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The Bold and the Brutiful: Ford designs another rear-drive sport sedan concept
By Daniel Pund, Senior Editor, Detroit Email
Date posted: 12-30-2006
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We can't shake the feeling that we've seen the Ford Interceptor concept car before.
It's certainly not because we've actually seen the rear-drive, 400-horsepower sedan with our own two eyes. The picture here is a computer-generated illustration. The only people likely to see the actual Interceptor before Ford pulls off the sheet at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show on January 7 are the guys who are right now hurriedly building the car in California.
Haven't we met somewhere before?
The Interceptor could seem familiar because about five years ago, Ford unveiled another concept vehicle named Interceptor. But that was a Crown Victoria police cruiser with a modified front end and it hasn't seen the light of day.
The new Interceptor concept might also look familiar simply because of its three-bar chrome front grille — the new face of Ford production cars starting with the Fusion. And, in truth, the Interceptor is not at all dissimilar to the rear-drive, 590-hp 427 concept sedan Ford unveiled four years ago.
According to Ford, the Interceptor mimics the "design language" of last year's huge and brutish concept pickup truck, the F-250 Super Chief.
In fact, the one thing that has no bearing whatsoever on the Interceptor is the Mustang, which Ford is eager to mention in the same breath with the new concept. This is understandable since the Mustang is the one product that generates excitement for the ailing automaker.
But forget the Mustang. The Interceptor is a different size, uses a different suspension system both front and rear and couldn't look less like a Mustang. It's better to think of the Interceptor as a modern Galaxie, or what a Ford competitor for the Chrysler 300C might look like. Or think of the Interceptor as a concept for how to properly do a Mercury Marauder, the ill-conceived muscle sedan of a few years ago.
Under the Interceptor's clamshell hood and "shaker" hood scoop is a 5.0-liter "Cammer" V8 snatched from the Ford Racing program, and it's bolted to a six-speed manual transmission, so the Interceptor would have the muscle that the Marauder lacked. We say "would" because, although Ford has spent years toying with the concept of a quintessentially American-style, rear-drive performance sedan, there's little hope a car like the Interceptor will make it to Ford dealerships any time soon.
Unless Ford copies a page out of GM's recent playbook and imports a version of its Australian rear-drive platform, the company simply does not have the vehicle architecture to build the Interceptor. And the company, in the midst of a huge financial crisis, doesn't have a whole lot of money to throw around either.
You've got to admire designers. They can get away with wearing the most elaborately engineered and/or odd eyeglasses. They never seem to have to wear ties. And they are apparently allowed to make up their own words.
Ford designer Freeman Thomas, the man credited with designing the original TT while at VW/Audi, uses the term "brutiful" to describe the Interceptor. This contraction of the words "brutish" and "beautiful" appears in no dictionary, but we suppose it describes the look of the Interceptor as well as any other made-up word.
Certainly the sedan's unadorned panels, blockish demeanor and blunt nose are brutish. But beautiful? Well, that's a matter of opinion. But the Interceptor does not look as chunky or heavy-handed as, say, the Chrysler 300C. The Ford has a certain simple grace to it. The Interceptor has little ornamentation and none of the crazy creases and bulges that BMW and Mercedes favor.
Neither does the Interceptor have any wedge to its profile. Typically, the front of even a sedan will look lower than the rear. The Interceptor is almost perfectly horizontal, front to rear. Thomas says this makes the vehicle "self-confident." It is also what gives the Interceptor its vintage Galaxie vibe. The emphasis on the horizontal also makes the Interceptor appear much longer than it is. It's almost exactly the same length as a Ford Five Hundred and about a foot shorter than a Crown Victoria.
If you had a hard time swallowing the term brutiful, try "squircles." A squircle, as Ford defines it, is a "professionally square circle." Or in English: squares with rounded corners. No word on what Ford believes an "amateur square circle" might be called.
Anyway, the Interceptor is apparently all about squircles. The basic body shape is a squircle — or whatever a rounded rectangle might be called. The gauges are squircles. The grommets in the backs of the seats are squircles. Possibly, when you sit in the vehicle you, too, become a squircle.
Thomas says that squircles are a consistent design element of Fords "through the ages." We're going to take his word for that one. Perhaps those designer eyeglasses help with identifying such things.
The Interceptor looks like an Apple iPod that's lying flat on its back — a pleasantly rounded, squat block of simplicity and a bit of shininess. And, now that we look at it, we suppose an iPod is a squircle.
The reality for Ford is that the Interceptor will likely operate only as a design inspiration for more practical future production models, just as the 427 concept did for the Fusion. Think of the Interceptor as a further evolution of the company's soon-to-be-ubiquitous three-bar grille and an indication that Ford plans to squirclize (we made that word up all on our own) its hard edges.
But we want the Interceptor. We've grown to quite like the look of it, even if we haven't yet seen it in person. And we love the idea of it. But we want the whole thing — the V8, the six-speed manual, the gated shifter, the limited-slip differential, the independent rear suspension, the coarse-leather low-bucket seats, even the 22-inch wheels — not just the basic style of it, applied to some front-drive, automatic-equipped car. Oh, and we want ours in black. Thank you.