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Ford spies its next Focus

You're soaking in it: Ford conducts a heat-soak test with the next Focus.

First ‘spy’ images of next Focus emerge as Ford undertakes high-altitude testing

Ford logo2 Aug 2010

By MARTON PETTENDY

FORD of Europe has released a half a dozen images of a heavily camouflaged version of its next-generation Focus undergoing high-altitude testing in the Austrian Alps.

The third-generation Focus hatch and sedan were revealed at the Detroit motor show in January as the first model to emerge under the ‘One Ford’ banner, before a wagon body style was unveiled at Geneva in March.

Ford Australia last July cancelled its plan to produce the MkIII Focus at Broadmeadows and will almost certainly import the Blue Oval’s new global small car from Thailand in 2012.

A new $515 million Focus production facility in Thailand, where Ford already produces the light-sized Fiesta, was announced in late June and should replace South Africa as the source for Australia’s mainstream Focus models from 2012 – a move that should lead to lower prices and/or increased specifications due to the Australia-Thailand free trade agreement.

The new factory, which will have initial annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles – 85 per cent of which will go to export markets – will join four MkIII Focus plants previously announced by Ford – Saarlouis in Germany, Detroit in the US, St Petersburg in Russia and Chongqing in China.

27 center imageLeft: Official unmasked Focus hatch action image. Below: Focus testing in Austria.Ford says the all-new C-platform on which the Focus is based will underpin two million vehicles a year in 122 countries by 2012 – up from one million in 2008 – with 10 different derivatives to be spawned from the new small-car chassis, which it says shares only about one-third of its components with the current Mazda3.

For now, in the latest instalment of its slow-release launch campaign for its vital new C-car, Ford says the Focus development program has included testing on frozen arctic lakes, hot deserts and alpine passes “to ensure impeccable reliability and dependability wherever it is sold”.

Six images show a camouflaged five-door hatchback undergoing heat-soak and towing tests on the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, which passes through Hohe Tauern National Park and finishes opposite Austria’s tallest mountain, the 3798-metre Grossglockner.

Ford of Europe said on Friday that as part of the next Focus’ test regime its integration engineer Bernd Herweling was completing 200km round trips every day on the Grossglockner pass, which is 48km long and reaches a maximum altitude of 2504 metres.

“We’re here testing next generation Focus with a variety of powertrains, both petrol and diesel,” said Mr Herweling. "We’re evaluating driveability on steep mountain roads from a customer perspective. The bottom line is we’re here to find out how the car performs driving up and down seriously steep hills.

“The Grossglockner is ideal for this. The road surface is very good. We use the first section for our test which is the biggest climb. It’s pretty much a constant 12 per cent gradient all the way up to the 2400-metre mark. Up there the air is a lot thinner so the engine has to work harder. It’s a long route which allows us to generate a lot of data.”

Ford said one of the Focus engines tested was the all-new 1.6-litre EcoBoost direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine.

The test schedule involves driving the Focus uphill in first, second and third gear, before parking the front-end of the Focus inside a wind deflector to trap heat inside the engine bay, then driving back down the hill to test the brakes after five minutes.

"We want the engine to stay as hot as possible. Going uphill we’re carefully monitoring the engine cooling system, radiator temperature, engine oil temperature and in the case of automatic models, transmission oil temperatures.

"We have more than 100 electronic channels on board which record how the vehicle is performing. It’s a lot of information. So far everything is working fine. My job is to drive quite fast but not to the limit. We could go a lot faster.

"Trailer testing is very important. At sea level in this car you can pull up to 1500kg with this powertrain. But up here in this rarefied atmosphere the engine is going to struggle. We are pushing the limits to see just how much weight it will pull up the hill and how the clutch copes with hill starts at altitude.

"The conditions are extreme," concluded Mr Herweling. "But that's why we are here. If the car meets our performance targets in this environment, it'll cope with pretty much anything our customers will ask of it.”

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