Click above for high-res image gallery of the Lincoln Concept C

Play the word association game with an average American, and when the topic is "Lincoln," you're likely to hear words like "traditional," "big," and "limousine." Terms describing compact hatchbacks like the Concept C shown above simply won't be on the tips of anyone's tongues. So what gives? Has Dearborn finally looped it? Take a closer look, and what at first seems like a designer pet project reveals a good deal more forethought and finesse.

Yes, the Concept C is small. Said to be underpinned by the next-generation Ford Focus platform, this is a C-segment car, much shorter than any current Lincoln, and indeed, much shorter than any Lincoln we can recall. But how about that width? Emphasized by its sizable fenders and the strong shoulder-line in the doors (said to be inspired by the saddle tanks on go karts), the Concept C may be as long as a Focus, but it's roughly as wide as a MKZ sedan. The extra width and the upright greenhouse (there's almost no tumblehome at all) mean that the C can accommodate two rows of three full-sized adults in surprising comfort. The bustle back shape reminds of a number of Gallic automobiles, including the previous Renault Megane, but rather amazingly, the formal roofline, twin wing grilles and full-width rear light bar that are Lincoln hallmarks don't look out of place. Click on the gallery below or follow the jump to read more about the Concept C and check out the official press releases.

Related GalleryDetroit 2009: Lincoln C Concept Live

Related GalleryLincoln Concept C

Live photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Frank Filipponio / Weblogs, Inc.



Despite the traditional cues, the Concept C is not without a youthful sense of humor. Perhaps you've heard how some MINI and Jeep drivers wave or flash their lights when they are passed by someone driving the same type of vehicle. The Concept C takes this bit of roadway camaraderie and automates it: Every time a Concept C detects another Concept C driving in the opposite direction, it 'winks' one of its lights.



Open Wide and Say "Ikea"

Open the Concept C's pillarless suicide doors (reminiscent of those employed on the 1961 Continental), and both driver and passengers alike are greeted with a wall-to-wall minimalist treat. Bench style seats are a nod to Lincoln's past and make good use of the car's width, and thanks to thin frames, they also help maximize interior space. We've seen thin seat technology for years now on showcars, and their clean lines and space savings will hopefully find their way into an actual production vehicle soon. It's also interesting to note how the Concept C's seats themselves are sculpted, as when you sit in them, your lower legs naturally kick out an almost recliner-like fashion. We were actually able to sit inside the Concept C at a special preview last week, and though we thought this might feel off-putting, in our experience it was rather relaxing and allowed rear seat passengers to make the most of the space underneath the front seats. All-in, Ford says the passenger compartment is roomier than in the aforementioned '61 Continental, which is literally no small feat.



Despite its short footprint, the C's interior feels light, airy, and capacious. In part, that's a function of the interior's relentlessly white color, but it's also due in large measure to the glass roof that mimics the form of the Lincoln cross emblem. The minimalist floating instrument panel and hubless steering wheel also do their part to reduce claustrophobia, and the latter is another styling cue that looks and feels decidedly French in execution. The light gray recycled wood veneer adds a subtle touch of much-needed contrast and cuts down appropriately on what otherwise could have been a very severe and clinical feeling accommodations. The interior's potential for austerity has been further softened through the use of prominent stitching and laser-engraved seat etching (the color in the floral pattern is actually the next layer of leather peeking through).



The dashboard itself is an interesting form, and not only because of what it doesn't have: push buttons, physical gauges, or air vents. Instead, most of the information readouts are handled digitally, and the slim air vents run in a ribbon around the border of the glass roof panel in the roof. The leather-wrapped instrument panel is dominated a center touchscreen control and by three display sections that show information relevant to both driver and passenger. To the left side of the speedometer, vehicle-related functions like fuel economy and vehicle diagnostics are displayed. On the right side, occupant-related information is shown, including HVAC settings, audio controls, navigation, and phone. The center screen houses a future-think version of SYNC, which includes an avatar persona named EVA that vehicle occupants can "talk" with to perform functions like adjusting the climate control, making phone calls, and setting nav destinations using conversational speech (as opposed to memorized commands). Passengers can while away the hours looking out of the large greenhouse, or they can access the Internet without distracting the driver thanks to a privacy screen. (For a video demonstration, click here).

Underhood:

You might expect a concept like the Lincoln C to be powered by some sort of exotic propulsion technology - a fuel cell, perhaps, or maybe a plug-in diesel hybrid with unobtanium batteries. Instead, Ford envisions the car powered by a more viable near-term powertrain solution: a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine backed by a dual-clutch PowerShift six-speed transmission and stop/start technology. Ford sees this turbocharged, central direct-injection four-cylinder as good for 180 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, while returning an estimated 43 miles-per-gallon on the highway.



What Does It All Mean?

So, what's the point of the Concept C – is it merely some pie-in-the-sky Lincoln, a case of letting the designers blow off a little creative steam? We might have thought so, but after a recent afternoon at Ford's Dearborn Tech Center inspecting the car and talking with the Blue Oval's full slate of design gurus and executives, we began to change our mind.

When we asked Ford's group vice president of Design, J Mays, point-blank if the C is a conceptual trial balloon designed to gauge if Lincoln can play as a global brand (in markets where small premium cars are already accepted), he was quick to nip that notion in the bud. Ford, Mays astutely pointed out, must focus its energies on righting its fortunes in the U.S. before it could ever entertain taking Lincoln abroad. Given the unusual width of this car, the Concept C would actually be ill equipped to drive on many European or Japanese streets anyhow, and narrowing the car would probably prevent Lincoln-specific design cues like the full-width taillights from working visually.

In talking with Peter Horbury, executive director of Design, The Americas, we learned that Ford sees a real future in small footprint luxury automobiles. To this point, the U.S. market's message has been mixed, with cheeky premium cars from MINI and smart beating sales expectations, while others like the Audi A3, BMW 1-Series, and Volvo C30 have struggled to find an audience. But Horbury believes that Americans are moving away from the "value by the pound" mentality, as they are increasingly willing to pay top dollar for small, stylish, quality products like Apple's iPod and high-end mobile telephones. The recent regression of gasoline prices has certainly hurt the segment's odds for success in the short term, but whether it's fuel prices, public tastes, or emissions standards that conspire to make small cars a more viable solution, Ford sees small cars going upscale in America.



So... if Dearborn is serious about marketing a smaller Lincoln, who does it envision as the Concept C's prototypical buyer? Mays told us that the car intended to attract hip urban-dwelling, loft-living thirty-somethings with a flair for contemporary design. Fair enough. But that customer description is exactly the marketing demographic Ford told us they were tasking Mercury with attracting just a couple of years ago.

Reading between the lines, we think the Concept C is a concept car that is charged with getting the American consumer comfortable with the idea of a smaller Lincoln, in part so that they can expand the marque's footprint to absorb Mercury. If we are right, to dismiss the C as a bit of concept car confectionery is shortsighted. Instead, the C can reasonably be looked upon as a bellwether offering – one that is heavily freighted with meaning and importance that extends beyond Lincoln to envelope Ford's entire portfolio of brands. If that is the case, the Concept C offers good reasons to be excited about the Blue Oval's future - unless you're a Mercury fan.

Related GalleryLincoln Concept C



PRESS RELEASE

LINCOLN C CONCEPT: BIG LUXURY IN SMALL PACKAGE

DETROIT, Jan. 12, 2009 – Lincoln is breaking new ground with the Lincoln C concept, a new big idea for a small luxury car.

Designed with today's upscale, urban consumer in mind, the Lincoln C concept brings the presence and elegance of a large Lincoln to a smaller, more efficient C-sized car.

"Modern luxury buyers who live and work in large, urban areas want to play their part in helping the environment by moving to a smaller vehicle, but they still want to enjoy the luxuries of life," said Peter Horbury, executive director of Design, The Americas. "The Lincoln C offers sensible indulgence."

According to Horbury, younger contemporary consumers with slim iPods and pocket-sized cameras have already grown accustomed to the notion of premium quality in a small package.

"During the past decade, people have gotten used to the idea that you could pay more money for a smaller version of the real thing," said Horbury, citing the evolution of music players from tapes to CDs to MP3 players as an example.

"The same philosophy can be applied to the automobile," he added. "People will be happy to buy a smaller car that is better for the environment and more maneuverable in the city as long as the vehicle has all the attributes they want."

The concept's unique size, lightweight construction and use of sustainable materials make the Lincoln C stand out – along with its fuel economy.

Featuring a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine and Ford's all-new dry, dual-clutch PowerShift six-speed transmission, the Lincoln C concept achieves 43 mpg on the highway, while offering up an impressive 180 horsepower and 180 ft.-lbs. of torque. PowerShift and outstanding driving dynamics make the Lincoln C concept fun for the driver.

Plus, a sophisticated human machine interface (HMI) and forward-thinking in-car connectivity technologies bring a whole new dimension to social networking, an important facet of modern customers' active lifestyles.

"Connectivity is as much a luxury for today's younger car buyer as are the traditional luxuries of wood, leather and a comfortable ride," said Horbury. "It means being able to continue your lifestyle seamlessly while you're on the move."

Sporty, Elegant Exterior Design
When designers developed the Lincoln C concept, their goal was to create a C-sized automobile with both presence and elegance. Their vision: a smaller, more fuel-efficient car that could maneuver easily in congested urban areas and compact parking spaces, yet still provide driver and passengers with levels of luxury and comfort usually reserved for larger sedans.

"Lincoln C is about efficiency without compromise," said Freeman Thomas, director of Ford's Strategic Concepts Group, who led the Lincoln C design team – David Woodhouse, Jeremy Leng, Andrei Markevich and Matt Edwards.

One of the most distinctive features of the Lincoln C is its unique silhouette. The visual mass of the car is very low to the road. A low-slung shoulder line with a wheel-at-each-corner stance supports a dynamic, slightly formal cabin. The aim was "go kart" visual stability combined with elegant lines and surfaces.

At first glance, the silhouette is immediately distinguished by a bold front profile, low shoulder, high beltline, wide C-pillar and compact bustle back.

The modern appearance of the Lincoln C reflects the timeless, iconic elements of the Lincoln DNA: sheer surfaces bounded by defined creases; a cantilevered roof extending from a strong C-pillar; a confident double-wing chrome grille; full-width tail lamps and rocker brightwork.

The front end of the concept is unmistakably Lincoln. The signature grille encapsulates LED headlamps that – like the taillights – are made with prismatic optical elements that create depth and visual sophistication. A sculpted groove in the top of the front hood – which derives its shape from the Lincoln badge – adds a finishing touch to the grille of the car.

A low shoulder line combines with a strong, high belt line to create a sense of safety and privacy inside and outside of the vehicle.

An aluminum cantrail adds elegance to the concept by extending the beltline to the rear glass and breaking up the otherwise tall C-pillar. Aluminum is also visible inside the door apertures.

The Lincoln C is absent of a B-pillar or center post. The center-opening doors – a classic Lincoln trait that rekindles memories of the 1961 Continental – allow effortless access to first- and second-row bench seats and give the vehicle a limousine-like quality.

Sleek side mirrors house both advanced rear-view camera and blind spot detection technologies. Slit-like LED turn signal indicators are integrated into the mirrors, allowing slim, efficient light.

LED taillamps span the full-width of the Lincoln C's rear, featuring turn signal indicators that fade toward the center of the car stretch from side to side.

An all-glass roof provides a modern, futuristic look. The expansive opening illuminates the cabin and enhances the sense of spaciousness inside the car.

Designers reinterpreted the presentation of the Lincoln badge throughout the exterior of the Lincoln C in a subtle way, giving it a contemporary "race track" theme. The Lincoln star sits proudly at the center of the front end, and the rear badge is slightly morphed to suit its placement above the taillights.

A more in-depth look at various details of the Lincoln C reveals that the badge motif is repeated in discreet ways in the design of the front lower intake mesh; the shape of the glass roof and structure; the implied illuminated keyholes on the door handles; the shape of the rear-view camera that sits on the back of the roof; the design of the wheels and the pattern in the tire treads.

The exterior of the Lincoln C is bathed in a light, exterior clear coat that hints of yellow metallic.

Modern, Timeless Interior Design
Inside, the Lincoln C concept welcomes driver and passengers to a space that looks more like the living room of a contemporary urban loft than the inside of a car.

Elements of classic Lincoln DNA permeate the cabin, including: a bright, clean, light color palette; authentic materials such as wood and metal; ambient lighting; jewel-like chrome details; bench seating; and the symmetrical design of the instrument panel, which thoughtfully serves both driver and passengers.

The interior's all-white color palette -- from roof to seats to floor -- is stunning. Subtle chrome accents on the seats, instrument panel, door panels and floor glimmer like fine jewelry. A light gray wood veneer – made from recycled wood – provides a striking contrast against the white leather on the instrument panel and door panels. The headliner is white Alcantara suede.
Because the Lincoln C concept is two inches wider than conventional C-class vehicles, it offers the roominess of a 1961 Continental at almost half the length. In modern terms, the vehicle has the overall length of a Ford Focus and the overall width of a Lincoln MKZ.

Designers took full advantage of the extra space in the interior of the Lincoln C by incorporating luxurious bench seating in the front and back rows. They are crafted from luxurious, chromium-free leather and filled with soy foam. The seats are thin and lightweight, but because they were designed to an ergonomic comfort curve, they are extremely comfortable.

There is a single headrest on the left and a double headrest on the right for passengers in both rows. All the headrests automatically retract without occupants for optimized driver vision. Convenience trays are housed compactly behind the front bench. In the closed position, they are flush with the leather and feature chrome release handles.

One of the most eye-catching elements of the seating is the laser-engraved floral etching on the passenger side seats and floor and on the back of the driver's seat. It is a light, airy pattern that gives the interior a refined, sophisticated look.

Because of their unique shape and the imperceptible way that they are mounted to the floor, the benches appear to be floating inside the cabin.

The steering wheel and instrument panel also seem to be suspended in air. All of these elements combine to enhance the concept's futuristic look, openness, and give the impression of dynamic space within the vehicle.

The steering wheel is hubless, lending the driver an unobstructed view of the instrument panel. The glossy white rim rotates around a stationary chrome ring with chrome shifter paddles on both sides. Simple toggles embedded into the left and right sides of the wheel control the vehicle's navigation system and menu selection.

The instrument panel is leather-wrapped with a chrome bezel. The light, gray wood veneer forms a symmetrical shape that surrounds the center-mounted touch screen and extends out to the right and left sides. Above the center screen is the Lincoln nomenclature and badge, finished tastefully in chrome.

The panoramic instrument panel is divided into three sections and designed with a mixture of digital and analog components. The left side contains Lincoln's signature HMI menus and driver-related information. The center portion displays a multi-functional screen displaying navigation, SYNC details and a life-like custom avatar to help make everyday journeys more seamless and other helpful, driver-oriented options.

Soft, white ambient lighting creates a relaxing atmosphere inside the cabin. The lighting is integrated into the C-pillar with a front face that displays the Lincoln badge.

The roof also features an integrated rearview mirror and a chrome-trimmed Web camera that rotates to the right or left, depending on whether the driver or the passenger is communicating via the Internet. A chrome air vent follows the shape of the glass roof.

"While the most luxurious and indulgent products often come in the smallest packages, unfortunately this hasn't been true of most small cars recently," said J Mays, Ford's group vice president of Design. "With the Lincoln C, we've remixed the traditional small car formula, taking the most engaging technologies and wrapping them in a design fit for today's urban luxury customer – without sacrificing style or substance."

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LINCOLN C PAIRS ECOBOOST I-4 WITH DUAL-CLUTCH POWERSHIFT TRANSMISSION FOR 40-PLUS MPG

DETROIT, Jan. 12, 2009 – The Lincoln C concept showcases Ford Motor Company's newest combination of fuel-efficient powertrain innovations: a four-cylinder EcoBoost engine mated to a dual-clutch PowerShift transmission.

Featuring a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine and Ford's all-new dry, dual-clutch PowerShift six-speed transmission, Lincoln C achieves a projected 43 mpg on the highway, while offering up an estimated 180 horsepower and 180 ft.-lbs. of torque. That's a nearly 25 percent fuel-economy improvement over Lincoln C's fuel-sipping C-car cousin, the Ford Focus, which currently delivers unsurpassed highway fuel economy in its segment when equipped with a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine.

"Lincoln C demonstrates that a higher degree of engine downsizing as the key to fuel economy improvement, paired with the right technologies, can deliver optimum horsepower, torque and drive-away capability," said Andreas Schamel, a chief engine engineer with Ford's Powertrain Research Laboratory. "Plus, when combined with the PowerShift six-speed transmission, the impossible equation becomes perfectly possible: lower fuel consumption, increased power and smoother, more fun-to-drive performance."
The 1.6-Liter EcoBoost Engine
The Lincoln C concept's 1.6-liter engine dimensions the common attributes of Ford's EcoBoost strategy, leveraging a combination of direct fuel injection technology and turbocharging to deliver significantly improved fuel economy and torque versus a larger displacement engine, while reducing emissions up to 15 percent.

The 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine features turbocharging and a central-injector direct injection system. Using a central injector instead of a side-injector system provides improved fuel-air mixture preparation, helping to further reduce fuel consumption and lower emissions. A central injector-based system also provides the most flexible foundation for future fuel-saving technologies.

"We know that a central injection system is a prerequisite for future global fuel economy upgrades such as stratified lean operation, homogeneous charge compression ignition or HCCI, and premium injection system technology if the market demands," said Martin Wirth, a Ford Direct Injection Gasoline Systems and Combustion technical specialist. "It's a value solution that gives us the ability to answer market trends quickly and provide broad market coverage, a key component of the EcoBoost strategy to deliver an affordable, fuel-efficient engine technology at high volumes."

When compared to a standard 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine, the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine can deliver up to a 10-percent gain in fuel economy simply on the merits of the engine downsizing and boosting as well as common powertrain systems such as twin independent variable camshaft timing (TI-VCT).

TI-VCT varies the phase of the intake and exhaust cams independently for improved airflow through the engine, which delivers more torque while reducing average fuel consumption by up to 5 percent. "TI-VCT gives us better low-end torque and drive-away capabilities even under the stronger engine downsizing conditions," said Wirth.

The 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine also features other sophisticated fuel-saving powertrain technologies such as Assisted Direct Start, which contributes to an additional 3 percent gain in fuel efficiency.

Assisted Direct Start automatically shuts down the engine when the vehicle is at idle – at a stop light, for example – and automatically restarts the engine when the brake is released or gas pedal is engaged, improving fuel economy by saving idle fuel consumption.

When a vehicle comes to a stop, the electronic control unit immediately synchronizes the engine's systems for restart. Once the brake pedal is released or the gas pedal is engaged, a short starter engagement triggers the direct fuel injection system to fill the cylinders with fuel, initiate combustion and start the engine, producing the no-hesitation vehicle launch. An advanced battery management system converts braking energy into electricity and stores it to keep electrical systems operating while the engine is not running.

This advanced system provides consistent start behavior of the stopped or stopping engine that is smooth, quiet and seamless to the customer, requiring no changes in driver behavior.

Powershift Transmission
The Lincoln C concept also features Ford's dual-clutch PowerShift six-speed transmission, which delivers the efficiency of a manual with the ease of operation of a premium automatic transmission.

Compared to traditional automatic four-speed transmissions, PowerShift can help reduce fuel consumption by up to 9 percent depending on the application. PowerShift, for example, contributes to an estimated 8 percent uptick in Lincoln C's fuel efficiency when compared to the current Focus.

"The Lincoln C application of PowerShift helps illustrate the competitive advantage this transmission will offer to Ford in the global small car markets," said Jack Dorigo, North America Powertrain Planning manager. "It's a new-to-segment technology that's an improvement over today's automatic transmissions in terms of fuel economy while providing customers a more connected feel between the pedal and the vehicle's acceleration."

PowerShift provides the full comfort of an automatic with a more sophisticated driving dynamic, thanks to uninterrupted torque from the dual-clutch technology, which consists essentially of two manual transmissions working in parallel, each with its own independent clutch unit. One clutch carries the uneven gears – 1, 3 and 5 – while the other the even gears – 2, 4 and 6. Subsequent gear changes are coordinated between both clutches as they engage and disengage for a seamless delivery of torque to the wheels.

The lean curb weight of the Lincoln C enables a dry-clutch derivative of Ford's PowerShift transmission for added efficiency and durability. A dry clutch transmits power and torque through manual transmission clutch facings, while most automatic transmissions utilize wet clutch plates submerged in oil. As a result, the dry-clutch PowerShift transmission does not require an oil pump or torque converter, providing superior mechanical efficiency.

"A dry clutch is a real sweet spot for lighter vehicle applications like the Lincoln C concept," said Piero Aversa, manager, Ford Automatic Transmission Engineering. "It is perfectly matched to this vehicle and engine. PowerShift is more efficient, it saves weight, is more durable, more efficient and the unit is sealed for life, requiring no regular maintenance."

Lincoln C weighs in at 2,750 lbs. due to a number of light-weighting measures, including the transmission. PowerShift, unlike conventional automatic transmissions, does not need the pound-adding torque converter or planetary gears. In addition, the dry-clutch derivative eliminates the need for the weighty pumps, hydraulic fluids, cooling lines and external coolers that wet clutch transmissions require. As a result, the dry-clutch PowerShift transmission showcased on the Lincoln C is nearly 30 pounds lighter than the four-speed automatic transmission featured on today's Focus.

Differentiating PowerShift even further in terms of its customer appeal is its shift quality, launch feel and overall drive dynamic, which are all facilitated by an expert blend of Ford-exclusive electro-mechanical systems, software features, calibrations and controls. These unique driving features include:

• Neutral coast down – The clutches will disengage when the brakes are applied, improving coasting downshifts and clutch robustness as well as reducing parasitic losses for increased fuel economy.

• Precise clutch control in the form of a clutch slip to provide torsional damping of the engine vibration – This function improves noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) at low engine speeds and enables lower lugging limits for improved fuel economy.

• Low-speed driving or creep mode with integrated brake pressure – This function simulates the low-speed control drivers are accustomed to from an automatic transmission. T he amount of rolling torque in Drive and Reverse is precisely controlled, gradually building as brake pressure is released.

• Hill mode or launch assist – Prevents a vehicle from rolling back on a grade by maintaining brake pressure until the engine delivers enough torque to move the vehicle up the hill, providing improved driver confidence, comfort, safety and clutch robustness.

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LINCOLN C SHOWCASES THE FUTURE OF DRIVER INFORMATION AND IN-CAR CONNECTIVITY SYSTEMS

DETROIT, Jan. 12, 2009 – Powered by a sophisticated human machine interface (HMI) and forward-thinking in-car connectivity technologies, the Lincoln C concept reinvents the automobile as a customer's companion in life on and off the road.

Lincoln C's car-to-companion transformation is the result of an innovative melding of Ford's new signature HMI as well as a next-generation in-car connectivity features anchored by Ford's award-winning SYNC technology and a revolutionary new system that helps intuitively connect occupants with the vehicle, their mobile devices and even the outside world.

All interaction and information is offered up in a simple, intelligent format that keeps a driver informed – but not distracted.

Simple, Sophisticated Control
The foundation of Lincoln C's connectivity capabilities is Ford's signature HMI.

This intelligent interface makes useful and relevant information and functionality immediately available to the driver in a way that is logical, easy to use and completely integrated.
"Before technologies such as SYNC were even crystallized, we knew we had to create a way for people to interface with their vehicle and its myriad technologies and features that was more manageable and limitless in terms of its ability to incorporate new innovations as they come," said Gary Braddock, Ford's group chief designer. "Our HMI had to create for the auto world what the mouse is to the PC world."

Unique to Ford's HMI strategy is the seemingly simplistic approach to how and where information is displayed. All car-related information, for example, appears to the left of the speedometer, including fuel economy, trip information and vehicle diagnostics. Passenger-related functions, such as audio, climate, navigation and phone, appear to the right of the instrument cluster.

"The beauty of this system is that the way information is offered encourages you to explore deeper and deeper and discover – without fear or intimidation – just how much the product can do for you," said Braddock.

The system's integrated platform offers tried-and-true methods of information control – steering wheel switches, touch screens and voice-activation – which can be alternatively used by the driver depending on the task, desire for control and preference.

The set of steering wheel controls, one on the left to access the car-related information and another on the right for the people-related functions, uses a stereotypical five-way mapping similar to that found on most cell phones and MP3 players – up, down, left, right and a center OK button – creating instant familiarity for the user.

Ford's signature HMI also aligns cluster and center stack display technologies and graphic treatments for visual harmony and synchronized information delivery. In the case of the Lincoln C concept, the touch-screen center stack has a four-corner layout that includes phone in the upper left, audio in the lower left, navigation in the upper right and climate in the lower right.

"Our vision for HMI is to make a customer's transition from home, to car, to the office and back again be experienced as seamless and uncompromised," said John Schneider, global chief engineer responsible for HMI, Driver Controls and Infotainment. "We want our vehicles to give you exactly what you need, when you need it and how need it. And, we want to do it in a way that adds emotion, personality and excitement for the customer."

In-Car Connectivity
Lincoln C features the latest in terms of SYNC-enabled technologies, providing hands-free, voice-activated cell phone, text messaging, and digital media player integration as well as security and personalized convenience features such as 911 Assist and Vehicle Health Reports.

In addition, the in-vehicle communications system is expanded to include a proprietary plug-and-play network architecture that can use a Bluetooth-enabled phone to access Internet-based services such as traffic reports, turn-by-turn navigation, a 14-million-plus business directory listing, weather forecasts, the latest sports scores and more. Customers have the option to personalize this information.

This latest evolution of SYNC with the Traffic, Directions and Information feature is set to launch next year on nearly all 2010 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles.

"SYNC puts Ford in a sweet spot in terms of vehicle connectivity because it allows us to take the cockpit of a vehicle and open it up to our customers' personal devices, especially the mobile phone – which is considered by many as an extension of oneself," said Joseph Berry, a member of Ford's newly formed Consumer Service Organization and a lead architect of the company's emerging off-board services system.

In-Car Companion
Catapulting Lincoln C's in-car connectivity to an unprecedented level is the system that uses a life-like avatar to connect the driver to the vehicle and all the functionality offered through key systems such as Ford's signature HMI and SYNC.

This avatar – nicknamed "EVA" – lives on the Lincoln C instrument panel and can take on a personalized visual image and personality. It responds to conversational speech, eliminating the need for menus or learned voice commands. Plus, EVA expertly manages and initiates all vehicle and SYNC-enabled functions and information to the driver. The avatar can even sense a driver's mood through voice and drive style and respond appropriately with, for example, a favorite song suggestion from a SYNC-connected MP3 music library.

This unique system on the Lincoln C concept also offers in-car Internet access, allowing the avatar to surf the Web for the driver and read the morning's online news headlines or latest restaurant reviews, check e-mail, or access a friend's Facebook page. The system will even advise the driver when and where to refuel based on fuel level, driving habits, gas station locations and current prices.

"We've taken the notion of effective vehicle HMI and the user's experience to the next level," said Braddock. "Our system creates a method of organization and function in the vehicle that is intuitive, familiar and keeps the driver focused on driving, along with creating a personality within the vehicle that evokes emotion, a personal connection and a sense of confident control."

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