Ford Focus Coupe Cabriolet - All New Range
Posted on 08 Mar 2006
When Ford Needed A Sleek Coupe-Cabriolet Version Of Their Focus, Who Better To Turn To Than Renowned Italian Design Studio, Pininfarina? Andy Enright Reports
Although Ford arent going to score any points for leading the way with the Focus Coupe-Cabriolet, they might well win some plaudits for doing a very thorough job in developing their take on the folding tin top theme. After all, we cant accuse them of rushing into this market sector feet first. Its been more than six years since Peugeot launched the 206CC and in that time customers have come to expect quite a bit from a car that claims to offer both the sleekness of a coupe and the open air pizzazz of a drop top.
Cohesive styling is a must. In the early days, most coupe cabriolet models looked rather ungainly, with huge distended rears that would open up like something from a Bond movie and then swallow the hood mechanism whole. While they undoubtedly provided good pavement theatre, they werent what youd call conventionally good looking. Still, the benefits of added safety and security married to the fun of a convertible overcame their aesthetic shortcomings and the market for this sort of car has exploded.
Ford Focus coupe Cabriolet New model Range
Whereas rivals such as Peugeot and Renault made hay, it took other manufacturers such as Vauxhall and Nissan a little longer to join the fray. Ford have played a particularly patient waiting game and the Focus has, as a result, to adhere to a tougher set of customer demands. For instance, its now no longer acceptable to have a car that features next to no luggage space. That sort of thing is all rather 2001 and the Focus Coupe Cabriolet counters with 500-litres of room when the hood is up, although this does drop when the folding roof cartridge is in place.
A full four-seater, the Focus Coupe-Cabriolet may not be the answer to the family motorists prayers but its a lot more practical than its fun-loving agenda may suggest.
Ford Focus coupe Cabriolet New model Range
"Expect this Focus to become the biggest selling convertible car in Britain"
Developed jointly by Ford of Europe and Italys Pininfarina, the Focus Coupe-Cabriolets roots can be traced directly back to the Focus Vignale Concept car, a design study that first saw light of day at the 2004 Paris Motor Show. Named after designer Alfredo Vignale (1913-69), whose coachbuilding firm constructed one-off sports cars in the 1950s and 1960s, the Vignale was designed by Ehad Kaoud and draws its inspiration from classic Italian sports cars. Building a show car is one thing. Turning that gleaming piece of automotive art into a production-ready reality is a whole different ball game and many manufacturers have accepted customer deposits and then delivered something that was barely recognisable.
Fortunately Ford havent fallen into that trap. Yes, the 20-inch alloy wheels and aluminium detailing of the Vignale have been excised by Fords bean counters but the shape is virtually unchanged. "We were delighted with the reaction to the Focus Vignale Concept and were determined to progress it to volume production," said Gunnar Herrmann, Vehicle Line Director for the Ford Focus. "We also wanted to keep the production model as true to the beautiful concept car as we could, while making it convenient and affordable for everyday use." The two-piece electrically-operated hard top roof operates at the touch of a button with no catches, latches or levers needing to be manhandled. Once stowed in the boot, the Focus Coupe-Cabriolets lines are a good deal more elegant, with a classic rising waistline and clean rear deck. Three engines are offered from launch. The entry-level unit is the 100bhp 1.
6-litre Duratec, while those looking for a punchier petrol engine will tick the box for the 144bhp 2.0-litre Duratec unit. Probably the most impressive powerplant in the line up is the 135bhp 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel.
Its a measure of Fords confidence in the refinement of this engine that they can put it into an open car. The Focus has established a reputation as one of if not the - the best handling cars in its class and although the Coupe-Cabriolet is being touted as a Grand Tourer rather than a pure sports roadster, it shares the same brilliant and infinitely tuneable suspension. It also features the electrically-assisted steering thats one of the best systems of its type and the expertise of thousands of hours of Focus research and development. That much we know.
Whats not so widely appreciated is how Fords link with Pininfarina came about. After the Focus Vignale concept got the green light from senior Ford suits, the company realised it needed a partner that had the expertise and, equally importantly, the production capacity to build the car. Whats more, it had to be a partner that wasnt already contracted to the hilt to one of Fords rivals. Pininfarina was the only company that could realistically handle the volumes Ford would produce, accepting Focus parts from the Saarlouis factory in Germany and manufacturing the cars at their Grugliasco and Bairo plants on the outskirts of Turin.
This wasnt the first such tie-up with the Italians, as Ford had also enjoyed a fruitful working relationship via the Streetka convertible. The rewards can be huge for being a pioneer but so can the losses. Renault probably thought they were onto something when they launched the Avantime, figuring that people carriers could form the basis for a new genre of desirable coupes. It proved a costly error.
Ford have a good deal more capital to gamble with than most manufacturers but their wait and see philosophy in this market has resulted in one of the most interesting coupe-cabriolet models in its class. Only a fool would bet against this Focus becoming the biggest selling vehicle of its type across Europe. One suspects itll break quite a few records in its lifetime.
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