by Craig Cheetham
It just has to be a job for The Professionals - but it's Auto Express, not TV 'tecs Bodie and Doyle, which was first to drive Ford's sensational new Capri at a top secret test track in Germany.
Officially known as the Visos, the coupé is a fully functional expression of Ford's future - as well as a link with its past. When company bosses invited Auto Express to be the only car magazine to drive the $2million prototype, we jumped at the opportunity.
The striking machine is one of the most daring new cars from Ford since the original Capri in 1969. Even though we had already seen the car up close at the Frankfurt Motor Show, we were not quite prepared for its impact in the metal. The Visos is nearly a foot wider than the Mondeo, almost as long, and sits on 20-inch alloy wheels that give the car an imposing road presence.
While the chrome detailing and D-shape rear windows are shamelessly cribbed from the Capri, the high shoulder line and tapered rear screen are reminiscent of the 1964 Mustang.
Yet these attention-grabbing details are not only about style. The vents ahead of the rear wheels, for example, do an effective job of sucking air into the body and minimising aerodynamic lift - just as they did on the Capri.
At the front, the Visos is an imposing beast. Its narrow headlamps and fierce-looking grille are said to represent the future face of Ford - a far cry from the anonymity of recent models such as the Fiesta and the Fusion. The roof features a pair of removable glass panels in a T-bar arrangement, but, as with the chromed vents, it's practical as well as stylish. Open the driver's door, and the panel above lifts electrically, so you don't have to stoop to get in. Pull the door shut behind you, and the glass lowers automatically.
As with the exterior, the cabin has the retro feel of a Sixties coupé, but is full of the latest technology. Switch on the engine and you're greeted by a series of electronic dials, while other controls are behind a panel in the centre console, which disappears electrically to reveal a DVD screen.
These are the latest developments from Ford's link-up with Japanese electronics giant Sony, which has already seen a new range of stereos appear in the Mondeo and C-MAX. As the blue oval is keen to develop its relationship with Sony, the Visos' dashboard details could feature in other Fords by 2005. The new coupé has a simple P/R/N/D automatic gear selector, but performs its party trick when you hit the Sport button. In seconds, the driver's chair inflates round the contours of your back to give a personally tailored sports seat.
At the same time, a lever whirrs up out of the transmission tunnel, so you can make manual shifts. Of course, we couldn't put the car through the rigours of a full test-drive session, as it's the only one in existence and due at next week's Bologna Motor Show in Italy.
But we did manage to complete a couple of runs round the Cologne test track to experience the newcomer for ourselves. Our verdict? The Capri is in very good hands! With a production-spec engine and gearbox, plus Ford's deserved reputation for chassis engineering expertise, the Visos has got what it takes to cast a halo over the rest of the blue oval's range.