BRENTWOOD, Essex, Mar 25, 2011 – Despite government confirmation of extra funding to fix Britain's roads, Ford will continue to ensure the toughness and durability of the suspension systems on all its cars and vans – without sacrificing the rewarding driving experience that defines Ford vehicles.
The recent announcement by Chancellor, George Osborne, means an extra £100 million will be placed in to the UK's 'pothole fund' – raising the Department for Transport's pothole fixing expenditure to £200 million.
Testing and development processes for chassis and suspension systems carried out by Ford engineers at Dunton Technical Centre - one of Europe's largest automotive R&D centres - and Lommel Proving Ground, Belgium mean that Ford vehicles are designed to cope with the most demanding road surfaces. Tests include running real-world road simulations, high-tech data acquisition and thousands of miles of surface testing.
Ford's Lommel Proving Ground in Belgium has been subjecting new Ford vehicles to a variety of highly demanding road surfaces for four decades, and features some 50 miles of test track including many miles designed to put suspension systems to the most severe test. The Lommel Proving Ground features exact copies of real life road surfaces from around the world including Lower Dunton Road – an inch-by-inch recreation of a typically challenging UK road surface that was located near the Ford Dunton Technical Centre, Essex.
Simon Mooney, test engineer, Dunton Technical Centre, said: "The challenge for the suspension system comes when it exits the pothole - it can be like hitting a kerbstone. We test all the wheel and tyre sizes that are fitted to the production cars so we know they can cope."
Ford use high-tech equipment to record the load and strain placed upon suspension components. This equipment is fitted to so-called "Road Load Data Acquisition" vehicles costing up to £250,000 per corner, and combines with the sophisticated data recording and processing equipment inside the car to make such vehicles worth more than £1.5 million.
Mooney continued: "We use specially instrumented wheels on the car which measure the load in three directions. On some vehicles there are various sensors totalling some 200 extra channels through which to get the data."
Before vehicles reach the real-word testing stage, Ford engineers can use virtual testing facilities based in Dunton, Essex, to begin ensuring suspension systems will cope with the strains placed on them by road surfaces around the world.
With this initial suspension development taking place even before the first vehicle prototypes are produced, Ford production vehicles are among the best equipped to cope with poor road surfaces, which benefits Ford customers no matter where they drive.