2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost
2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge

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Ford Motor Company of Canada

Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2012 Ford Explorer

Romeo, Michigan – Since its introduction in 1990, the Ford Explorer has enjoyed popular success in the mid-size SUV segment. But as consumer tastes changed, the “old” Explorer became less competitive, leading up to major changes for the 2011 model year. Most notably, the 2011 redesign featured a move from the Explorer’s traditional body-on-frame architecture, to unit construction favoured by modern crossover utility vehicles (CUVs).

Another major development was retiring the V8 engine option. Ford Explorers with V8s were long known for their hauling grunt, but starting with the 2011 model year, the Explorer is only available with 3.5-litre V6 power. The V6 provides towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, versus the outgoing V8, which exceeded 7,000 pounds when properly equipped.

2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost
2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge

The thing is, Ford’s researchers have concluded that this formidable amount of towing ability is rarely required by Explorer consumers, who tend to use their vehicle more for urban pursuits, and who, when they do use their vehicle for towing, are typically moving lighter trailers and loads. Additionally, fuel economy has become a significant concern, especially for SUV owners, and heavy, V8-powered trucks are not known for their fuel efficiency.

Consequently, rather than bulk up the 2012 Explorer, Ford has chosen to add its new four-cylinder EcoBoost engine as a $1,000 option, with towing capacity matching that of the V6-powered Explorer, according to Ford. This engine is also available in the 2012 Ford Edge and is all-new for 2012.

The question is: can a four-cylinder engine perform as required in a large vehicle like the Ford Explorer?

The 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine features sophisticated valve timing management, an exhaust manifold integrated with the cylinder head, turbocharging and direct fuel injection. It’s a combination of technologies that many manufacturers have developed to improve the efficiency of their engines, and we’ve seen V6 EcoBoost engines already from Ford as fitted to the Flex, F-150 and Taurus SHO.

2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost
2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge

By making the four-cylinder EcoBoost available in the Explorer (at a price premium of $1,000), Ford is targeting buyers who want the utility of a seven-passenger SUV, but whose priority is fuel economy.

According to Ford, the 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine delivers the power of a normally aspirated V6 engine without compromise to its four-cylinder fuel consumption. However, Explorer EcoBoost models are available only in front-wheel drive (FWD), or 4×2, configuration, which may be a concern for some Canadian buyers who prefer an all-wheel drive vehicle in snowy winter conditions.

Specifically, the 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine makes 240 hp from 1,750 through 5,500 rpm, and 270 lb.-ft. torque from 1,700 through at 3,000 rpm. Fuel consumption is expected to average 10.4/7.0 L/100 km, city/highway, which is an approximately 10 per cent improvement over the V6 Explorer. The numbers are impressive — considering the small displacement of the engine and the substantial size of the Explorer — both in power and fuel efficiency.

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