6 June 2005

The MPV revolution has taken a firm hold at Ford’s European operations. Following the announcement that Ford’s sportily styled SAV concept car would form the basis of the second-generation Galaxy, Autocar can exclusively reveal that an even larger and more luxurious vehicle is in the pipeline. The highly versatile car is depicted here in computer-generated form, based on secret inside information.

Known internally as CD340 LMV (luxury multi-purpose vehicle), the big seven-seater has been conceived to crown Ford’s European model line-up. High equipment levels will mean the car is pitched as a successor to the long-discontinued Scorpio when it heads into UK showrooms early next year. Prices are tipped to start at around £20,000 and extend to £30,000.

The LMV, which is expected to make an appearance in concept car guise at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show, will join a production version of the SAV and the current C-Max in an aggressive three-pronged MPV assault on the fast-diversifying European market. By offering a seven-seat layout as well as either front- or four-wheel drive depending on the engine, Ford is banking on its new flagship tempting customers out of traditional executive-class estates and 4x4s, as well as providing buyers with a cheaper alternative to new luxury-class MPVs such as the recently unveiled Mercedes R-class.

The basis for the new car is a stretched version of the C1 platform currently underpinning the Ford Focus and Volvo S40. The LMV will receive a lengthened wheelbase along with upgrades to the front and rear ends to improve crash performance.

To keep costs down and ensure optimal production efficiency, the SAV and LMV share the same basic body structure and edgy styling cues, although detailed changes, such as the shape of the head- and tail lamps, should provide the latter with its own distinctive look. The key differences between the two include the front and rear ends and rear side windows.

Inside, the LMV shares the same dashboard and trims as the SAV, but receives a different centre console treatment. In keeping with its upmarket positioning, items such as an electronic handbrake, climate control, a full complement of airbags – including new knee airbags and a curtain ’bag with coverage for the third row of seats – and a tyre pressure-monitoring system will all come as standard.

Buyers will also be able to choose from a long list of optional features, including high-end sound systems with MP3 and DVD compatibility, the latest GPRS satellite navigation system and advanced radar-controlled adaptive cruise control.

Unlike the SAV, which will be offered as standard with five seats with the option of two additional chairs, the LMV is planned to come as standard with seven seats. To increase passenger comfort, it also receives a slightly longer wheelbase than the SAV, with all the space going to extend legroom for third-row passengers, or alternatively boosting luggage capacity when the two rear-most seats are folded into the boot floor.

Two petrols and a range of diesel engines are being readied for the LMV. On the petrol side is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 145bhp and a Volvo-developed turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder producing 220bhp. The diesels – all turbocharged four-cylinder units – include two 1.8s with 100bhp and 125bhp, along with a 143bhp 2.0-litre.

Autocar understands there are also moves to provide the LMV with a new in-line six-cylinder petrol engine being developed by Volvo. It will likely be offered in naturally aspirated 3.2-litre guise producing 235bhp, although more powerful turbocharged 3.0-litre variants are also an option according to sources.

Ford has placed particular emphasis on the rigidity of the bodyshell in a bid to ensure top-notch levels of ride and handling for the LMV and SAV. Among the measures Ford has undertaken is the incorporation of a strut brace between the front suspension towers. Rather than being bolted in as in other C1 platform-based models, it is welded in place for added stiffness. Ford has also added a brace at the front of the transmission tunnel as well as additional reinforcement underneath the front seats.

In a bid to control heave, pitch and roll, while at the same time providing a comfortable ride, Ford plans to offer the LMV with what is described as CDC (continuous damping control) as optional equipment. A development of Volvo’s existing Four-C system, it is linked to a new second-generation electronic stability program that includes HLA (hill launch assist) and BDR (brake distance reduction). The latter uses a secondary brake booster to improve stopping distances on rough surfaces, and the same system is also earmarked for the SAV and next Mondeo.

When production starts later this year, the LMV will be built alongside the SAV at the company’s factory in Genk, Belgium, together with future Ford Group offerings including the next Mondeo and replacements for the Volvo S60, V70, S80.

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