clinging. A case, perhaps, when I would settle for plastic, if I couldn’t have real hide. The central handbrake has small movements and couldn’t be better situated. Which reminds me that I have forgotten to remark on the splendid brakes, with ventilated discs at the front, drum at the back, servo-assisted. This is because they are easily overlooked, functioning just as the driver requires and being very powerful in an emergency. The external lift-up door handles are awkward rather than stiff to operate but on the insides of the doors everything is nicely contrived, with plated upper panels, sill locks, polished “wood” inserts, grips, small arm supports and recessed pull-out handles, although the window winders are set a trifle low down. Heating is presumably to Ford’s high standards; in the belated 1972 heat-wave I didn’t test it. Aeroflow ventilation via facia-end inlets closed by flaps is powerful, and the wind-open sunroof a most worthwhile fitting, it having an extractor effect in its second setting.

A multi-purpose I.h. control stalk is used (indicators, lamps dipping and flashing, parking lamps and clonking 2-speed wipers), with foot screen-washing and wiping, and there is nothing to carp about over minor controls or instrumentation, with the earlier reservations about the latter, except to say that if people would give up the filthy smoking habit the clock could be mounted on the central console, instead of which this is devoted to lighter and lidded muck-tray. The facia shelf on the left is like a table-top and below it is a lockable drop-tray of good size. Then there are elastic-topped scuttle pockets, the Ford lidded cubby between the front seats, and a small open cubby for the driver. The large but not overhung self-locking boot has the spare wheel upright on the n/s, the heater quadrant levers are below the powerful dual-speaker radio on the facia to the left of the dials, and neat push-buttons look after lamps, rear-window de-misting, and in-built fog lamps, with an over-riding action so that cancelling the side-lamps button douses all the lamps. The rather subdued wind-tone horns are blown by depressing the steering-wheel spoke and the instrument panel is studded with warning lights. The starter, although pre-engaged, is noisy, like most Ford starters.

Apart from saying that the Granada 3000 GXL has slightly tinted glass, front-seat squabs that recline to form beds, inertia-reel safety belts and a vinyl-covered roof, I do not intend to detail all the equipment you find from the Triplex laminated screen in front to the Triplex Hot-Line window at the back because everything one expects to find in a high-class car is there.

Night motoring is looked after by Lucas rectangular headlamps incorporating the sidelamps (I see they have foreign glasses), which enhance the good styling of the Granada. There are various badges about the body, including the GXL label and a 3000/V6 motif, and the back panel carries the overlarge word FORD—but if Rover can do it, why not Dagenham, and, anyway, this adds a touch of the Trans-Atlantic to this very modern British Ford ? I do not wholly approve of the style of the undistinguished pressed-steel wheels but they do have the now fashionable exposed nuts, five per wheel. The engine may look puny beside sophisticated o.h.c. power units but it is well contrived, the h.t. leads led neatly through clips on the enamelled valve covers, and all services easily inspected after the heavy bonnet has been propped open. This V6 push-rod 93.7 x 72.4 mm. (2,994 c.c.) engine with its 40DFA Weber carburetter may look puny against more sophisticated power units but it pokes out 138 (DIN) b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m. and does not begin to rev. over-fast until 5,750 r.p.m. is exceeded. The c.r. is 8.9 to 1, so 97-octane petrol can be used. The tank holds about 14 gallons and I got an absolute range of 282 miles. A consumption check showed average fuel thirst to be at the rate of fractionally more than 20 m.p.g.; a flap covers the unsecured filler cap and feed is by AC mechanical pump. The bonnet has to be propped up. The strip dip-sticks are easy to use and no engine or gearbox oil was required in 1,200 miles. The Granada needs servicing only at 6,000-mile or six-month intervals.

During my spell with an example which had apparently run 8,520 miles and had needed a new speedometer before I took over, a front splash shield apparently made of compressed cardboard fell down and had to be torn off, the back-compartment ash-tray fell out, and then the FoMoCo rubber cap on the water pump split and let out all the coolant—there wasn’t a screwdriver in the car and one Ford dealer had never seen the part required, but it was efficiently replaced by Ravenhill, the Hereford Ford dealers.

To sum up, the Granada created a very favourable impression, writing before the breakdown, and it is clear that Ford of Britain has entered a fresh market with this highly commendable car. As I had but twelve days’ experience of it, I am not yet prepared to say whether it can be regarded as the patriot’s substitute for a BMW but it could well represent the thrifty man’s XJ6, for those prepared to overlook the vulgarity of its interior décor. For Ford, the Granada sets new levels of road-holding, ride and handling which are most welcome, and these qualities are allied to the quiet running of the true luxury car. As the Granada GXL is particularly full equipped, the value offered for £2,091.61 is indeed remarkable. And remember that this is the top model of the range. If the manual transmission version of the Granada is preferred, there is a saving of £100, and then there are the Ford Consuls, which offer the same standards of handling and ride at much lower prices. It seems that Ford cannot fail to do extremely well with these new cars, because they are so enjoyable to drive and to ride in.

W. B.