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Ford's Fusion, Mondeo in Europe, is the brand's most important car so far this century. Ian Adcock and Paul Horrell report from its launch in Detroit
The latest Fusion/Mondeo is the first car to be wholly created under the 'One Ford' strategy. The Blue Oval's management is gambling that buyers of mid-sized cars such as this have essentially the same requirements, whether they hail from Baltimore, Brisbane, Beijing or Brussels.
As such, the cars can be engineered on a global scale, hugely reducing engineering and development costs. It's a strategy that Ford has been pursuing since the original Mondeo was launched back in 1993, although it's fair to say that car had so many overlays and local, specific-to-market, engineering demands that it hardly qualified as a global car.
Models such as the latest Fiesta and Focus have, however, principally been engineered in Europe and subsequently honed for the North American and other markets.
"What's different about Fusion/Mondeo," explains Barb Samardzich, vice-president product development Ford of Europe, "is that we have team leaders who take on a global responsibility, located at our various engineering headquarters."
So, while safety was led out of Dearborn, USA, as was much of the bodywork and petrol engines, vehicle dynamics and diesel engines were led by engineering teams from Merkenich, Germany and Dunton, England.
"If you take vehicle dynamics as an example," says Samardzich, "it's a very defined Ford DNA and, although the standards were originally set in Europe, we now consider them to be global standards, rather than just European.
"Likewise with design, which we consider as having a kinetic design influence that originated in Europe, it is now a global design language."
Previous attempts to develop a 'global' car were thwarted by local requirements, especially, in crash and impact, but these are steadily being minimised, explains Desi Ujkashevic, director global design technical operations and EU body engineering, "It was four to five years ago when regional requirements really drove the development of unique top hats. If you think about pedestrian protection, it's becoming more global over time. Our pedpro requirements have evolved quite a bit and were gradually phased in, so we had an element focused on head impact, then we got to upper leg etc. And, as we go beyond 2012, most of the requirements are becoming very similar."
Although there will be 10 models spun off the same underpinnings by 2015, initially there will be just three: the saloon seen in Detroit, plus a five-door hatch and estate car that will debut in Paris later this year.
"If you start with the fundamental premise that it's going to be a global product and will be compliant in all regions, you need to undertake due diligence, in terms of understanding the effect requirements like rear latches for the hatch and wagon will have. Then you can quickly make a decision as to where you do need unique panels and you do that up front, so you're not compromised. We did those vehicles [the hatch and estate] in parallel; we just didn't do the saloon and overlay, because that's what drives inefficiency."
One of the biggest challenges Ujkashevic and her team faced was delivering world-class stampings, and unapologetically admitting they targeted Audi's A6 for fit and finish. "To me, what's more important is the perception of margin that's driven by the edge radii. We're able to take all of our panels, metal and plastic, to world-class execution.
"We used Audi as a benchmark 3.5mm gap on the doors. The Fusion/Mondeo is absolutely equivalent and we did that because it's one of the global features of the job. Our team is focused on how do we deliver world class on a global basis." To ensure that, the American-built Fusion, for example, has laser welded roof joints, falling in line with Ford's established European practice.
One Ford is certainly a bold move – only time will tell if it was the right one to make.
EcoBoost to the fore
As with many cars now, there's a base engine and then more expensive, but smaller, turbo unit with similar power, but better economy. Here, those roles fall to a 2.5 litre, with a projected 127kW, and then a 1.6-litre 'Ecoboost' with similar output, but best-in-class, non-hybrid EPA economy.
Topping the output range is a 2.0 Ecoboost, available with all-wheel drive. In Europe, there will be 1.6 to 2.2 diesels, too. According to engine and market, there will be a choice of manual, TC auto and DCT transmissions, all with stop-start.
Ford insiders also concede that a one-litre EcoBoost, presumably the 88kW version, is undergoing field trials at its UK, Dunton, engineering centre.
At 0.28, the Fusion's Cd is 10% better than the current Mondeo, with all models using active grille shutters. Chief engineer Adrian Whittle says that this was the starting point for the aerodynamic work, as it "changes the airflow completely". Full underbody shielding means it's efficient to drive a large proportion of the airflow under the car where it has low drag and more predictable, symmetrical flow, improving stability.
The underbody shields are made from sound-dampening material to cut tyre noise and reflected road noise. Meanwhile, the side mirrors have moved from the quarter panels to the doors, their shape reducing their drag contribution from 0.15 to 0.09.
There are two key changes versus the previous European CD platform: adoption of EPAS and a new rear suspension. The column-mounted EPAS is supplied globally by ZF. It's 'prudent' not to narrow the supplier base too much, says Whittle. 'We have a competitive advantage, in making EPAS that's fun to drive, partly because the components are rigid and partly because of the company's expertise in programming," he adds. Torque vectoring in the ESP helps, too. Fitment of EPAS also enables optional lane-keeping assist and active parking.
The new isolated multi-link rear suspension is claimed to give similar precision to the Mondeo, but better longitudinal plushness, although there is more emphasis on ride in the US Fusion, whereas European Mondeos will highlight dynamics, with BMW's 3-series the benchmark.
Whittle says that Panasonic's ANC was part of the programme from the start, because they wanted to remove balance shafts from the hybrid's engine, but still wanted to make the hybrids as refined as the regular petrol version. Having added it to the suite of technologies on the platform, they decided to use it on some of the higher-powered diesels as well.
Whittle says it cuts noise overall by 0.5 to 1dB, but importantly it is tuned to work on the frequencies the human ear finds unpleasant. Also, it adds some performance sound on acceleration, replacing the hard-to-package resonator-box 'symposers' that Ford has previously used in the induction system.
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