Autoblog talks hot wheels with Ford’s Performance Vehicle leadersJanuary 31, 2009
Fans of Ford’s American SVT and European ST and RS models will have plenty to look forward to in the next few years. As part of the company’s One Ford program to consolidate its platforms and designs, SVT and TeamRS have been brought together under a single organization led by Jost Capito. Earlier this week, we [Autoblog] sat down for lunch with Jamal Hameedi and Hermann Salenbauch to discuss what is going on and what we can expect to see in the next few years.
Hameedi is the Chief Nameplate Engineer at SVT and Salenbauch is the director of Advanced Product Creation and Performance Vehicles. We’ve already seen some of their handiwork in the form of the 2010 Shelby GT500 and F-150 SVT Raptor, but we’ll come back to those in a bit. We already know we’ll be getting a new Focus in late 2010 or early 2011 that’s common with the Euro model we’ve been craving for years. Naturally, the question of the new Focus RS came up. While no one would commit to anything, there were plenty of smiles to go around and Hameedi and Salenbauch were more than willing to talk enthusiastically about the new sports hatch that is launching right now in Europe. If what we’ve been told is anywhere close to true, the Focus RS will take the likes of the Volkswagen R32 and Subaru WRX and kick them into the ditch. Even though the hatch’s 300 horses pump through the front wheels exclusively, the Focus reportedly handles much more like a rear-driver with a back end that’s easy to kick into a drift. It appears we’ll be getting an opportunity to try out the Focus RS firsthand this summer as Ford is bringing over a sampling of its European wares for select U.S. media to try out. While it remains to be seen what performance variants of the Fiesta, Focus and Fusion the U.S. will get, there are two SVT products that are arriving this year: the 2010 Shelby GT500 and F-150 Raptor. The 2010 Shelby GT500 has been the subject of much debate in the comments here on Autoblog. Two particular elements of the car elicit a lot of controversy, the engine block and the rear axle. The continued use of a cast iron block has led to some consternation because of its extra mass compared to an all-aluminium block. Hameedi explained that there were a number of reasons for sticking with iron. The most obvious is that the aluminium block from the Ford GT used a dry sump system and different starter, and these posed packaging issues in the Mustang. They could obviously be overcome if the desire (and money) was there. However, he also explained that over half of GT500 owners have modded their cars in some way. The existing aluminium block can withstand the stresses of 540 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque, but the iron block has much more headroom for even more power without modification. Drag racers routinely get 700-800 hp, and even the Shelby Super Snake can produce 725 hp. An aluminium block would have to be significantly beefed to withstand more power than stock, which would negate much of the material weight advantage. We also discussed the possibility of other new engines in the Mustang, including the rumoured 5.0-litre Coyote V8. On that topic, the response was simply “What 5.0-liter V8?” New engines are definitely coming to the Pony for 2011, but no one at Ford is willing to talk about them at this point. The other new Ford V8 is the 6.2-liter Hurricane going into the F-150 Raptor early next year. In the past, SVT engineers focused on lateral and longitudinal acceleration, producing two generations of SVT Lightning pickups. Like other high performance pickup trucks, these vehicles added power and handling while subtracting much of the utility that makes a truck a truck. The crew went an entirely different direction this time around by adding in control of the vertical forces. They learned a lot new things creating an off-road truck and ended up with an almost completely new vehicle. The only body panels that the Raptor shares with other F-150 models are its roof and doors, and most of the underpinnings are either all-new or heavily modified. The SVT team worked with brake engineers at BOSCH on customizing the slip control for the Raptor. In off-road mode, the brakes have more rear bias, allowing the driver to steer the truck with the brake pedal, throttle or steering wheel. This author worked on brake control systems for 17 years, and one of the biggest issues was always getting a good stopping distance off-road. On gravel or loose surfaces, a vehicle can actually stop better if the wheels come closer to locking and allowing a wedge of material to build up in front of the wheel. However, it’s really hard for a system to recognize this kind of surface. Automakers’ legal teams are generally reluctant to give drivers control of this sort of thing because of the potential for getting in trouble. The Raptor, however, provides options for the driver through the off-road drive modes that adjust the amount of slip allowed, thus improving off-road stopping power. So whether you like melting the tires in the front, the ones out back, or all four, Ford’s reinvigorated SVT team appears to have you covered. We can’t wait to try out the Raptor, the new GT500 and the European models this spring and summer.