It's too big to be the new Mondeo, but underneath the disguise there are some very large clues about the look of the next-generation Ford family favourite - not least, the new company nose.
Snapped cold weather testing, this is the all-new D-MAX MPV - the first part of a two-pronged attack on the people carrier market. Being the successor of the ageing Galaxy, the newcomer debuts the fresh face of Ford. This look is described as a radical departure from what has been seen before, and the basic design visible in our spy-shots will be shared with all models to wear the blue oval badge in the future.
As with its smaller C-MAX brother, the D-MAX will be based on the platform of a more conventional car - in this case the next Mondeo, which is due in showrooms here in 2007. That D1 chassis will also underpin other products in the Ford family, such as next-generation versions of the Volvo S60 and Mazda 6. Bosses are determined to make the D-MAX the most enjoyable MPV to drive, to encourage buyers to move across from conventional hatchbacks and saloons.
Despite the heavy disguise, it's clear from our photograph that the most distinctive feature of the new car is the long, curving roofline, which leads into short overhangs at the front and rear to maximise the interior space.
Heavily sculpted front wings add character to the bodyshell, while the nose can't hide the future corporate face of Ford. A slim, oval grille carries the familiar badge, surrounded by large multi-lens headlamps. It's also clear that the D-MAX will be a sporty take on the compact MPV theme, thanks to deep front and rear bumpers.
The interior will be designed to carry seven, with a large load area. Folding seats, including the front passenger's, will also make the most of the generous space on offer. Plenty of storage compartments will be provided to stow smaller items, while options such as front and rear climate control and DVD systems should ensure occupants travel in comfort.
Mechanically, the D-MAX will share components with the next Mondeo, in particular the suspension and engine range. Petrol options are set to include 1.8 and 2.0-litre four-cylinder units, with the possibility of a large V6 or a turbocharged model as the performance-oriented flagship. Ford's excellent TDCi diesel engines will also be available, most likely in 1.6 and 2.0-litre forms. A concept model of the new D-MAX will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, with the production version arriving in showrooms next spring.