We told you it was coming real soon......
|[+ click to enlarge] |
|LS has standard leather upholstery|
As predicted in our ‘scoop’ on May 2nd, Ford Malaysia is launching the new Lynx LS sedan this month. The company today announced that the official launch would be on May 12th but as we already noted, the cars are already in Ford Concessionaires showrooms by now.
The Lynx LS is not exactly a ‘surprise’ since visitors to the KL International Motorshow last year saw the prototype. At that time, Ford Malaysia said it would introduce the car in March this year but it’s now May and the delay is probably because the plant is busy rolling out so many new models. Since the motorshow in November, Ford Malaysia has introduced the Spectron, Lynx S and also the new Trader. And with demand pretty good, it’s been hard-pressed to get enough units of everything out!
Speaking at the press preview in KL today, T.H. Chong, Ford Malaysia’s marketing manager said that although the 1.6-litre non-national passenger car segment has shrunk substantially since 1997 and by right, it makes no business sense to assemble such small volumes any longer, Ford wants to maintain a presence in the most popular segment in Malaysia.
For this reason, it continues to assemble two versions of the Lynx - the S (for Sportswagon) and the LS sedan. While the Lynx S which was introduced last year is the ‘stretched hatchback’ bodystyle common to the Lynx models sold elsewhere, the Lynx LS is unique in styling. It is not the same as the Lynx (or Laser) sedan sold in Singapore and Hongkong and is a more upmarket variant, albeit sitting on the same platform. By the way, the Laser name is history and Ford Malaysia prefers to call the car ‘Lynx’ these days.
From what we learnt, the Lynx LS is an evolutionary development of a Ford model sold in Taiwan and is presently only being assembled in Malaysia. It is likely that Ford Malaysia chose to develop a more upmarket version because it knows Malaysian buyers are a sophisticated lot and the standard Lynx sedan was just to common in looks.
The upmarket appearance is evident in the chrome grille and the eye-catching projector headlamps with crystal-like reflectors. The rear end is also distinctive with large red light clusters through which can be seen the lighting units, and the chrome surround for the numberplate (with extra-large lights).
The Lynx LS is a large car - larger than the present Corolla, Civic and Sentra and comparable to the Proton Waja which is basically a 1.8-litre class model. So it’s pretty big for a 1.6-litre sedan and in Asia, size is something that motorists like a lot. It’s impressive how the stylists have managed to take the same Lynx platform as the Lynx S and restyled it to have much more presence.
Under the bonnet is the same engine as the Lynx S, a 1.6-litre DOHC 16-valver with sequential multipoint EFI. The long-stroke engine delivers 109 ps of power at 5500 rpm and 145 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm on a compression ratio of 9.0:1.
Only a 4-speed electronic automatic transmission is available for the Lynx LS but those who insist on a manual transmission can still get it in the less luxuriously-equipped XL version. The automatic transmission, like the one in the Lynx S, is a clever one with Direct Electronic Shift Control (DESC) which makes shifts smoother. It also has slope control to minimise the condition where the transmission alternates between gears too often when going uphill. On downhill stretches, the transmission does not always go into the highest gear so there is better engine braking, reducing the need to use the brakes a lot.
The 4-wheel independent suspension layout has a familiar arrangement and Ford seems to have maintained it for a long time. The front wheels have MacPherson struts while the rear ones have twin trapezoidal links with a stabilizer bar. However, while the appearance may seem unchanged, there has been much refinement over the years and the one under the Lynx LS is clearly improved, if the experience with the Lynx S is anything to go by. Apart from optimised tuning, there is one significant tweak which changes the feel of the car. This is the positioning of the front roll axis in relation to the rear one. The front roll axis is lower than the rear roll axis and what this does is to give the driver a greater sense of vehicle stability and a sportier feel at the steering wheel. For quicker response, the ratio of the steering gear has been reduced from 17:1 to 15:1. Power assistance is, of course, a standard feature and 55-series tyres are fitted.
Safety is a big thing at Ford and any model it produces has to pass tough in-house standards. Computer-aided design work on the Lynx LS led to the adoption of what is known as a ‘Triple H body concept’ which gives superior strength by integrating structural elements in the roof, chassis and body sides. And if that’s not enough, there are also beams installed in the doors to reduce intrusion during a side impact. In both the Lynx LS and XL, an airbag for the driver is standard but the Lynx LS also gets ABS to enhance braking.
Every effort has gone into providing a luxurious ambience in this latest Ford and the Lynx LS has standard leather upholstery (Lynx XL buyers get fabric upholstery). The leather used looks a bit on the stiff side but adds class nevertheless along with the chrome accents on the door trim. The only thing that is ‘glaring’ to the eyes is the exposure of the bolts fastening the front seatbelts at the lower anchorage points. We thought covers might be missing but the exposed bolts were seen in all the units on display and certainly were not in keeping with the classiness of the car.
The level of equipment in the spacious cabin is very high with many convenience features as well. Air-conditioning, central locking, power windows (with an anti-trap feature on the driver’s window) and an audio system with a single CD player are all fitted as standard.
The instrumentation is comprehensive and highly legible. As with most new cars, the odometer and tripmeter are now electronically displayed on a small LCD panel. Two tripmeters are provided which can come in handy for those who have to make mileage claims. For those who are forgetful, there are alarms that sound if you forget to switch off the lights or leave the key in the car.
Talking of keys, the Lynx LS gets a pretty good security system with integrated remote operation of the central locking for keyless entry. It also has an immobiliser system that makes it much, much more difficult to steal the car as well.
The boot is generously sized which is hardly surprising given the 4420 mm overall length of the car. As with many other sedans in this class, there is the option of extending the boot floor by folding down the rear backrests. Some owners may find not like the fact that the bootlid cannot be opened by operating a lever outside and the only way to open it is to use a key or push the button on the dashboard to the right of the steering column. The pushbutton is convenient but for many people (including us!), there is likely to be automatic reaching for the lever on the floor because most other cars have their boot release there! As a result, new owners may find themselves popping open the fuel cap lid instead before they get used to the location of the button.
Old Henry Ford, back in the Model T days, declared that ‘customers could have their car in any colour as long as it is black’. In those days, colour wasn’t an issue with buyers but today, offering a selection is mandatory. The Lynx LS/XL can be ordered in Sunset Red, Steel Silver, Storm Grey, Champagne or Sea Green, and for a bit more exclusivity, there is also a mean Panther Black shade only for the Lynx LS.
Ford Malaysia’s marketing strategy for the Lynx LS does not just target existing Ford owners. It is also aiming to gain some ‘conquest sales’ by attracting Proton owners who are ready to upgrade - the Ford image in general and the Lynx LS, in particular, can now be regarded as much higher than before - and woo those who are looking at the Nissan Sentra. This has meant that the pricing must be below RM100,000. In Peninsula Malaysia, on-the-road prices (without insurance) are RM99,200 for the Lynx LS and RM88,100 for the Lynx XL. Pretty attractive pricing considering the package offered. It’s also interesting that Ford Malaysia has decided to offer a low-priced version with manual transmission to provide an affordable model.