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RSPEC brings FPV respect
FPV admits its new RSPEC chassis package is what it needed two years ago
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14 Aug 2012
FORD Performance Vehicles has admitted that its new ‘RSPEC’ chassis tune program – known internally as ‘Panther’ – delivers the driving experience that the current V8 model range should have received on release two years ago.
FPV managing director Bryan Mears said timing and resource constraints made it impossible to launch the optimal chassis tune with the ‘Miami’ V8 engine program – a $36 million redevelopment of the US-designed 5.0-litre supercharged Coyote V8 – when it introduced the FG-series GT range in 2010.
Since then, FPV is understood to have spent about $4 million improving the suspension and drivetrain for a measurably more responsive and “hardcore” experience.
“It’s where we wanted to be when we released the Miami, but for several reasons couldn’t achieve it at the time,” said Mr Mears at this week’s launch of the limited-edition GT RSPEC sedan.
Among the RSPEC changes are stiffer engine and transmission mounts (to cut driveline movement under load and improve ride quality), higher rear spring rates, retuned dampers front and rear, reinforced rear lower control arms, stiffer front upper control arms and a larger rear anti-roll bar.
Coupled with FPV’s first launch control device and the adoption of nine-inch rear wheels shod with the 275/35 R19 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT tyres, the RSPEC tune is designed to produce much sportier performance than the luxury-focussed GT-E.
Bernie Quinn, the chief engineer of Prodrive Australia, which owns 51 per cent of FPV, said RSPEC’s 18-month gestation included a developmental stint in Germany.
Mr Quinn said Panther benchmarks included the Mercedes-Benz AMG and BMW M cars.
“At a very high level, we set some targets for the car itself, and was based on press feedback on how the (Miami-engined) cars could be improved,” he said.
“We drove other similar cars in the marketplace, including the American 2012 Boss Mustang, as well as some BMWs and Mercedes that are in similar performance sedan segment.
“We wanted greater roll control, greater body control, a stiffer chassis and improved steering response, so in engineering terms drivers could feel the lateral acceleration before they feel the yaw.
“It’s about a very direct reaction in the car. We almost wanted you to feel the pinion moving within the (steering) rack as you turn the wheel. Instead of that elastic feeling in the old car – you get an input, you get a delay, and then you get a reaction from the car – this is more about getting a direct feeling.
“We also realised we wanted to get all that power down to the rear wheels more effectively, as well as more traction powering out mid-corner.
“In summary, we wanted the car to feel more agile and responsive. That is really now front-of-mind whenever we come to a decision on a chassis specification, as well as more consistent wide-open-throttle launches.” FPV does not divulge acceleration times or top speed, but rumour suggests the GT RSPEC is capable of achieving just under 300km/h with the 250km/h speed-limiter disabled.
The company would not say whether the RSPEC chassis tune will become standard fitment across the entire GT (V8) and F6 (turbo six-cylinder) ranges.
Although Mr Mears is encouraged by the fact that all 350 cars have already been snapped up by FPV dealers, he does not want to alienate buyers seeking a more luxurious experience as the more luxury-focussed GT-E flagship is reportedly still in strong demand.
Nevertheless, many of the RSPEC chassis changes relating to smoothness and refinement are likely to make the next round of changes to the FPV range next year.
There is even talk that RSPEC may become a model in its own right in the future, perhaps as a replacement for the GT-P.
“We’ve made an investment there (and) at the appropriate time, as we sit down and go through our product range, anything we do is building from this base,” said Mr Mears.
“There are a number of things that we are looking at, but I just can’t talk about them.”
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