Ford Kuga Owners Club > Kuga Model Information > Kuga Driving Quality

The Ford Kuga has been engineered for class-leading on-road driving dynamics and exceptional off-road capabilities for expanded leisure-time use.

Using proven and established Ford C-car chassis components and technology as a solid basis, Ford's engineers tailored, tuned and calibrated each component and aspect of the ride and handling to ensure Kuga carries the blue oval family pedigree for strong driving dynamics.

“With the Focus and C-MAX, we had an established portfolio to use as a basis and our shared technologies initiative within Ford Motor Company allows us even more possibilities to develop niche vehicles like Kuga,” said Herrmann.  


Engineered to Provide Car-like Qualities


The challenge when developing the new Kuga was to bring passenger car-like DNA characteristics into the crossover segment for the first time. Ford's engineers had a number of targets and areas that contribute to the Kuga's characteristics:

  • A high level of agility, low level of steering wheel angle demand, avoiding a 'big-car' feel, despite a high seating position
  • A high level of ride quality while still providing excellent body control
  • A low level of roll angle and low roll velocity during cornering, despite the higher centre of gravity
  • A high level of steering precision to overcome the use of typically 'less precise' mud and snow tyre specifications widely used in some markets.

The key overall target was to ensure that Kuga achieved the highest levels of ride, handling, braking and steering performance within the segment.

Although Ford's engineers have a wealth of proven and established technologies available to them it is important to understand that the Kuga is not the result simply of a 'copy and paste' solution from other models. Unique suspension and steering geometry had to be developed, but still based on reliable C-car components such as the front axle with MacPherson strut suspension, Ford's Control Blade independent rear suspension already fitted to many of the latest Ford models, a solid body structure and a low friction steering system.

The Kuga uses many new systems and components in order to achieve the programme's targets:

  • New front shock absorber valving – Ford is the first vehicle manufacturer using this system
  • Rear shock absorbers that are larger than those usually fitted to Ford's C segment cars
  • New front suspension 'jounce' bumper
  • New front and rear suspension top mounts
  • Hydraulic rebound stops
  • New rear anti-roll bar system
  • New rear suspension knuckle and subframe to provide significant stiffness improvements
  • New front and rear suspension geometry
  • New hydrobush in the front suspension lower control arm
  • New front and rear wheel bearings for improved stiffness
  • Increased track width � at 1578mm it is 43mm more than C-MAX
  • Increased wheelbase � at 2690mm it is 50mm more than C-MAX

Kuga Ride


In comparison to other C-cars in the Ford of Europe line-up the ride height of Kuga has been increased by 80mm. The wheelbase has grown by 50mm and track by 43mm to ensure Kuga retains a solid stance despite the increased centre of gravity.

To achieve a high level of ride quality for on-road usage combined with the demand of high body articulation angles for excellent off-road traction and manoeuvrability, the front and rear damper systems were modified.

The front shock absorbers utilise a new valving system. An industry-first from Ford, the valving system allows a better tuning in 'jounce' to rebound balance for better body control. The new valving system helps to reduce suspension noise, thus contributing to the best possible ride and SQ&V characteristics.

Hydraulic rebound stops are located within the front shock absorbers of the Kuga, further improving suspension noise.

“On a car like the Kuga it is likely that it will be pushed to the extreme and that maximum driving angles will be achieved. We need to give our customers the best SQ&V and our fully hydraulic rebound stops help provide this,” explains Tamm.

The improvements to the front shock absorbers had to be balanced with the rear. The rear shock absorbers of the Kuga were therefore increased in size, in order to reduce the internal pressure level. This ensures an even better 'tunability' throughout the damper speed range, an especially important consideration in off-road conditions.

The improved tunability of both shock absorber systems was also key in minimising so-called 'headtoss', a term coined by Ford's engineers to describe the unpleasant lateral jerks usually associated with off-roading where a higher level of wheel travel occurs. This is further supported by a new anti-roll bar system with improved efficiency.

“We strive to give our customers the most comfortable environment when travelling in all of our products,” said Tamm. “The elimination of headtoss when we're developing a car such as the Kuga is a really important aspect. We need the Kuga to live up to the comfort expectations of the driver and passengers that are promised by its exciting styling.

A brand new rear anti-roll bar system gives a significantly increased 'efficiency', which in driving dynamics terms means an optimised response time. These actions also enabled a reduction in the anti-roll bar diameter, a main parameter of headtoss-causing driving situations. The positive headtoss characteristics are further enabled by a new front and rear suspension geometry that has been especially devised for the Kuga. They employ 'off-road optimised rollcentre' positions. The rollcentre positions can be tuned to create individuality to each car's driving dynamics. For the Kuga, Ford's engineers chose a high position to enable the desired low car-like roll motions during cornering while at the same time allow for a quick steering response through optimised lateral load transfer.

Kuga Steering


Front and rear geometry settings of the Kuga are a key enabler to providing the desired car-like steering attribute targets. In comparison to other C segment Ford of Europe cars the Kuga also includes a quicker steering ratio, further improving agility, precision and manoeuvrability.

The high level of structural stiffness within the body and chassis systems of the C-MAX were additional parameters that were optimised on the Kuga to ensure that outstanding driving quality is delivered. A new front suspension turret brace that reinforces the top mount attachment areas was developed to cope with the increased loads of the Kuga. Stiff propshaft brackets that reinforce the tunnel area are used on both FWD and intelligent AWD derivatives.

“The intelligent AWD underbody and chassis is exactly the same as the FWD version. Due to the capability of the new Kuga it is necessary for us to incorporate significant stiffness into the car while avoiding unwanted weight gains,” explained Tamm. “A new stiff rear suspension crossmember and new stiff cast knuckles are among the actions taken.”

In comparison to its C-car siblings, the overall actions to maximise stiffness caused the camber stiffness on Kuga to be raised by 40 per cent at the rear and 25 per cent on the front. Elastokinematiks of the front and rear suspension have been adapted to these changes by the use of a number of new suspension bushes.

Low roll motion and a direct and predictable steering response on a high level of agility form the basis for crossover steering precision and feel. Coupled with Ford's proven and established Electro-Hydraulic Power Assisted Steering (EHPAS) system enables speed-dependent steering efforts. The Kuga demonstrates a new benchmark for steering characteristics in the segment and also features the opportunity for the driver to select their preferred steering 'feel' from a choice of three settings – Standard, Comfort and Sport.


Kuga Handling

The significant structural stiffness improvements were not only a key means to achieving the desired steering characteristics but also provide the key to outstanding handling performance.

Superior cornering capability with the highest level of 'steady state' and transient stability are the result of these efforts. Together with excellent steering performance, the Kuga achieves conventional passenger car-like handling and gives the driver the highest level of confidence under all conditions.

Specific to the intelligent AWD version is a new 'on demand' rear-wheel-drive system. The electronically controlled intelligent AWD system transmits as much torque to the rear wheels as needed to ensure the best traction under all possible cornering and accelerating conditions, while being careful to avoid a negative impact on the fuel consumption.

The intelligent AWD system continually provides levels of torque to the rear axle depending on the driver's style and driving conditions of the car. Determined by acceleration levels, steering wheel angle and vehicle speed, among numerous other smaller parameters, the torque to the rear wheels can vary from 10 per cent for cruising on-road to 50 per cent when a more enthusiastic driving style is adopted.

“The torque provided to the rear of the vehicle is based purely on the demands of the driver or driving situation,” explained Tamm. “Coupled with our electronic Traction Control System (TCS) and ESP, it gives instant and seamless reactions just when the driver demands it.”

Various signals from the Kuga's Controller Area Network (CAN) system such as vehicle speed, steering angle and driver's torque demand, among others, are used to transfer optimum torque to the rear axle.

With agile manoeuvring and stable handling the Kuga delivers on the expectations of road ride and handling, continuing Ford's acclaimed reputation as a leader in driving dynamics. The combination of the intelligent AWD system and the specific tuning of the chassis components make the Kuga a highly capable and comfortable car for on- and off-road driving.

Equipped with disc brakes all-round, the Kuga gives assured braking performance at all times. All model and drive types feature standard Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) with Anti Rollover Mitigation (ARM) and Electronic Brake Assist (EBA).

The ABS is specially tuned for Kuga to give good brake performance and high levels of stability. Vehicle stability and short stopping distances are achieved by the use of individual rear wheel brake pressure control.


Integrated Electronic Systems

To deliver a very high degree of stability and driver confidence the Kuga is equipped with a complex and highly integrated network of electronic driver assistance systems. Each of these assistance systems is designed and calibrated to share its data with the other systems to ensure that all aspects will be considered for potential electronic intervention.

Kuga Electronic Stability Programme (ESP)


The standard ESP system continually monitors the vehicle's progress and will activate only when it is needed during critical driving situations. This enables the driver to enjoy fully the Kuga's driving qualities without suffering disturbing and possibly unexpected interventions from the ESP system. The seamless engagement and intervention of the ESP system also reduces the likelihood of the driver manually switching it off.

Dedicated axle software analyses and controls the yaw; making over- and understeer negligible and flattering the novice driver. If the software determines too much bodyroll it will reduce the torque to the wheels and will apply the brakes to the wheel(s) as necessary.

The system is capable of individually braking only one wheel – or any combination of up to three wheels – if the situation demands it. This is especially important for increased performance, particularly in understeer situations where excessive speed entering corners can be reduced much more effectively. In oversteer situations – and depending on the road friction and Kuga's stability levels – the intelligent logic of the ESP will decide to brake either the front or rear axle, or both, to achieve an effective, comfortable and imperceptible level of ESP intervention.

Kuga's ESP system is so advanced it is capable of detecting variations in the car's behaviour due to consequential elements such as tyre wear or vehicle loads at any given point. The ESP 'matrix of events' will 'learn' the real behaviour of the car and adjust itself to significantly increase the performance and robustness of ESP interventions.

ESP is also capable of reducing the amount of torque transmitted to the rear axle down to 0Nm. This interface between ESP and intelligent AWD is used to stabilise the car in case oversteer occurs while the driver maintains a full-throttle position.

Several areas of tuning were focused on in developing Kuga's ESP system:

  • To achieve maximum directional support in critical driving situations and maximise the Kuga's active safety elements within their physical limits and tolerances.
  • To offer maximum traction performance for on- and off-road driving.
  • To adapt ESP tuning to the car to allow the passive elements to work at their full potential.
  • To eliminate the need for the driver to switch between ESP modes when driving from one surface type to another by implementing robust tuning and intelligent ESP logic.

Kuga's state-of-the-art ESP system therefore incorporates:

– Anti Lock Braking (ABS) system including Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Corner Brake Control (CBC)

– Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)

– Traction Control System (TCS) which comprises:

Engine Traction Control System (ETCS) and Brake Lock Differential (BLD)

– Engine Drag torque Control (EDC)

– Anti Rollover Mitigation (ARM)

– Trailer Stability Assist (TSA)

Accompanying Systems for Added Driver Confidence

Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)

Limits the brake pressure applied to the rear brakes to maintain stability by preventing rear axle lock prior to the front axle locking.

Corner Brake Control (CBC)

Improves stability during partial braking and during EBD or ABS activation in bends by reducing pressure at the inner edge of the front wheels. This produces a stabilisation torque in case the vehicle 'turns in' too much.

Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)

EBA is responsible for rapidly building up brake pressure when activated. The level of activation depends on the driver's intervention and is triggered by a rapid brake pedal movement in an emergency event. During this time the brake pressure applied by the driver is not high enough to achieve maximum brake forces, therefore the EBA increases the pressure applied to the brake pads until the system enters ABS mode. This results in the shortest possible braking distance.

The Traction Control System (TCS) consist of two parts:

Engine Track Control System (ETCS)

Traction Control eliminates excessive wheel spin to guarantee optimal traction performance and stability. This becomes even more important for cars with off-road capability. The Kuga's TCS will reduce the engine torque to a level which delivers optimal wheel slip to achieve maximum acceleration.

Brake Lock Differential (BLD)

When necessary, one wheel on each driven axle can be braked to transfer torque to the wheel with the most grip – the BLD will control the torque distribution between left and right wheels. In addition, the intelligent AWD system will control the torque distribution between the front and rear wheels. This ensures that each wheel will receive the optimum amount of traction torque for every road condition. BLD also enhances traction performance of FWD variants.

On high friction surfaces TCS delivers maximum acceleration without the need for the driver to modulate wheelspin by adjusting the pressure to the throttle pedal. In off-road conditions the intelligent TCS logic will allow sufficient wheel slip to 'dig' through conditions such as deep sand or mud without the need for the driver to switch the system off – which otherwise may be expected.

Even in conditions where only one wheel is able to take traction forces, the TCS and intelligent AWD systems will make optimal use of the available surface friction.

This is further testimony to Kuga's capability in off-road conditions.

Engine Drag torque Control (EDC)

EDC requests positive torque from the powertrain control system to compensate for the engine drag and powertrain losses during specific driving manoeuvres. Conventionally on low-friction surfaces the engine drag forces may slow the wheels too much causing them to slip. EDC is applied to re-accelerate the slipping wheel(s) and build up traction forces between the tyres and the road. EDC serves to support vehicle stability.

The TCS eliminates excessive wheel spin to provide optimal traction performance and stability, an even more important consideration for cars with off-road capability. Kuga's TCS has two elements that can be selected by the system to ensure good traction at all times:

  • Reducing engine torque to a level which delivers optimal wheel slip to achieve maximum acceleration
  • The ability to brake one wheel on each driven axle or transfer torque to the wheel with the most grip. This means that the TCS will control the torque distribution between front and rear wheels and that every wheel will receive the right amount of traction for all road conditions

“Our engineers recognise that the off-road driver is likely to set their own challenges according to the surfaces and terrain undulations they want to conquer,” said Tamm. “We want them to concentrate on their own targets and don�t want them to feel challenged by the driving style of the Kuga, or by having to overcome any wheel spin by adjusting their throttle position during maximum acceleration. Our internal testing shows that 0-100 km/h times with TCS on are as good as most driver's best efforts of driving a car with TCS switched off.”

Anti Rollover Mitigation (ARM) and Trailer Stability Assist (TSA)

An Anti Rollover Mitigation (ARM) system is integrated into the ESP system to further increase driving safety. While ARM is braking the front wheels the engine torque is reduced to zero. These combined actions generate understeer and reduces the Kuga's road speed in order to reduce the lateral acceleration and minimise the possibility of a rollover. As soon as the potential rollover situation has passed ARM stops the braking and engine intervention for normal driving to resume.

“We want to give our customers a safe car but also provide sufficient feedback to give them a voyage of discovery and – in the case of driving off-road for pleasure � the facility for them to improve their skills,” said Tamm. “The ESP and therefore its integrated systems, can be switched off by the driver but for maximum safety the ARM system will always remain active.”

Ford's engineers recognise that crossover vehicles such as the Kuga are likely to be used for a wide variety of purposes by their owners including towing. Uniquely within Ford of Europe's portfolio, the Kuga is also equipped with a trailer ESP system known as Trailer Stability Assist (TSA).

TSA is a standard feature when the optional Ford towbar is fitted. TSA monitors so-called 'trailer sway' which is usually exacerbated by uneven trailer loading or driving at speeds higher than the particular towing situation safely enables.

If a dangerous sway is detected TSA will make brake and engine interventions based upon the sway severity and lateral movements caused. For moderate sway the front wheels will be braked in a left-right alternating pattern to generate a yaw movement in the Kuga which counteracts the trailer sway.

At the same time engine torque will be reduced so that no further acceleration is possible. In this case the speed reduction of the car will be sufficiently minor in order to avoid disturbing the flow of traffic due to the reduction in speed.

For severe sway, where the system detects that the left-right alternating braking will not be sufficient, engine torque is reduced to zero and brake pressures are applied to all four wheels in order to reduce the Kuga's speed below the trailer's critical speed. Below this speed the sway will rapidly damp out. Neither of the braking methods used to mitigate trailer sway are sufficient to activate the emergency hazard warning lights.

“With towing weight capacities of 2.0 tons for the FWD and 2.1 tons for the intelligent AWD, we felt it necessary to provide the driver with every assistance we could in giving them and other road users a safe journey.” Said Tamm.

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