Why do Australians love the Barra engine so much?
This straight-six is right up there with the best from Japan and Germany
Exclusively manufactured in Australia from 2002-2016, the 'Barra' is a straight-six engine developed by Ford Australia, although some three-valve V8s were also given the Barra name. These engines were first built to be shoehorned into the Ford Falcon, a Mondeo-esque saloon that would become a true Aussie legend.
The inline-six Barras are actually a development of a single overhead cam straight-six from the eighties, with the additions being another camshaft and variable valve timing to keep up with the engineering trends of the time. The VVT systems on these engines made for a hike in power over the previous Falcon engines, with the lowest power output of the DOHC units being in the region of 210bhp.
That power output was from the Barra 182, a 4.0-litre straight-six that featured a cast iron block, an aluminium cylinder head, Ford's custom variable cam timing (VCT), drive-by-wire and four valves per cylinder. These upgrades over the previous Ford Intech engine also gave any Barra-wielding car a jump over its main rivals, the chief among them being the lower-spec Holden Commodores.
At the top of the Barra range was the turbocharged 325T FGX Sprint. With a much more impressive output of 420bhp, this engine was placed in the Falcon FGX XR6 Turbo Sprint that was capable of reaching 60mph in 4.5 seconds thanks to a 10-second overboost system.
The main attraction of these engines is torque as the Barras manage to pull nice and hard from low down in the rev range. The torque figures actually outweigh the power figures in most of the Barra engines, with the turbocharged variants creating as much as 425lb ft from just 2750rpm.
The second factor that makes these units so popular is that intrinsically a straight-six is a balanced engine. The pistons move in-tandem with their mirror image on the other side of the block, meaning that the reciprocating forces balance out nicely, without the need for balancing shafts or counterweights.
The FPV (Ford Performance Vehicles) GT-P featured a turbocharged Barra as its heart
Barras are also a fantastic base from which to tune from, with many people either turbocharging NA units or simply replacing the stock turbochargers for something with a bit more meat on the bone.
The main thing to watch out for however is the connecting rods and valve springs, as these are generally the first things to go once the engine is tuned up to any decent forms of stress.
Even the Aussie police enjoy a bit of Barra fun through the Falcon XR6Turbo
Sadly, these engines that advanced Ford Australia into the 21st Century have now been discontinued along with the Falcon, with the subdivision calling it quits in 2013 and wrapping Barra manufacture up by the end of last year.
Despite the plug being pulled, these straight-sixes are coveted down-under and are right up there with the Nissan RB, Toyota JZ and BMW S54 in terms of performance and tunability. So to all the Barras out there, DriveTribe salutes you.