AUS: Tough Truck On Show In Sydney
The Sydney Motor Show plays host to the first production versions of Ford Australia's new Rugged Terrain Vehicle (RTV).
Boasting a unique suspension and all-new underbody protection, a concept version of the Falcon RTV Ute was a show stopper at the 2003 Melbourne Motor Show.
"We wanted to build a ute offering outstanding comfort, ride and performance with the ability to head a little off the beaten track – and the Falcon RTV Ute more than delivers on all those attributes," says Falcon Ute Marketing Manager Damon Paull.
"Its combination of excellent ride and handling, plush interior and tough truck underpinnings make the Falcon RTV Ute true to the original Lew Bandt Ute philosophy of "Church on Sunday, Market on Monday."
Paull said the Falcon RTV Ute was engineered to satisfy the needs of a growing market segment.
"During development of the BA Falcon Ute we recognised a largely unsatisfied market segment. There were customers wanting all the power, performance and creature comforts found in a Falcon Ute; however they also required a vehicle with increased ground clearance.
"They were tradesmen at worksites with difficult access, or farmers who need to cross creek beds, or people who wanted a vehicle that could travel a little further off the beaten track to satisfy their weekend leisure interests.
"They kept telling us of the compromises they had to make in opting for the imported light truck to get increased ground clearance, talking about deficiencies in power, comfort and road noise, " said Paull.
The Falcon RTV Ute employs a suspension that leaves the vehicle sitting 80 mm higher than standard, a wheel track 30 mm wider than standard, a locking differential and serious underbody protection.
"All those extras make the Falcon RTV Ute perfect for tradesmen working on elevated building sites or farmers whose work often takes them onto some very ordinary back roads.
"We have managed to incorporate those extra features without compromising the Falcon RTV Ute's comfort at 100 km/h on a four-lane highway.
"Add in the Falcon utility's traditional benefits such as a genuine one-tonne payload, roomy Supercab design, power windows, CD player, and a choice of 182 kW six-cylinder, E-Gas and 220 kW V8 engines, and you can see why the prototype we displayed at the Melbourne Motor Show earlier this year proved such a hit with patrons."
The styling brief for Falcon RTV Ute was simple – form was to follow function in providing a 'tough' look.
"The styling of the Falcon RTV Ute is absolutely unpretentious, delivering on all its promises," said Ford Design Director Simon Butterworth.
"The stance of the Falcon RTV Ute is visually aggressive. The increased height, rugged tyres, increased track and fender flares all add to this tough look.
"A new grille makes the Falcon RTV Ute instantly recognisable and provides a visible link to the legendary F-Series range of trucks," said Butterworth.
Increased ground clearance was one of the cornerstones of the Falcon RTV Ute engineering programme.
"Improving ground clearance enhances the Falcon RTV Ute's ability to cover all types of environments by avoiding grounding and allowing steeper approach and departure angles," says Chassis Supervisor John Spinks.
"Optimised approach, departure and ground clearance values are crucial for entering a steep building site or crossing a creek bed."
In comparison to a Falcon XL ute, the Falcon RTV Ute sits 67.5 mm higher at the front axle and 80 mm higher at the rear axle.
Ground clearance is an impressive 215 mm, while approach and departure angles are 22.1 degrees and 26.1 degrees respectively. (A Falcon XL ute has approach and departure angles of 16.4 degrees and 20 degrees.)
"The rear of the car is raised 12.5 mm higher than the front, which is a deliberate strategy to give the Falcon RTV Ute a unique attitude both under laden and unladen conditions.
"Unladen, the Falcon RTV Ute will sit slightly nose down, giving a bold look and adding to the vehicle's aggressive stance.
"Fully laden, the Falcon RTV Ute will sit horizontally without rear-end sag."
Spinks said ingress and egress, or the ease of getting into and out of the vehicle, was improved in the Falcon RTV Ute by the increase in ride height.
Spinks said protection against extreme treatment in a heavy-duty vehicle such as the Falcon RTV Ute was all about peace of mind.
"The Falcon RTV Ute is designed to not only get you into rugged terrain, but to get you out time and again."
The sump and transmission in the Falcon RTV Ute comes with a full length, one-piece guard manufactured from glass-fibre reinforced composite.
"It's the perfect material – lightweight but extremely tough and with excellent corrosion resistance.
"It is also inherently slippery – allowing the Falcon RTV Ute to 'belly' on the occasional protrusion large enough to hit the guard, which is the lowest sprung point on the body.
"If such a hit causes the guard to buckle in any way it will pop back into its former shape, unlike conventional steel guards which tend to stay dented."
Spinks said the sump guard was firmly bolted to all three cross members.
Brake hoses are coated with armour wire protection, while the fuel and vacuum lines have armoured 'Bundy' plastic tubing guards.
Spinks said the engineering team invested many hours producing a suitable shield for the fuel line connector. The Falcon RTV Ute fuel line boasts a shield made of high-density polyethylene, chosen for its toughness, lightness and long-lasting qualities.
Rear mudflaps are standard fitment on the Styleside Box variant and the Chassis Cab version with the factory aluminium tray option. The mudflaps are made of a highly flexible plastic material called Santoprene.
Brakes on the Falcon RTV Ute incorporate a finger placed in the caliper, to deflect stones and eliminate the potential for trapping small rocks.
Rear shock absorbers have a 2 mm thick steel sleeve welded onto the lower inner tube to prolong the life of the shock absorbers that are continually subjected to a barrage of debris.
The Falcon RTV Ute has been upgraded to use the heavy duty DANA/Spicer Model 86 axle on all variants. Normally only fitted to V8 utes, it was chosen not only for its power and torque handling characteristics, but also for its tough sump/pinion nose throat.
Falcon RTV Ute also employs a heavy-duty radiator to cope with increased cooling requirements.
Differential Locking System
The Differential Locking System (DLS) employed in the Falcon RTV Ute is a significant step forward from the traditional limited slip differential.
The DLS mechanically locks the left and right portions of the rear axle together to form a solid driving axle, with no clutch or slip to degrade performance.
It consists of two opposing male and female 'dogs' – large, rough-toothed gears that slide in and out of each other under the pull of the vacuum-driven diaphragm to lock.
Under normal driving conditions the opposing dogs rotate freely without touching each other.
However, when the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) command is given to lock the axle via the dash-mounted switch, the dogs lock together.
Falcon RTV Ute Program Manager Mario Brandini said the PCM was programmed to only allow actuation of the DLS below 40 km/h.
"There are two reasons for this. First, it is unlikely a locked axle would be required at speeds over 40 km/h and secondly to prolong the life of the tyres at higher speeds with a free axle."
If the operating switch is pressed above 40 km/h, the PCM logs that diff lock is requested – indicated by the diff lock warning light flashing in the instrument panel.
When the vehicle speed returns to 40 km/h, the system is triggered to lock the differential. At this point, the diff lock warning light stays lit.
However, after the axle is locked there will be no PCM command to release it until vehicle speed surpasses 70 km/h. The instrument cluster light reverts to a slow flashing state at the point the DLS disengages.
"We based this operating strategy on customer usage profiles," explains Brandini.
"For example, many outback tracks require a locked diff at creek bed crossings. Where these beds are frequent – say less than a minute apart – the lock will stay on, saving the system from having to engage and disengage in quick succession.
"However, if creek beds or other areas requiring a locked diff are less frequent, the system will disengage and have to be re-engaged when required."
Brandini said if the opposing dogs were rotating at the same speed during engagement, the steering wheel could require small side-to-side movements to lock the dogs together.
"Customer familiarity with locking and unlocking of the axle should develop quickly and they will learn to appreciate the solid dependability and robustness of the system."
The Falcon RTV Ute employs the same dual rate leaf springs found in the Falcon One-Tonne Ute.
This has provided Falcon RTV Ute with a soft initial travel, allowing absorption of small undulations and high levels of ride comfort. Further suspension travel is firmer, to cope with one-tonne payloads and to avoid excess body roll.
Falcon RTV Ute also uses anti-tramp rods, bolted onto the leaf springs to combat axle tramp.
Axle tramp is a common attribute in powerful, rear-drive vehicles with leaf springs. The unpleasant sensation – also known as axle hop – causes a loss of traction and an alarmingly bumpy ride under hard acceleration.
Anti-tramp rods firmly locate the axle, combating the torque that causes axle tramp without affecting suspension travel or damping rates.
"Anti-tramp rods endow the Falcon RTV Ute with exceptional grip and a smooth ride at all times, even on mixed surfaces like gravel or hard-packed dirt. These are surfaces which typically induce axle tramp in other live-axle vehicles."
Typical of all Ford products, the Falcon RTV Ute has been subject to a gruelling testing regime.
The first outback trip with a prototype was conducted in 2001 and since then more than two million real world kilometres have been racked up in various models.
Prototype vehicles have been tested in and around Broken Hill, Innamincka, Tiboburra, Noccundra, Thargomindah, Maree, Mungerannie and Birdsville.
"One of the real strengths of the Falcon Ute is the ability of customers to personalise their vehicle to suit their tastes – and the Falcon RTV Ute is no different," said Paull.
Falcon RTV Ute will be available in 10 different colours – Winter White, Venom, Blue Pearl, Silhouette, Harvest Green, Offshore, Luscious, Acid Rush, Mercury Silver and Lightning Strike.
The accessory list for Falcon RTV Ute will provide owners with the opportunity to add their own unique touch and includes: air-conditioning, bonnet protector, cabin tidy, cruise control, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, mobile phone presenter, Momo steering wheel, sports bar, tow pack and weather shields.