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World scoop: New Ford Fairlane revealed!

First look: Ford has abandoned the Yank tank look to align Fairlane more closely with BA Falcon. Photography by Justin Lacy.

The next step in Ford's revival is revealed. Meet the new Fairlane

4 Dec 2002

HERE it is. A world scoop first look at the next step in Ford Australia's product-led resurgence - the BA generation long wheelbase Fairlane Ghia luxury car.

Under the camouflage is a sedan designed to claw back the ascendancy in the local large car luxury stakes from Holden's all-conquering WH Statesman and Caprice.

To do it, Ford's stylists have shed the bluff, chrome-laden Yank tank looks of the AU LWB generation, replacing them with a far more modern style which has close links to the short wheelbase BA Falcon family.

And BA Falcon has donated much more than that to its stretched sibling. Many of the mechanical changes Ford introduced in September are carried over into Fairlane and the top-spec LTD.

But the final package will not be revealed until around mid-2003, some months after Holden's updated WK Statesman and Caprice go on-sale.

There had been expectations the Fairlane and LTD would be launched at the Melbourne motor show in March, but Ford has to first roll-out the Falcon XR8, the FPV range and the Focus ST170.

Then comes the Fairlane/LTD and in the second half of the year expect attention to switch to the E265 cross-over wagon, which Ford is expected to reveal in staggered fashion leading into its early 2004 launch, the same way it released information on the BA Falcon this year.

While the new Ford luxury cars will be much more dramatically updated than the Holdens, they need to be if they are to fight back into the sales race.

Ford has been well beaten in the LWB battle by Holden since the latest generation cars appeared just months apart in 1999 - just as VT/VX Commodore has belted AUI/II/III Falcon for the past four years.

To rub further salt into Ford's wounds, WH has become a huge export success and revenue earner for Holden in the Middle East where it is badged as a Chevrolet. It could also soon go to South Korea as a Daewoo.

No such opportunities apparently exist for Ford Australia thanks to the ancient US-built Ford Crown Victoria/ Mercury Grand Marquis rear drive big car that sells for the Blue Oval in the Middle East.

Ford will launch two new LWB models - the Fairlane Ghia and the LTD. Caught above is the new Fairlane. Photos of the new LTD are in the latest edition of GoAuto e-news, which can be downloaded from www.mellor.net.

The bad news is that Ford and FPV at this stage at least have no plans to develop a hot Fairlane to replace the old Tickford TL50, which in three years barely sold an example.

Not that the new generation standard cars will be lacking for performance. The Fairlane will come standard with the dramatically uprated Barra 182 inline 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine mated to the four-speed BTRA automatic gearbox complete with semi-manual shift mode.

That engine is 7kw more powerful than even the optional 175kW Windsor V8 in the current Fairlane.

The V8 option for Fairlane is now the US-built 5.4-litre Barra 220 three-valve engine introduced with BA Falcon and that unit will also be standard on LTD, replacing a 185kW version of the Windsor.

All that means BA has the power and torque edge over WH in six-cylinder form, even though the Holden can choose from normally-aspirated or supercharged Ecotec V6.

In V8 terms the Ford is almost lineball on power with Holden's Gen 225kW III V8, but 20Nm ahead on torque.

The BA LWBs will have the sports-luxury suspension set-up of the top-spec short wheelbase car, the Fairmont Ghia, which includes the new Control Blade independent rear suspension, replacing the previously standard locally developed double wishbone set-up.

The obvious signs from the photos are the 17-inch wheel and tyre combinations the development mule is running. The Fairlane's low profile rubber suggest the possibility of an FPV sports suspension option.

But even without such an option Ford insiders are already confidently talking up the Fairlane's sports prowess, a product not only of the new suspension but also the stiffer body technology it takes from BA Falcon.

Noise, vibration and harshness improvements will also flow through from BA Falcon, an area where the Holden has had a marked advantage over the Fairlane.

The downer will certainly be increased weight, pushing the car well over the 1700kg mark. Expect a rise in fuel consumption as well.

Control Blade also means the wheelbase should extend close to 30mm, just as it did on the BA Falcon, which puts it at 2952mm. That means even more rear seat room which should put it ahead of the Holden, although both cars are already truly commodious.

Of course, Ford's LWB cars are based on the wagon platform, but you can discount any chances of the load-lugger getting IRS anytime in the future - it just eats into cargo space too much.

Despite the wheelbase extension the BA luxury cars still have substantial overhangs at both ends in the Aussie luxury car tradition. But as we said up-front, the new Ford moves much closer to its SWB sibling in styling terms.

Headlights and tail-lights appear to be transferred over and the grille looks a similar shape as well, while the Fairlane's slatted design is a close hint of what is to come.

The squared-off windscreen is also donated from BA, but the rear screen appears to be carried over.

However, the quarter light in the C-pillar is larger because of the extra stretch between the wheels - also apparent from the gap between the rear wheel arch and the rear door shutline.

It is also apparent the front and rear quarter panels are new - just check out the flattened edges of the wheel arches compared to the pronounced lips on the old car.

But, like the BA Falcon, much is carry-over because it would be simply too hard to re-engineer the car's hard points.

The doors are straight from the old car and no doubt will continue to cause much teeth gnashing at Ford because of their small size and shallow opening.

In a long wheelbase car that's a big issue considering the amount of chauffering that goes on - just think how much room brides need to manoeuvre in and out of their wedding cars!Moving inside the cabin, expect the Fairlane to start where the Fairmont Ghia leaves off. That means the LWB car gets the Premium Interior Command Centre six-CD in-dash sound system, cruise control, power seats, traction control, dual-zone climate control, woodgrain inserts, rear parking sensors, side airbags and adjustable pedals.

Standard leather should be carried over from the AU Fairlane as well, an advantage it has over the current Statesman.

The LTD will get all the fruit but the question is just how much is that. Almost certainly full leather, power, sunrooof, premium audio, satellite navigation and the like will be part of the package, but the Caprice has such trickery as rear stereo and air-conditioning controls.

Will LTD go the extra step? That along with how much increase there will be in pricing is as yet unclear along with exactly what spec Holden will toss up in Statesman and Caprice for Ford to respond to. Stay tuned!

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