• Mar 29th 2011 at 6:01PM
  • 37
Ford suspension testing – Click above for high-res image gallery

Despite increased government expenditures in England to fix the country's potholes, Ford is eager to prove it still rigorously tests its cars for their ability to withstand big pavement gaps. According to Ford, its cars go through thousands of miles of tests across two proving grounds to make sure they won't sustain damage when presented with uneven surfaces.

The Lommel Proving Ground in Belgium goes as far as to include an inch-by-inch recreation of a notoriously porous English road. More abusive road surfaces are simulated at Ford's Dunton Proving Ground in Essex, England. Ford says that between the two test facilities, it tests every wheel and tire combination sold on its entire European vehicle portfolio.

The budget for this sort of testing is huge, as each test car is strapped with around $2.5 million worth of electronic gadgetry designed to register and record the effect of each pothole strike. Ford uses the data to improve its current suspension systems and design new ones, which will go on to be further refined at Lommel and Dunton.

Ford Europe suspension testing
  • Ford Europe suspension testing
  • Ford Europe suspension testing

[Source: Ford]
Show full PR text
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.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      I look at that Focus 4-door hatch, and my first thought was, "Oh hey, the Porsche Panamera's replacement... cool."

      Then I saw it was a Ford. And I'm not certain how I feel about the striking resemblance.
        • 4 Years Ago
        you need to have your eyes checked if you thought that looked like a panamera at all... its clearly a ford "kinetic" design.

        Round headlights :no
        Round Corners : no
        Porsche 911 limo look: no

        Sharp corners :yes
        abrupt edges: yes

        I'm not trying to be a jerk but i think both designers would be insulted by your comment.
      • 4 Years Ago
      God thats actually a really good looking car.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Focus pictured isn't lowered, it's weighed down with $2.5million worth of testing equipment.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I was actually thinking the same thing. Lowered new Focus...not bad at all.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, really nice car!

        Oh to have an AWD version. :-(
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've yet to encounter any road in the UK that was in as bad a condition as most of the streets and highways in the Midwest.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You've never driven on Westbridge Road in Wandsworth... currently with craters not visible in streetview...

      • 4 Years Ago
      Here is an idea, smallest wheel that clears the brake rotor/caliper.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's just as bad up in Toronto where the salt, snow, relatively hot summers, and slow construction crews leave our roads in the terrible conditions. Oddly our 407 Highway seems to be paved with something different and doesn't suffer from cracks or potholes as much as normal asphalt.

      With everyone complaining about their crappy roads researchers should be engineering better roads...
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'd bet that the base of 407 is built to better standards than the rest of your roads. In our area, the older city and suburban roads are concrete, overlaid with brick by thousands of Italian immigrants, then asphalt, which never bonds with the brick, slithers over it and disintegrates from the freeze/thaw cycles.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm guessing the new Focus will be a HUGE hit for Ford, one of the highest quality cars the company has ever introduced, and will go on to spawn several versions on that platform.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If the 2012 Focus can keep up with the sales of the 2011 Fiesta in Europe alone (1 Million Sold in just 28 months), it will be doing very well.

        But I see it pulling buyers from the Camry, Corolla/Matrix, Civic, Cruze, Accord, Altima, Elantra, Jettta, Golf, and even the Fusion.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I just lost three tires in a channel like that. It was for drainage, covered by a grate. In the dark and wet, the grate was missing. Almost cost a filling, too, it was such an impact. And I had a LOT of air in the tires, 50# just because our roads in Cleveland are so bad.
        • 4 Years Ago
        50 psi in your tires?
        What vehicle requires 50 psi?
        • 4 Years Ago
        I had a tire with a slow leak, and the only way it would stay inflated (without remounting/rebalancing) was to inflate to the 50# max indicated on the sidewall. As I'm now retired and only drive 6k miles a year in this vehicle + another few k in my Miata, tire wear is less important than tire age. Now I have a set of new tires, which should last until I'm a LOT older. Unless I drive in Cleveland, of course. BTW, the salt here corroded the wheels so that I had to hand polish them for a good surface for the tires to seat.
        Those who aren't in the salt belt know nothing of this, the babies.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @MikeW..cars that drive on Cleveland's roads. I will put the horrible road conditons here against ANY other city. Filling loosening holes are the norm here.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Not as pretty as the wall between the DPG and Greenfield Village/Village Road.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hey Ford! Save millions of $ and come to Rhode Island. We won't even charge you to trash your cars on the worst roads in the USA.
        • 4 Years Ago
        No, drive up a bit on the minefield that is I93 to Boston, and if your cars make it to Boston, you can have all the potholes you want. I swear, the officials here are bribed by car shops and are making the potholes worse instead of patching them.
      • 4 Years Ago
      For US models Ford can just drive it around Dearborn/Detroit. Most of the area is a horrible-road proving ground.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This isn't hard as brazilian roads. Send them here to test.
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