New Ford Focus tested in the Alps

Covered in camouflage, the Ford Focus has already been tested on everything from frozen arctic lakes to deserts and now the Alpine passes give testers the chance to measure the small family car’s handling and towing abilities.

The 48km long road features 36 bends and rises to 2,504 above sea level, giving both diesel and petrol versions of the Focus a challenging test.

Ford vehicle integration engineer Bernd Herweling said: “We’re evaluating driveability on steep mountain roads from a customer perspective. The bottom line is we’re here to find out how the car performs driving up and down seriously steep hills."

Over 100 electronic devices on board the Focus are used to test the reaction of the car to the drive, and the team is using ‘heat soaks’ when the car is parked to ensure the engine is as hot as possible.

The cars will also be tested pulling a trailer up the 12 per cent gradient in one of the toughest tests the model will take.

“The conditions are extreme,” he concluded, “but that’s why we are here. If the car meets our performance targets in this environment, it’ll cope with pretty much anything our customers will ask of it!”

The Ford Focus, the UK’s best-selling model in 2010, will be replaced by the new version in 2011. No date has been confirmed, but it is expected to arrive before March in time for the new registration plates.

The new model will host a range of extra technology over previous versions, including adaptive cruise control, speed limit warnings and an automatic ant-collision system.

Ford has hinted at a hybrid or plug-in hybrid version with five years and an electric version is also in pipeline.