New models - Ford - Falcon
New Falcon: Final secrets revealed ... finally!
Safety, stopping power, steering and quietness take the final BA technical spotlight
25 Sep 2002
By BRUCE NEWTON
FORD finished its roll-out of BA Falcon technical information last week by detailing safety, NVH, braking and steering changes.
As predicted by GoAuto (see "New Falcon: Price rise rethink" in "New Models"), the highlights included an 88 per cent increase in body rigidity and a new brake package developed with local supplier PBR.
THE BA Falcon has a host of passive and active safety upgrades which are wrapped up into a package called an Intelligent Safety System (ISS), designed to deliver appropriate safety responses to a range of crash situations.
Elements of ISS include dual stage front airbags and new chest and head protecting side airbags, which are standard on Fairmont and Fairmont Ghia and optional across the rest of the range.
The ISS features an integrated network of early-warning crash severity sensors, monitors and electronic triggers all linked to "talk" to each other in the event of a crash.
The ISS is backed up by extensive revisions to the Falcon's body structure. Claimed improvements include footwell intrusion reduced by 45 per cent, A-pillar movement reduced 40 per cent, instrument panel movement reduced 30 per cent, brake pedal intrusion reduced 55 per cent and steering column intrusion reduced 53 per cent.
But one usually standard item that has been sacrificed for BA Falcon is a driver's left footrest, which was omitted for both safety reasons and, specifically in relation to manual gearbox models, packaging.
"We've traditionally had small, narrow footrests in our cars and you can position them where you like as long as they are so narrow that they don't impinge on the gap you need between the edge of your foot and the clutch pedal," said Ford product development vice-president Trevor Worthington.
"We have done a lot more off-set crashes (for BA) than we have ever done before and when you do that you start to see the variability that can happen crash-to-crash.
"One crash you might be all right for a certain dummy kinematic and for another you won't be ... so we found it's very possible for the foot to slip off the footrest and then you get the top of the foot possibly moving into the dash and the heel moving forward underneath it." Mr Worthington said omitting the footrest was the best solution, short of starting with a clean sheet of paper.
Ford Australia made no claims in relation to possible NCAP independent crash test performance. The AUII was the highest rated local large car with three stars and only just missing out on a four-star rating out of a possible five.
Noise, vibration and harshness
FORD says the BA is the quietest Falcon ever thanks to an intensive noise, vibration and harshness reduction program across the entire vehicle.
Key achievements include an increase in body shell stiffness of 88 per cent, as well as reductions in wind, road and suspension noise.
Engineering efforts included tuning engine notes for driver enjoyment, stiffer door seals which hug more tightly, door mirrors redesigned to direct wind noise away from occupants and new generation insulating foam between the body and carpets.
Important technical changes which contributed to the noise reduction included the new Control Blade rear suspension, a two-piece propeller shaft and low rolling resistance tyres.
Inside, the seats and new steering column have been designed to better resist shake induced by rough roads and a stiffer instrument panel structure cuts squeak and rattle opportunities between the dash and body, and the instruments and accessories inserted into the dash structure.
FORD has uprated Falcon brakes significantly, moving from 287x28mm rotors up front to 298x28mm and 303mmx16mm at the rear (287x16mm previously).
Front rotors are ventilated and rear discs solid.
They are mated to 40 per cent stiffer twin pot-callipers, bigger brakes pads with longer life, stiffer brake hoses and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), which replaces a fixed front-to-rear proportioning valve in the master cylinder.
Ford is claiming less fade, improved pedal feel and shorter stopping distances.
There is also an optional premium braking package available for the XR sports models with 325x32mm ventilated and grooved front rotors and 303mmx16mm grooved rear discs. The option costs $2950.
The traction control system fitted to some BA models has also been recalibrated to provide a more refined level of operation.
Steering, front suspension
THERE is now a new steering wheel, steering column, steering ratio and revised steering gear.
The front suspension has also been updated with new stiffer mounting points and top mount bushings.
The new steering wheel includes audio controls and cruise controls (where fitted) and the rim diameter has been reduced and rim thickness increased compared with AU.
The steering effort is reduced with a tighter 2.8 turns lock to lock.
Steering and suspension ball joints have also been updated to offer reduced friction, assisting responsiveness and feel.
So after all that, what's it like to drive? Go to the "New Models" section to find out. Wednesday September 25 we dissect XT, Thursday September 26 Fairmont Ghia and its new three-valve V8 goes under the spotlight, and on Friday hang-on as we review the XR6 Turbo.
And for more detail on Falcon pricing and equipment levels go to our "New Models" section and read the story "New Falcon: Pricing revealed".
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