10 tech-tastic features inside the new Ford Kuga 2013
31st May 2013 | 10:00
The big car with clever tech
Ford's latest foray into the world of tech-infused cars is the all-new Kuga. Ford's renovated 4x4 or SUV is packed with all sorts of tech to make your driving life easier.
From lane guidance and road sign recognition to electric tail gates, automatic braking and more, it's equipped with things you'd normally expect to find on a much more expensive car.
So let's look at 10 of the best tech features onboard the Ford Kuga 2013.
1. Ford SYNC
First and foremost, Ford's intelligent voice-controlled car media system sees another outing in the Kuga. Like the system integrated into the new Fiesta, SYNC enables you to control all aspects of the in-car entertainment system with your voice. From barking out call commands to switching tracks to selecting individual artists by name, unlike systems such as Siri or Google Voice Search it's all done offline, which means you don't need a data connection for your car.
You can hook your phone up via Bluetooth for limited play, pause, skip-track control and voice dialling, or attach it to the in-car system via USB, providing complete indexing of all your choice tunes for full voice control. Most modern smartphones are supported, including Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone, with integration for various apps like Spotify, which means you're not just tied to your stock music player either.
As you might expect, you can also do your usual voice dialling via the Ford SYNC system, which goes one step further and pulls down your address book from your phone to intelligently work out who you're trying to call. SYNC is even capable of reading out your text messages if you so wish, with support for snippets of 'text speak' and a selection of smilies.
You might feel a little stupid talking to your car, but at least your eyes can remain glued to the road.
2. Driver alert system
Ford's new driver alert system aims to eliminate accidents caused by sleepy drivers. The car monitors your driving behaviour using its front-facing camera and sensors that measure its movement, to detect the kind of erratic driving that comes from being fatigued behind the wheel.
If the system thinks that your driving is impaired, it flashes up a warning on the in-car information system. If you then ignore or don't see the warning, the car goes all-out to try to get you to take a break, firing increasingly annoying in-car beeps, flashes and warning signs at you.
Of course, the car monitors your driving from the word go and gives you a set of screens that you can manually access to see how you're driving, and discover whether the car thinks you're doing a bad job. Not all people will like this kind of nannying from their car, but at least if you're driving when you really should be in bed, the driver monitor might help you realise the fact and avoid a nasty accident.
3. Traffic sign recognition
While normally it's pretty easy to know what the speed limit is on the stretch of road you happen to be cruising down, sometimes you just get distracted by bad drivers or while you're attempting to overtake something. Ford's fancy new traffic sign recognition system again uses the car's front-facing camera to monitor the road ahead, detecting and then displaying recent road signs including speed limits and bans on lane changes on the in-car information screen.
It uses an intuitive ageing display system to show you how long ago the road sign was detected, with newer signs showing up brighter and dimming until disappearing as they age and become outdated. It's quite a nice little bonus that could help you in those situations where you're about to hit a speed camera and you can't for the life of you remember the speed limit. It could even save you a speeding fine or two.
4. Blind spot detection system
Ford's new blind spot monitoring system aims to eradicate accidents that happen because you simply can't see the car behind you. No matter what manufacturers do with the chassis of a car, there's always a blind spot where you can't see an approaching car in your mirrors.
To eliminate the blind spot problem, a multi-beam radar system anchored on each of the back corners of the Kuga constantly monitors the road for obstacles within 3m of you as soon as you're travelling faster than 6mph. If it sees a car in your blind spot, it lights an LED in your wing mirror, alerting you to the fact that there might be something in the way of your lane change.
Considering the bigger the car, normally the bigger the blind spot, it's a really smart addition that could make the difference between a crash and avoiding something trying to over or under take you.
5. Lane keeping aid
Taking the simple lane detection system one stage further, Ford's new lane keeping aid automatically keeps you in your lane, preventing you from wandering out of your lane accidentally. By monitoring the white lines on the road with cameras under the car, the system will steer you back into your lane if you start moving over unintentionally. If the angle of steering needed to correct your movement is too great, say around a tight corner, the system will vibrate the steering wheel to warn you to do something to avoid swerving into other lanes or incoming traffic.
The aid is intelligent enough to know when you're actually trying to change lanes, however, deactivating when you indicate, accelerate or brake hard, or actively counter-steer against its corrections.
In order to prevent no-hands motorway drivers, however, Ford's set up the system to essentially detect whether your hands are on the wheel and making any sort of steering adjustments. If it thinks you're not doing your job of driving properly, the system will beep in the cabin and then deactivate to prevent people relying on the system instead of driving themselves.
6. Auto City Stop
Sometimes, especially in stop-start traffic, you need a little bit of help to stop you crashing into the car in front. Ford's Auto City Stop does just that. It monitors the road ahead of you, scanning 15m in front of the car 50 times a second using both light and range sensors. Should the worst happen and you don't see the car in front stop, the Kuga will react and slam on the brakes for you while cutting the engine and flashing your hazard lights to warn others around you.
Ford rates Auto City Stop as being able to actually prevent collisions at up to 15kph (10mph), stopping the car roughly 30 centimetres from the object in question, while aiming to significantly reduce the impact velocity of accidents at up to 30kph (19mph).
Unfortunately, being camera-based rather than radar-based like some more sophisticated systems, above 30kph it won't be able to help you. Having said that, Ford's system should prevent all the minor bumps people have while not paying attention in congested traffic just fine.
7. Active Park Assist
There's no getting over the fact that the Ford Kuga is a big car, at least for British standards, and one of the disadvantages of a big car is attempting to park the thing. Ford has thrown its intelligent automatic parallel parking system into the Kuga to give you a helping hand.
Active Park Assist can measure up a space, make sure you'll fit, and then actually park the car for you. It'll do all the steering for you, so all you have to do is work the accelerator and brake, following on-screen and audible instructions.
The system is capable of parking the car automatically in spaces that are less than a metre longer than the Kuga, removing all the anxiety and frustration associated with trying to parallel park. Getting out of the space when you're done shopping is, however, up to you.
8. Hands-free powered tailgate
Taking keyless entry further, Ford's brand new powered tailgate on the Kuga has a neat trick up its sleeve. You can open the boot (trunk) without needing to use your hands, thanks to a strip of sensors under the rear bumper. As long as you've got the key on your person, or it's already in the car, you can open the boot with your foot.
Simply swing your foot towards the rear bumper, underneath the car and the tailgate will open. Once you're done, a second kick will then automatically close the boot, ready to go. It's a handy little feature for when you're trying to shove the shopping in the back, or your handful-of-a-dog for that matter.
9. Smart Regenerative Charging
The new Ford Kuga also comes equipped with a "smart regenerative charging" system. Not a hybrid or electric car system, as the name might suggest, instead it's an intelligent control system for charging the car's battery.
In most normal cars, the alternator that charges the car's battery is permanently hooked up to the engine when running. Ford's system only engages the alternator when the car's coasting, slowing down or idling, reducing wear and tear on the engine and other components in the system, making it all last longer. It's handy for saving on expensive servicing bills while still keeping the Kuga's large battery topped up as required.
10. Intelligent AWD with torque vectoring control
For a big car, the Kuga is surprisingly nimble, innpart due to its intelligent all-wheel drive traction control system. Going beyond what a normal traction control system does, Ford's packed the Kuga with what it's calling Smart AWD.
Essentially the system combines the best of both worlds, from pure low-speed pulling power and control to a decent, responsive drive at higher speeds. To do this, the system automatically balances the power distribution without you having to do anything other than drive. At speeds over 18mph the Kuga adjusts the drive balance for optimum driving feel, handling and response, giving you a heads-up display showing precisely where the power is going.
Instead of lowering the engine power like older systems, it uses the brakes on the individual wheels to gently adjust the wheel's speed back into traction range. In essence, it enhances your steering ability in corners by applying a small amount of braking force to the inside wheels. This pulls the car tighter around the corner and eliminates torque steering, which forces the steering wheel outwards as you floor the throttle. It's something you'd see on high-performance vehicles and sports cars, so it's impressive to see Ford bringing it down into the SUV segment.
Of course, being a 4x4, at low speeds and in slippery conditions the Kuga channels the power to whichever wheel has the most traction, engaging all four wheels and using the brakes to stop individual wheels just spinning up, meaning you can master whatever obstacle stands in your path even though the Kuga doesn't pack a low-ratio gearbox.