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AIMS: Ford reveals fresh Kuga details

Kuga with claws: The new Ford Kuga will hit Australian showrooms by June armed with an EcoBoost engine and – in a local first – SYNC Emergency Assist.

EcoBoost engine and host of new technologies for Ford Kuga compact SUV due mid-2013


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18 Oct 2012

FORD Australia has released fresh information on its crucial new-generation Kuga compact SUV, detailing the engine line-up and a pair of innovative technologies new to its local range.

The company has confirmed the new model, which will premiere at the Australian International Motor Show today and hit showrooms by the middle of next year, will be available with both diesel and petrol power – with the latter being a member of its new EcoBoost turbo range.

The new Kuga will also premiere Ford’s no-cost SYNC Emergency Assistance system that automatically alerts emergency services in the event of an accident – a first not only for this market, but also Ford’s wider Asia, Pacific and African region.

Already in service on more than four million Fords across North America and Europe, SYNC Emergency Assist uses the driver’s mobile phone to call emergency services and provide GPS co-ordinates should the occupant be incapacitated in an accident.

The system – which Ford says will be free-of-charge here – operates on the deployment of an airbag or when the emergency pump shut-off activates, but gives the driver a 10 second window to disengage it vocally if they are in a state to do so.

In a recent technology briefing attended by GoAuto, Ford Australia outlined plans to eventually make the system standard here, once local authorities can accommodate the technology within the existing telecommunications framework.

Ford’s director of connected services for Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa, Ed Pleet, said systems like this will “have Ford take the lead in pursuing a new era of in-car connectivity in Australia”.

Also set to feature for the first time on a Blue Oval car in Australia is the new “open sesame” automatic tailgate, which uses the same motion-capture technology as current video game systems to make the rear liftback respond to a gentle kicking motion under the bumper.

Ford Australia staff will demonstrate the feature at AIMS as part of the company’s wider ‘Smart Drive’ outdoor experience, which will also put punters behind the wheel of the Focus and Ranger on a specially constructed test track (see separate story for full details).

Ford has not stated specifically which engines will power the new Kuga when it launches here in 2013, but expect both 129kW 1.6-litre EcoBoost direct-injected turbo-petrol and 120kW TDCi turbo-diesel units, both matched exclusively to a six-speed Powershift automatic transmission.

The company appears unlikely to offer a manual gearbox as its press release makes no mention of a self-shifter.

Also available will be Ford’s “smart” all-wheel-drive system, which assesses road conditions to adjust the torque split front-to-rear depending on road grip.

Expect front-drive versions of the Kuga to arrive as well, giving Ford a sharper opening price point in line with key rivals such as the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail and Toyota RAV4.

Ford Australia president and CEO Bob Graziano promised the new model will present “a strong value-for-money equation for customers”.

Other key features of the new Kuga – which will launch just 18 months after the current version belatedly hit local showrooms as a replacement for the ancient Escape – include an upmarket cabin with more soft-touch surfaces and fuel-saving Active Grille Shutters.

Ford expects the new model to corner a bigger section of the booming SUV market than the current model, which is only available here in up-spec petrol guise and has recorded just 805 sales here this year – enough for just a 1.1 per cent segment share.

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