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Detroit show: Hulking Atlas previews Ford F-Series

Driver aids, usability innovations and efficiency headline Ford Atlas truck concept

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Ford logo16 Jan 2013

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

FORD has opened a window into the styling and technology of its vital next-generation pick-up trucks with the Atlas concept unveiled at this week’s Detroit motor show.

The concept provides clear hints as to the styling of the next F-Series full-size truck, the kind of fuel-efficiency technologies to be expected, and innovations that improve the vehicle’s ease of use in a working environment.

Ford Australia brand communications manager Neil McDonald told GoAuto the chances of the next F-Series being officially imported to this country are slim.

“As it’s intrinsically a North American truck, as far as we know there are no plans to build a right-hand-drive version,” he said.

Almost 650,000 F-Series trucks were sold in the United States last year and Ford says the Atlas “showcases the design, capability, fuel efficiency and smart technologies that will define future pick-ups”.

The Atlas is instantly recognisable as a Ford truck through its bold grille with vertical ‘nostril’ outer intakes and stacked headlights.

Mr McDonald described the styling as “a fresh take on existing signature Ford truck design elements” and said some elements could appear on Ford’s next-generation trucks.

However, the concept also has many hidden features including retractable side steps, a ladder rack integrated with the tailgate, and ramps that extend from the bodywork for loading wheeled items such as dirt bikes into the tray.

Technology to assist with towing include Dynamic Hitch Assist, which helps the driver line up the tow ball with the trailer coupling by providing visual cues on the reversing camera display, while Trailer Backup Assist helps drivers overcome the daunting task of reversing a trailer “with the twist of a knob”.

Further driver aids include a 360-degree camera system that provides a top-down view of the vehicle and its surroundings to help with off-roading and manoeuvring the hulking truck in tight spaces.

A mains-voltage power outlet in the tray is also provided for charging power tools.

LED lighting is employed all round, including in the exterior mirrors and tray, which Ford says “brightly lights the cargo box and job site after the sun goes down with minimal battery drain”.

In addition to the efficiency gains of a next-generation EcoBoost drivetrain with fuel-saving idle-stop system, meaningful fuel consumption improvements are made by active aerodynamics such grille shutters that automatically open and close depending on engine cooling requirements.

Shutters on the alloy wheels close to improve aerodynamics at high speeds, open for style at low speeds and are powered by integrated batteries charged by energy generated by the turning wheels.

Other aerodynamic aids include a front spoiler that emerges from the lower bumper to provide underbody airflow at highway speeds, but is retracted to improve ground clearance during off-roading, as do the side-steps, which fold away for aerodynamic purposes.

The stylish but rugged-looking cockpit continues the LED lighting theme and features digital displays with controls designed to remain usable by gloved hands, while thinner seat designs increase rear legroom and space for more storage.

Ford’s group vice-president of global product development, Raj Nair, said the Atlas concept “previews the innovations that will transform what people expect from their pick-up”.

“With 36 years as America’s best-selling pick-up, we are absolutely committed to setting the agenda in the truck market.”

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