How Ford of Europe helped birth the global 2015 Mustang

  • 18-Dec-2013 04:30 EST
Ford Mustang12-13 Barcelona_16.jpg

Unmistakably a "proper" Mustang with distinctive three-bar tail lights and the figure 5.0 on its front quarter denoting a V8 engine. A 2.3-L turbocharged four-cylinder is expected to be the most popular power choice in Europe.

With wings or wheels, a Mustang is a coveted item the world over.

The winged version, aka the P-51, was a truly international airplane that was conceived and built by North American Aircraft in response to a British requirement and was later fitted with a Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 built by Packard. In the skies over Europe during World War II, it proved to be, arguably, the finest piston-engine fighter of the war and has become a true icon. Survivors are coveted and have huge historical and financial value.

The wheeled version (named after the aircraft, not the equine) achieved worldwide fame despite not being truly international. Conceived and built by Ford in the U.S., it was very much a home-market-focused design for its first 50 years. But that changes as the all-new 2015 Mustang (see http://articles.sae.org/12658/) becomes a thoroughly international car, with strong design input from Ford of Europe.

It was formally unveiled in multiple regions, with Executive Chairman Bill Ford presiding at the Barcelona, Spain, debut that included Ford dealers from Europe along with media. The handsome steed hit the stage in a mist of dry ice (not to be confused with exhaust smoke).

“The new car was designed from the outset as a vehicle suitable for Europe – so the team assembled round the project included European designers. We all worked together,” said Martin Smith, Vice President Design, Ford of Europe. “The first designs for the new car were developed in North America but with the advent of [President and CEO] Alan Mullally with his idea of ‘One Ford’ — it could then become a global vehicle.”

Mullally simply asked the fundamental question: “Why just design for America?”

This had been demonstrated with the cohesion of the North America-focused Escape and the  Europe-focused Kuga—brought together as one product designed by a global team.

“The base of that was Germany, using design colleagues from America," noted Smith. "For almost all products now we build an international team that has experience of many parts of the world.” Also in Barcelona was the all-new Edge concept, indicating Ford’s planned large SUV for Europe, again a One Ford solution.

“Now, we really do operate as one company and are confident that the Mustang, a North American icon now designed by an international team, will be highly successful in Europe,” said Smith.

Classic cockpit character

But the strength of the Mustang name, along with its aesthetic signature, is that it must remain a fundamental communicant of American sports car design. The input of owners of previous Mustangs and their marque clubs – primarily representing the classic 1960s-1970s versions – played a significant role in creating the new car.

“We had a huge amount of information,” Smith told AEI. “Some Mustang cues that enthusiasts say they must have for the new car include the arrangement of the rear lights, the front graphic with its lean-forward powerful look, the rear haunches and the bodyside of the fastback.”

The 2004-2006 Ford GT, born out of the 1960s GT40, also influenced the new Mustang. Details such as toggle switches with a defined, engineered mechanical “click-clack” action, and large circular instruments, were significant, as was a high instrument panel. "They wanted a cockpit that was like a jet fighter,” Smith recalled. But not the latest flat-screen digital cockpit of the F-35 Lightning II, for example, but something from the McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom analog era.

“Everything we heard was translated to create the interior of the new car but, of course, with high quality," Smith said. "We are gratified that using the information of enthusiasts really resonates with them.” It was creating what Mustang fans would appreciate but not quite what they expected, he explained.

Did this make creating the new Mustang easier or more difficult? According to Smith, easy in that the design team knew exactly what Mustang customers expected. Their information was "very consistent but we were not constrained by it,” he said.

Nailing the dynamic targets

But the 2015 car is not just about aesthetics. Joe Bakaj, Vice President, Product Development for Ford of Europe, is overseeing the Mustang’s technological conformance to meet European sporty-car buyer expectations.

“There are certain segments where certain vehicle designs can work globally,” he said, noting Fiesta, Focus, and EcoSport. Others are regional players, most notably F-150 in North America. Ford will take the new Mustang global because it has been engineered to meet all the "wants" and regulations of all the regions in the world; it will be the first Mustang to be engineered for right-hand drive, Bakaj noted.

The car's technology will be fine-tuned for Europe (including its newly designed suspension), although Bakaj said that for the past five years, Ford has been working on achieving, worldwide, a more consistent DNA for its steering.

"We have defined some parameters – unique Ford parameters – as to how steering should feel," he said. "We have certain combinations, for example of how you drive on-center and start to turn off-center at, say 120 km/h. We have our own targets for how torque build-up should feel in combination with the yaw gain of the vehicle and how much steering angle is being input.

"Yes, we benchmark against other companies’ vehicles but always find our own 'Ford feel,'" he continued. "To do this we have gone more European in our steering feel than we used to, taking strengths of the vehicle dynamics work done in Europe and making that global.”

He said the Mustang will have some of the base DNA but still be uniquely a Mustang in its overall character. This, together with its performance levels, brakes, handling, and grip would make it a “real” sports car. The use of the new independent rear suspension system instead of the traditional live axle, plus double ball-joint front suspension, are expected to be significant factors in achieving this.

The V6 engine version will not be offered in Europe because it would not achieve sufficiently high volume, and Ford did not want the complexity of engineering all the variants on sale in North America. So European Mustangs will be offered with a choice of a 2.3-L EcoBoost I4 and a 5.0-L V8.

Bakaj insists that the four-cylinder unit will have a great aural signature much as have the Focus and Fiesta ST variants. And the V8 is a guaranteed “sound” investment—as was the Packard Merlin-engined P-51.

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