The Transit Connect X-Press is the fastest and most dramatic version of Ford's tough and highly versatile small commercial to hit the tarmac.
X-Press is a lower (by up to 70 mm), meaner (with 18-inch OZ alloys) and emitting an exhaust note more akin to that of Ford's Focus RS WRC and has a white paint job set off with tri-colour X-Press graphics.
Built Ford Tough
Barry Gale, Ford of Europe's Chief Engineer for Commercial Vehicles, explained: "Transit Connect is such a strong and dynamically capable vehicle to begin with, that we knew this project would be feasible from the outset. Certain drivetrain and suspension components are common with the first generation Ford Focus, so the transformation was relatively straightforward from an engineering point of view. We now have a unique commercial vehicle that performs like no other. If pushed, it is capable of a 0-60mph time in less than 7 seconds and a 130mph top speed. As you might expect from a Ford, it handles, steers and stops like a sports car."
A team of dedicated engineers who developed the Transit Connect range was eager to demonstrate, in a memorable way, the inherent strength and versatility of the base vehicle. Clearly, it would not be possible to contemplate fitting a high performance, turbocharged and intercooled 215PS engine into such a vehicle with just minimal changes required, unless it was constructed very robustly in the first place.
X-Press provides a clear reminder that Transit Connect is not based on a modified passenger car platform; rather, it was developed, from the ground up, to cope with the tough, unremitting demands made of hard-working commercial vehicles everywhere. It also underlines the fact that Ford's commitment to developing vehicles that offer a rewarding driving experience applies not just to passenger cars, but equally to Ford commercials. Given that the production Transit Connect has been much praised for its overall driving quality the X-press team had no problems leaving the original suspension system largely intact
Performance Van Heritage
Transit Connect X-Press joins a memorable line-up of dramatic, one-off Ford commercials created over the years both to entertain and to remind the general public of the roles these much-loved workhorses play in everyday commercial life.
These ranged from the original Transit Supervan of the late-1960s, with its mid-engined, Ford "big-block" V8, through the 1980s Cosworth-powered, Formula One-inspired Supervan 2 and 3 models. More recently, the rally-oriented Ford Transit WRT proved that Ford Transit is as tough as ever, even taking a key supporting role in a Playstation 2 rally computer game alongside the Ford Focus RS WRC. The latest Transit 'special' is the stretched Transit XXL limousine, which joins the Transit Connect X-Press in showing off the fun side of Ford's European CV range.
Classic Focus RS power still excites!
The X-Press combine the base ingredients from the renowned 2004 Focus RS and the tough Transit Connect Light Commercial. From the 2004 Ford Focus RS, engineers took the powerful 215PS 2.0 litre turbocharged and intercooled 16-valve Duratec RS engine. Its 310Nm of maximum torque is fed to the front wheels through a heavy-duty AP racing clutch, a robust, five-speed gearbox with a short-throw shifter and a motorsport-inspired Quaife limited slip differential. Also recognisable from the Focus RS are the Brembo 325mm ventilated front disc brakes teamed with 280 mm solid discs at the rear.
In terms of its suspension the X-Press is almost pure Transit Connect with the McPherson strut front end matched to a classic light commercial vehicle beam axle at the rear. The front suspension is redesigned and lowered with up-rated offset coil springs and Sachs-provided racing dampers. There are revised lower A-arms with increased roll-centre height and 23 mm anti-roll bar incorporating unique roller bearing locating fixings. At the rear, along with the lowered ride height there are up-rated leaf springs from Olgun Celik and a 22 mm anti-roll bar incorporating roller bearing locating fixings.
In the cabin, inside is unmistakably Transit Connect, but obvious changes like the Sparco race-style leather/Alcantara trimmed bucket seats in black and white, plus a Ford Racing driver / co-driver intercom give the game away. There is a unique-to-the X-Press steering wheel and a flocked interior and centre console with an engine start button, plus a revised instrument binnacle with new graphics and instrumentation incorporating a turbo boost gauge and change-up light.
Labour of Love
The Transit Connect X-Press was created by a small team of Ford engineers at Ford's Lommel Proving Ground in Belgium in 2004, and was updated in late-2006 to reflect the latest exterior detail changes to the Ford Transit Connect range. Since its creation, the Transit Connect X-Press has been seen all over Europe :at key motor shows and Ford events, in many magazine and newspaper stories,at the hands of the media,etc . In order to see a special car a team of key specialists gave up their spare time to develop the vehicle.
It wasn't difficult really," said Gale. "Once everyone understood what we were doing they all offered to help in their spare time to make special parts or work on the vehicle. It became a true labour of love and as we're basically all car nuts, we're very pleased with the end product."
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