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Just like the rest of the car, the AU came in for it's fair share of criticism when it came to the interior design - most of it centered around the ovoid center dash consol. Reeking strangely of the momentarily released Taurus (a car that should have told Ford Australia not to follow any similar styling themes!) this was updated in AU 2 to a much more pleasant design. Surprisingly, most Aussies warmed very quickly to this new improved interior with most giving the AU 2 the taste test over that included in the VT / VX Commodore.
Further to the design of the AU Falcon, Ford's own PR material at the time declared "The aim was to create an interior with spaciousness and functionality, moving away from the wrap-around cocoon effect of old towards a series of modules that compliment each other instead of blending together." The problem was most of us still found the 'cocoon's effect attractive - which the VT took advantage of and never let go.
Front Passenger Space:
Once you got used to the slightly restricted entry space via the steeply sloped windscreen and curved roof line (those who hit their head quickly learned how not to do it a second time!) the AU brought with it further improvements over the previous models which including increasing of front head room by 17mm. Due to improvements brought with the VT Commodore, the Falcon now scored a close second on front seat room with some taller occupants now noticing the Falcon now did not accommodate their needs as well as the Commodore did. Indeed, seat travel in the Falcon seem un-necessarily limited for those few and while I hate giving the Commodore the points in this case honesty must prevail.
Interior Colours: Black (or 'Warm Charcoal' in Ford speak) was re-introduced for the first time since the 80's in the Fairmonts and XR's giving a very sumptuous interior ambience over the light grays included in lesser models. While a grey interior was still available in the Fairmont and Fairmont Ghia, most preferred the almost black treatment and for good reason. The XR interior still included a grey dash centre consol which brought many negative comments from the public and owners alike (despite this, the two tone treatment is a favourite of mine so there!)
Front Seats: New seat cushions were added to the EL's already comfortable seats incorporating a lower & longer seat cushion. Seat travel was increased and the XR seats further sculptured to aid with passenger positional retention in performance driving. While the Commodore had moved to electric seat adjustments right across the range, the Falcon made do with easy to use and find thumb wheels with an electric seat adjustment only becoming optional on the Fairmont Ghia.
Rear Seat: The real news for back seat passengers was the deletion of separate adjustable head rests to be replaced by Taurus style (or US Limo depending on your point of reference) bumps on the top of the seat back. The Fairmont Ghia went really wild (sarcasm) with bigger 'bumps' than the lesser models. Either way the effect was to cheapen the entire interior ambience from that of previous models - of all except the Forte (GLi replacement). About the only bonus from all this came for Forte buyers who had not previously had any rear seat head rests at all.
One positive though was that the Fairmont and Fairmont Ghia now came with additional cup holders in the rear arm rest, although the Futura lost the arm rest from it's back seat.
Centre Consol: The centre consol now provides practical & specific storage for CD's, coins & pens as well as an optional mobile phone platform and office package. The power window switches were relocated from the consol to the door trims for the AU as a major functionality change for the consol. A new cup holder divider mechanism and deeper socket felt more sturdy and was easier to use than the EL & EF versions which it replaced.
While most AU dash controls were extremely easy to use and find, unfortunately the new AU dash saw the deletion of the dash mounted lock / unlock button - a sore point with customers and rectified with the AU2. Importantly though Audio controls were now added to the steering wheel (see 'Steering' and 'Audio' sections for more info) giving added convenience to every AU Falcon produced.
The Falcon instrument clusters also featured a number of additions for the AU series. The Forte, Futura and XR now all came standard with a door ajar warning lamp with the Fairmont and Fairmont Ghia receiving individual door, boot and fuel flap open warning lights. Unfortunately, the AU saw the deletion of the flashing 'Smart Lock' symbol - a feature re-instated with the AU2.
For the first time a 'DTE' or Distance To Empty figure was included in all Falcon dash displays accurate down to the last 5 or so km's allowing the driver to continue driving confidently even with the petrol guage on zero - a great advantage if waiting for the petrol prices to go down or calculating whether the amount of petrol on board will get you safely to the next town. It should be noted however that as the system uses average fuel usage for the previous period of driving, significant changes in driving style may reduce the DTE dramatically or even bring about a 20km or so shortfall momentarily. Factory fitted LPG systems were linked to the DTE calculation allowing quick range calculation no matter which fuel you were on.
When the DTE figure reaches less than 80km to go, a series of warning beeps will be heard while flashing the DTE figure & name. This occurs again at 40km DTE and 20km DTE as well as any time the vehicle is restarted within the last 80km DTE to remind the driver the time to fill up is approaching rapidly.
All XR dashes now differed from standard by the addition of a Tickford logo onto their dial while the new T-series received it's own white faced instruments and blue lit needles. All new instrument clusters were designed for the AU Falcon with new cluster and gauge outlines and larger LCD displays to allow easier and more relaxed viewing. A new illumination colour was chosen to increase night time clarity and legibility while the new dashboard also allowed preliminary trouble shooting via a NGS Tester for more accurate and further enhanced instrument cluster diagnostics.
As mentioned in the Steering section, the AU came with the brilliant addition of steering wheel mounted audio control buttons (volume up/down, seek & skip track functions for the radio & CD player respectively) giving it a significant convenience & safety advantage over the Commodore that it would not be able to match until the VX model of 2000. Unfortunately this is a feature that cannot be carried over with the fitment of most aftermarket head units - an important consideration when considering upgrading your AU's stereo system.
However considering the length and breadth of options available throughout the AU model range (as well as the quality held in high regard by most stereo equipment installers) there are plenty of choices available when considering uprating that stereo system of yours - all without having to step outside of that offered by the manufacturer.
Significantly the AU received larger speaker elements all round along with relocated wagon rear speakers, giving both AU body derivatives vastly superior dynamics to any model before them. The Fairmont Ghia incorporated speed dependant volume control helping avoid the constant need for turning the volume up/down as you slowed or sped up. A single slot CD player became available for the first time as an option and standard on some models while an electric aerial became standard on the Futura up (previously only on Fairmont upwards).
Immediately noticeable upon entering the cabin was the AU's transition to a double-din format for it's head units in all models excluding the Forte which carried on the early single din format. A handy piece of information to keep tucked away - since the availability of the AU Forte's below radio dash pocket makes conversion from Double din to Single din all the easier if so desired on double din fitted models.
Moving on with the relocation of the power window switches from the center consol, the door trims came in for a rework allowing this and giving a rather attractive interior handle to boot. Unfortunately the same could not be said for the taxi-pack wind up front windows which necessitated the deleting of the curvaceous interior pull handle replaced by a much more mundane arm rest mounted pocket. Fortunately these were fitted to only a handful of 1998 and early 1999 Forte's and XR6's, making them as unique as they are ugly.
By the AU Update front power windows were made standard right across the range (with only some ute models missing out) in an effort to boost the sales of the ailing Forte.
From the first AU onwards, the Falcon introduced map pockets in the front doors standard. New door opening handles were designed receiving the added function of a half-pull unlocking device with the deletion of the dash mounted lock / unlock button. The driver's door remained the only door trim to receive a lock button. New chromed plastic interior door opening handles replaced the EL Ghia's chromed die cast items - further reducing weight without reducing longevity.
(Back to the AU1 Intro INDEX.)
Info By Doug Bevan, site by Anthony
Copyright © 2000 by Doug & Any . All rights reserved.
Revised: 19 Nov 2002 .