4. Ford's concepts
Posted by Angus MacKenzie, Motor Trend
Thanks to the success of the Chrysler 300C, rear drive cars are back in fashion in America. GM has announced the return of the rear-drive Camaro in 2009, and it's rumored the car's Australian-developed architecture will be used for a rear-drive Impala sedan due in 2010.
Why is rear drive suddenly hot? Because it allows more powerful engines, sportier handling, and better proportions than front drive. And it allows American automakers to build quintessentially American automobiles with V-8 engines and bold styling.
Ford is showing two rear-drive concept cars at Detroit -- the Ford Interceptor and the Lincoln MKR.
Both are built on a Mustang-based platform with independent rear suspension. But don't jump to conclusions -- when Ford axed smooth riding independent rear suspension (IRS) for the current Mustang to save money, it made enough changes to the platform to make it too expensive to put back in. That means if either car is to be built, Ford needs an affordable IRS rear-drive platform to build them on.
Ironically, it may find one in exactly the same place as GM found the Zeta architecture that will underpin its new Camaro -- Australia. The Ford Falcon, FoMoCo's Australian-designed and engineered rival to GM's Zeta-based Holden Commodore, is being heavily reworked for 2008.
The Falcon features an IRS system, and Ford Australia executives are pushing hard for the next generation Falcon platform to be adopted by the U.S. to help amortize the cost of its ongoing development beyond 2010.
In styling terms, the Ford Interceptor reflects Ford's North American design chief Peter Horbury's take on the three-bar grille from the Ford 427 concept shown at Detroit a couple of years back, and mimics his '06 F-250 Super Chief show truck. The engine is an E85-friendly 5.0-liter overhead cam V-8 making 400 horsepower. The 2 2 low-back seats are fixed, headrests deploy from the roof and the four-point seat belts are inflatable in the rear.
Horbury, who made his reputation transforming the way Volvos look, has identified seven key design cues that have defined Lincolns over the years, and decreed that all future production Lincolns must have at least three of them. The Lincoln MKR's styling, including the '41 Continental-style grille, thin taillamps and powerful beltline, therefore signals the future design direction for Lincoln.
Under the hood is E85-capable 3.5-liter V-6 similar to that used by current production Fords such as the new Edge crossover. However, twin turbochargers and direct injection give this one a V-8-busting 415-horsepower.
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