Ford focuses on future first with C-Max

  • 03-Dec-2010 04:31 EST
Ford10-10 1 C-MAX.jpg

The new Ford Focus-based C-Max comes in five-seat (shown) and seven-seat, long-wheelbase forms, designed for global markets.

It can be a risky business in the automotive world to try to design and build a “world car,” but that is what Ford boss Alan Mullaly has stated that he wants. The new Focus is central to his “One Ford” philosophy.

The timing of the Focus’s arrival is unusual. Generally, an OEM will introduce a core model from which variants will be spawned using the central car’s architecture and technology. However, Ford elected to launch the C-Max MPV as the first application of the company’s global C-car platform ahead of the core MY2011 Focus version’s manufacturing launches in Germany and the U.S. Both were displayed at the Paris Motor Show.

The core Focus will also be built in St. Petersburg, Russia, in four-door sedan and five-door hatch form, and later at Chongquing, China. Production of the current Focus continues until mid-2011 to provide a supply overlap between the generations. Ford apparently has no plans for three-door or coupe-cabriolet versions.

The Focus has impressive aerodynamics, with a best Cd of 0.27. It also features a low-speed safety system a la Volvo (which was part of the Ford empire during the Focus’s development).

Engines include an all-new 1.6-L with low-inertia turbocharger by BorgWarner (KP39). The high-pressure direct-injection EcoBoost gasoline unit has twin independent variable cam timing and produces 110 or 132 kW (148 or 177 hp), the latter having 95% of peak torque available from 1500 to 5500 rpm. An overboost feature increases maximum torque to 270 N·m (199 lb·ft) for up to 15 s from 1900 to 4000 rpm. Ford has also developed a 1.6-L diesel with emissions of 119 g/km.

Both 1.6-L engines drive through a new six-speed Durashift gearbox for small and medium cars, with the C-Max seeing its first application. It is 30% lighter than Ford’s other six-speed box and is the same size and weight as the company’s current five-speed for small cars, despite having a 50% higher torque capability.

Almost all of the core Focus’s mechanical improvements read across to the C-Max version. In all, the Focus platform will underpin at least 10 models or derivatives. Ford showed a prototype of one of these, the MY2012 Focus ST at Paris, which, with 184 kW (247 hp), will be 10% more powerful than the current model but with fuel consumption and emissions 20% lower.

The C-Max, now available in both five-seat and—with wheelbase lengthened by 140 mm (5.5 in)—seven-seat Grand C-Max forms, is built in Valencia, Spain. For MY2013, the C-Max five-seater will be offered as a full and plug-in hybrid using Ford’s “powersplit” system with an Atkinson-cycle engine combined with a high-voltage electric motor and lithium-ion battery system. A pure electric Focus is slated for 2012.

The two C-Max versions are identical up to the B-pillar. The five-seater has what Ford describes as a “coupe-like, sweeping roofline.” It certainly has a downward sweep, but it does not compromise rear-seat headroom. The Grand C-Max has a more conventional roofline for this vehicle type and twin sliding doors, a first for a European Ford passenger vehicle, their rails camouflaged by the undercut line on the car’s shoulder.

A significant element of the Grand C-Max’s packaging is the ability to fold the middle seat of the middle row under the right-hand seat cushion to create a walk-though space that Ford says provides easy access to the rearmost seat row with 2+2+2 capacity. The foldaway seat is smaller than those flanking it and is linked to the right-hand seat, the two sliding and reclining together when in regular position. The second- and third-row seats can be folded to provide a flat load floor.

Among the technology “firsts” for a Ford in Europe is the availability on the C-Max of Active Park Assist (APA), which steers the car into a parallel parking space—on either side of the road—that can be less than 1 m (3 ft) longer than the vehicle’s overall length.

The system includes two ultrasonic sensors, one on each side of the vehicle, to scan gaps at speeds up to 30 km/h (19 mph). A button activates the system even if the vehicle has just been driven past an available gap. The driver controls brakes, gears, and accelerator during the parking sequence, with the APA looking after steering inputs up to 10 km/h (6 mph). The system asks the driver to move the vehicle backward or forward to achieve a perfect parking position.

Other C-Max equipment includes a radar-module-based blind-spot information system, which illuminates an LED indicator in the rearview mirrors. It operates from only 10 km/h.

Ford EasyFuel capless refueling is used; it is designed to prevent mis-fueling diesel for gasoline or vice versa, a potential problem in Europe. A key-free entry system and start button is an option, as is a tailgate-mounted camera. Hill-start assist is standard.

Compared to the outgoing C-Max, the new car has a stiffer body structure—improved by about 5% for both versions (Ford issued no specific figures)—with compensation for the Grand C-Max’s longer wheelbase via the use of high- and ultra-high-strength steel. Many of the body and chassis features are an integral part of the company’s overall new C-car platform.

The outgoing Focus’s Control Blade multilink rear suspension and semi-isolated front subframe system have been updated, and the new car gets electric power steering (EPAS) and torque vectoring control systems. The C-Max’s front suspension top mounts have been linked together by a sheet-metal tower brace integrated with the bulkhead to achieve a stiffer front-end structure, so reducing NVH and enhancing steering feel. The rear shock absorber towers have been stiffened with local strengthening, which follows the line of the D-pillar. Body structures of the C-Max and Grand C-Max were optimized separately.

Weight saving in the suspension area included 2 kg (4.4 lb) out of the front subframe and a similar amount for the new, hollow, antiroll bar.

As well as re-optimizing the rear control blade suspension, both C-Max versions have increased diameter dampers, larger hub bearings for enhanced camber stiffness, and re-optimized bushings to cut transmission of road noise and vibration.

Reduction of noise levels has also included work on the C-Max (and Focus) engines, including common-rail injection orifices, air induction inlet guide vanes (on the 2.0-L diesel), and intake system dampers. Wind noise is reduced by using an acoustic layer for the windshield and increased glass thicknesses. A new type of foam-backed heavy layer carpet is used, as is optimized use of self-expanding foams in body cavities and an acoustically isolated dashboard. Reduction in noise levels compared to the previous generation C-Max is about 2 dB(A).

The rack-mounted EPAS is all new, has been tuned with speed mapping, and has a ratio of 14.7:1. It has a pull-drift compensation feature to counter the effect of strong adverse road camber. A test rig to support development of the EPAS was developed and built by Ford at its Lommel, Belgium, proving ground.

The C-Max is the first product to be developed in Europe using Ford’s new Global Product Development Systems process, the new standard for all Ford vehicles worldwide.

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