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Melbourne show: Ford's rugged newcomers

More macho: The R5 concept displayed at the Sydney motor show has spawned a four-wheel drive version.

Ford's attractions at the Melbourne motor show include a pair of off-roaders - the R5 4WD concept and the new Explorer

1 Mar 2001

FORD's catchcry at last November's Sydney motor show was "let's do it", but the Blue Oval says its new slogan is "let's do even more" following the unveiling of a four-wheel drive powertrain for its R5 concept at the Melbourne motor show.

"The R5 concept was a huge hit last year," Ford Australia president Geoff Polites said.

"Even as a concept car the R5's good looks, five-seat capacity and range of applications meant we had customers wanting to know when they could get one. This new four-wheel drive concept will only add to that interest level." The R5's adaptive four-wheel drive system - which powers all wheels on a full-time basis - was developed specifically for the show car.

An electronic management system distributes power to each of the four wheels as required. In normal conditions the power is split 60/40 between the rear and front wheels respectively.

Under the R5's bonnet lurks a 220kW, 5.0-litre V8 mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Stopping power is provided by large four-wheel discs with twin-pot calipers.

The R5 is based upon a Falcon ute platform but it rides 70mm higher and has about 150mm more ground clearance, which should endow it with at least some degree of off-road ability.

Its 17x8-inch alloy wheels are fitted with 235/65R17 F1 Wrangler tyres.

Finished in a new "Uluru Sunset" paint scheme, the R5 morphs from yellow to purple, depending upon the light.

The deeply sculptured front bumper, wheel arch flares and integrated side skirts add to the vehicle's purposeful appearance. The front bumper houses a simple mesh grille, high performance quad beam headlights and low-mounted driving lights.

A one-tonne electric winch has been concealed behind a mesh insert in the lower intake area of the front bumper and a nudge bar is mounted around the winch. Twin sideport exhaust outlets are located in front of the rear wheel arches on each side of the car.

Entry to the cabin is via standard forward doors and unique rear opposed doors, and is assisted by the deletion of the B-pillar.

New Explorer WHILE the all-new Ford Explorer has only just been launched in the US, the off-roader has already spent a considerable amount of time in Australia.

Heavily disguised prototypes of the new Explorer have been sent to some of the harshest Australian conditions engineers could find over the past two years to ensure the new off-roader would cope.

"The new Explorer has been designed from the ground up," Ford's commercial marketing manager Kevin Lillie said.

"We drove the prototypes when they first arrived and were very impressed by the general refinement and vehicle dynamics. They were even better once the local development program was completed." Changes to the Explorer suspension for the Australian market include unique bushes, spring settings and sway bars.

While the length and width of the Explorer remain unchanged, the wheelbase is substantially longer and wider than the current model.

The new Explorer's off-road capability has improved with increased ground clearance and better approach and departure angles.

Engine choices will comprise a new all-aluminium, 4.6-litre V8 and an improved 4.0-litre V6.

The V6 engine will come with a choice of manual or automatic transmissions while the V8 will be teamed only with the automatic transmission. A sophisticated IRS system is also standard.

An optional, fully integrated third row seat allows the Explorer to seat up to seven occupants. The second and third row seats fold down to create a flat-surfaced cargo area.

The new Explorer will go on sale in Australia around the middle of 2001. Model line-ups, features and options will be confirmed closer to launch.

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