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Exclusive: Ford benchmarks Range Rover
Luxury Range Rover in secret tests as Ford gets ready for five new SUVs
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21 Mar 2017
A RANGE Rover Vogue has been snapped in spy photos at Ford’s You Yangs proving ground in Victoria in what is most likely benchmarking testing of vehicle performance and technologies.
Globally, Ford has five new SUVs in the pipeline for launch before 2020, including the second-generation Everest and born-again Bronco, both of which will be based on the same ladder chassis as the new-generation 2019 Ranger ute now under development in Australia.
As well, Ford’s upscale Lincoln brand has at least two new luxury SUVs on the way – the full-sized Navigator due in North American showrooms later this year and an unnamed China-only SUV to follow in 2020.
A Ford Australia spokesperson declined to comment on the specific project involving the Range Rover, saying only that Ford Asia-Pacific Product Development – the Melbourne-based design and engineering unit of Ford that operates the You Yangs facility – tests lots of competitor vehicles for its global engineering efforts.
Interestingly, the vehicle in these photos has New South Wales number-plates, indicating it might have been bought second-hand in Sydney or borrowed from someone or some organisation in that state for the purpose.
The most likely scenario is that the Australian engineers have been tasked with testing certain Range Rover technologies. The test vehicle has orange tape on sections of the headlamp cluster, perhaps covering the daytime running lights, which might provide a clue as to the area of interest.
While the luxury and expensive Range Rover might sit way above the more utilitarian Australian-developed Ranger/Everest/Bronco, they might have at least one area in common: a 3.0-litre diesel engine.
Ford’s 3.0-litre Powerstroke diesel that seems destined for the 2019 Ranger – to replace the 3.2-litre five-cylinder unit – is already employed by Land Rover in its Discovery and Range Rover.
Making 190kW of power and 600Nm of torque in the Land Rover products, the engine was developed in a collaboration between PSA’s Peugeot, Ford and Land Rover, and has been earmarked to become the first diesel engine in the 2018 Ford F-150.
On the SUV front, Ford is unlikely to be planning to turn the new Bronco into a direct competitor for the Range Rover, which has pricing starting at $183,300 plus on-road costs in Australia.
However, items such as all-wheel-drive systems, active suspension technologies, aluminium construction and diesel engines might all be of interest for Ford engineers developing their own mass-selling versions for upcoming Fords and Lincolns.
Announcing the return of the Bronco at this year’s Detroit motor show in January, Ford president of the Americas Joe Hinrichs assured fans of the vehicle that it will be “a no-compromise mid-sized 4x4 utility for thrill-seekers who want to venture way beyond the city”.
The huge Lincoln Navigator – shown in concept form at the New York motor show almost a year ago – is due to emerge in production guise in the second half of this year.
It is the vehicle closest to the Range Rover’s level of luxury and size, but because development of the Navigator will be all but done and dusted by now, it seems a little late for benchmarking of Range Rover for that purpose.
Although Ford Asia-Pacific Product Development has worked on Lincoln projects – including the MKS – and Ford vehicles for China, GoAuto has been assured that a sighting of a Range Rover at the proving ground does not mean that the Australian Ford team has been given the task of developing the mysterious 2020 Lincoln SUV for China.
That vehicle is most likely going to be a joint effort between Ford’s American vehicle development organisation in Dearborn, Michigan, and the fledgling Chinese team.
The Lincoln SUV is expected to be built at Ford’s joint-venture Changan Ford factory in the western China city of Chongqing.
Changan Ford also builds the Australian-developed Taurus large car, as well as the Escort small car developed in Australia.
The Everest is built for China by another Ford joint venture, JMC Ford, which also builds the Transit van.
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