By on April 12, 2010

Ford’s relationship with hybrid technology has been an on-again-off-again affair, since Bill Ford first pledged to build 250k hybrids by 2010. And it’s probably a good thing the Blue Oval backed away from that promise, as the firm sold only 33,502 hybrids last year. Meanwhile, Ford still has yet to claim profitability on any of its hybrids (last disclaiming such an achievement (sort of) in 2008). Perhaps because Ford has paid dearly to tag along in the import-dominated hybrid segments, it’s getting a bit jaded about the power of high-cost, high-tech green halo cars to deliver real results. Or, perhaps Ford’s VP of powertrain engineering Barb Samardzich is simply channeling old Henry Ford, when she says:

We are focused on sustainable technology solutions that can be used not for hundreds or thousands of cars, but for millions of cars, because that’s how Ford will truly make a difference

We’ve heard this before, but today’s news puts the four-cylinder future into perfect context in just five words: Four. Cylinder. Explorer. This. Year.

Ford’s Ecoboost strategy (which, in addition to downized engines, direct injection and turbocharging, apparently includes weight-loss measures) is rolling onwards, with Ford announcing three new applications for 2010. The first, a 1.6 liter four cylinder, will only be available this year on the European C-Max MPV (but cross your fingers for an eventual Fiesta appearance). The other two are aimed straight at the heart of Ford’s US market share: the Taurus SHO’s 3.5 liter twin-turbo V6 is headed for rear-drive versions of the F-150, and the forthcoming Explorer will be powered by a 2.0 Ecoboost four-pot engine.

There’s even some poetic justice in the rehabilitation of the former poster child for America’s era of SUV excess. Billy Ford’s only-220k-units-off prediction of hybrid dominance was formulated in the wake of his backdown from a previous goal of improving SUV efficiency 25 percent by 2005. Ten years after that broken promise was made, and with much water under the bridge, Ford might just be building the Explorer William Clay Jr had in mind back then.

And though the company’s new emphasis on incremental change across large volumes is certainly in the best Ford traditions, there’s room to question how committed the firm really is to its new strategy. Why, for example, will stop-start systems, a relatively cheap mass-market efficiency improver, only reach 20 percent of Ford nameplates by 2014? Why is Ford insisting on rebodying a Magna-supplied EV as a green-halo Focus?

Although many questions about Ford’s efficiency/environmental strategy remain open, EcoBoost has clearly succeeded on the marketing front. By bundling a suite of strategies and technologies, most of which were not invented in Dearborn, and selling them hard, Ford is building brand equity in a name that it will be able to capitalize in the short- to medium-term. Instead of leapfrogging Toyota’s hybrids technologically, as Chevy’s Volt seeks to do, Ford is bringing as many of its cars as close as possible to hybrid level performance, with less cost and (potentially) less risk. Given Ford’s history, that’s not a bad approach at all.

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48 Comments on “Ford: 4-Cylinder Explorer, V6 F-150 Launching “By The End Of The Year”...”


  • avatar
    86er

    I suppose keeping the Explorer name around is the better alternative than canning it.

    Strong resemblance to the Acadia/Traverse, although the spy video called this smaller than the Flex.

  • avatar

    I agree with the article. I think EcoBoost is a great technology that fits Ford’s philosophy of simple vehicles quite well. There’s a huge difference between the methods. Getting extra power per gallon of gas from a smaller engine using turbo, in my humble opinion, is better than strapping a battery pack and electric generators to pick up energy from the braking system.

    As for Ecoboost in Ford’s lineup, it won’t work if the product isn’t properly proportioned among buyers. Ford has too many crossovers, will soon have no small pickups, a good full-size pickup, no truly useful off-road vehicles (because the Raptor is an expensive desert-runner trophy truck), and its car lineup will be decent. At least it’s got the most important part down, but since Ford is best known for its trucks in the U.S.A. I must interject re: the V6.

    Even the four-cylinder F-150 isn’t going to convince buyers to switch from a compact Ranger to a full-size, and neither will the V6. The F-150 truck’s still too big for those buyers, first off, and secondly customers are going to think, “yes, but couldn’t you achieve even better mileage from a smaller vehicle?” F-150s usually don’t achieve EPA mileage, whereas four-cylinder Rangers typically meet or exceed their EPA.

    Explorer’s good as a mommy-mobile station wagon. F-150′s good as a construction truck for serious builders. I’m an architecture student that needs to haul big light loads (like 4×8 sheets of plywood) but needs to parallel park on a tight university campus where an F-150′s simply too big. I implore you, Ford, build me a Ranger with an Ecoboost four-cylinder.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      The key is to build vehicles that have mass-market appeal, and to stop chasing niche sales.

      True off-road capable vehicles only ever sold in big numbers because of image. The Jeep Wrangler is perhaps the most purpose-built off-roader available for sale, and most owners still never take it further off pavement than a dirt road or two.

      Similarly, there just aren’t enough people who need to carry around 4×8 pieces of plywood and still park in tight spots regularly, at least in the US. Even those that do construction inside of major cities somehow seem to make it work with full-size trucks or vans.

      I’d like to see a new small pickup in the lineup, but the current ranger will never get the Ecoboost. The Ranger is beautiful for what it is, but it’s ancient, and already marked for death in a year or two.

      F150s do generally achieve their EPA mileage, though not if towing or fully loaded, as no vehicle will achieve their mileage stats in those conditions.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      For 4×8 building materials, a Ranger wont cut it. You need a full size, but basic, without a back seat, extra doors and extra weight. That is why we bought a Toyota T-100 and later a 1st gen Tundra to replace a Ranger and an F-150. But Ford, please, offer a non-turbo base V-6 F-100 at under 4000lb curb weight. Use Paul’s F-100 as a template. You can actually get in one without a step stool and reach over the sides of the bed.

    • 0 avatar

      In lieu of a Ranger, the Ecoboost 4000-pound F-100 Nikita is referring to would be more than sufficient, if not superior to an F-150 and Ranger for my needs.

      I’m assuming here, Nikita, you don’t mean I require more than that. I’ve carried some of the materials I use in an Escape, but it was dangerous and impractical long-term. So I don’t think I need a true full-size. I’d be much happier with a crank-window, regular cab base model mid-size like an F-100.

  • avatar

    The rear half looks a lot like a Freestyle / Taurus X. This isn’t just a Taurus X-based mule, is it?

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      It’s a mule the outer a-pillar(?) doesn’t even lineup. The last “spy shots” I saw have the new Explorer looking more Edge like.

      http://www.autoblog.com/2010/03/25/spy-shots-2012-ford-explorer-caught-completely-disrobed/

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      The photo is just TTAC’s subtly snarky way to remind us that the new Explorer is really just a rebodied Freestyle. The new Explorer is the perfect home to debut the new 2.0T powerplant/fullsize vehicle combo. The Explorer is so far off the radar that any sales failure won’t have much negative media impact. I am sure most of the new Explorers will be V6 anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Turbo60640

      Ion, the vehicle in your link looks more convincing. This one looks an awful lot like a Taurus X.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    I think this is a ringer to get Ford under the bar of the new CAFE standards. A two litre four in a vehicle of that size and weight is absurd.

    I’ll make a prediction; after this Explorer is released the next SEMA show will have a kit to drop a V8 in it.

    • 0 avatar
      mdmadph

      If it’s a turbo-4cyl putting out around 200hp, you have to remember that’s about what mid-90′s V8′s put out, and those pushed Explorers around just fine.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Toyota put a four in the 4Runner (cue Sharon, Lois & Braham); Ford can do the same for the Explorer.

    I’m not sure making it into a unibody is such a great idea, unless they’re really sure that lifting the Flex a few inches is really going to make a difference.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      Uni-body seems to be the way this segment is heading though, The Equinox/Traverse replaced the TrailBlazer and I don’t think Honda’s ever had a BOF SUV. The 4-runner seems to be the only holdout, but Toyota does have the RAV4 and the Highlander.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I agree with you, but Ford already has the Flex for this exact purpose. A Flex with a little more ground clearance seems kind of spurious.

      Toyota is in a similar bind vis a vis the Highlander and 4Runner, but the 4Runner has a little more rock-crawler cachet than the Explorer (America’s New Family Truckster for the Nineties!) did.

      About the only way I could see this work is if one of the two die: is the Flex’s looks more of a liability than the Explorer’s damaged brand?

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      psarhjinian –

      While I agree Ford has too many CUVs in the stable, the big question is which one goes?

      The Escape is a big seller, and you need a compact CUV. When it is reborn from the mold of the Kuga it should sell even better.

      The Flex doesn’t light the charts on fire with sales, but it is one of the best vehicles FoMoco makes. Every review is positive, it drives beautifully, it’s practical, and owners absolutely love it. Does it make sense to kill a great vehicle due to sub-par sales, or do you keep at it and refine/facelift until people ‘get it’?

      The new Explorer will be important to fight against the GMC Lambda triplets as well as the Pilot and possibly the Highlander. There is money to be made in the large CUV segment, Ford just hasn’t had a clear contender there yet, as the Freestyle/Taurus X came across more as tall wagons, and Ford seems intent to try to position the Flex as more of a car than a CUV.

      The Edge seems like the odd man out, after all, with the EB 4 cylinder the Explorer will probably overlap in price, and it sits in a strange size-limbo, halfway between the Escape and what will be the new Explorer. Then again, Nissan has success with the Murano, Toyota is pressing on with the Venza, and the Edge is currently one of Ford’s best sellers.

      If you have to trim the fat, and Ford might not even have to, perhaps all of these vehicles can live in profitable harmony, where do you go?

    • 0 avatar

      That was an interesting excurse, but what is Ford’s off-road platform? I’m fine with a unibody (as long as it has mount points front and back for winch and bumpers), but it has to have a low gear. Does the new Explorer have it or not?

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Weight is the big concern here. However, how about this: Make the Explorer similar in size to the original. Jettison the BOF construction; most Explorers never went off road…those that went off road usually did so unintentionally. Increase the use of lightweight construction materials and aim for a 9 second 0 to 60. Give it a Flex quality interior and a good ride. Now that four cylinder is starting to make more sense…

    F-150 is a bigger problem. Can’t see traditional “truck people” being enamored by the ecotec. Those that would likely be open to such an engine are, in MHO likely to be closed minded when it comes to a domestic truck. They going right to a Toyota dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      dhathewa

      “They going right to a Toyota dealer.”

      Ford has an emerging rep that could challenge Toyota. If Ford can show a significant edge in fuel economy, they might see some conquest sales.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      If you look at recent full-size pickup sales numbers, not many people at all are going to Toyota. More people trust Dodge with their hard-earned money, and that says something.

      Until 2009 the F150 came with a V6 option, and it sold, though basically only in base trim. The 4.6 liter V8 was tweaked to get the same mileage as the old 6, but we still have people asking for the V6 in the F150. The big factor is going to be what type of economy the F150 gets with the Ecoboost V6. If it’s just a minor boost, say, 16/22 vs. 15/21 that you get with the 4.6 3-valve, it might not draw enough buyers. If they can boost the city to at least 17mpg, and the highway up to at least 24 or 25mpg though, people will take notice. The key is to set it up so that you get enough fuel economy benefit to make a difference on the pocketbook, not just enough to claim best fuel economy in a full size truck.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      “They going right to a Toyota dealer.”

      No they aren’t. Toyota’s Tundra is a complete flop. Many billions of dollars wasted to achieve a miserable fourth place finish.

  • avatar

    The four in the 4Runner isn’t even turbocharged. This engine will have enough power and torque. NVH is the big question mark.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      The 4Runner is a 2.7L and likely has a way longer stroke than the 2.0 ecoboost. That makes a difference in the torque curve and that is important when you’re dragging weight around. It is 2WD only, as well. The problem w/ the 4cyl 4Runner is the fact that the 4Runner is 500lbs heavier than a 4cyl Taco.

      Moot point anyway. It isn’t like people will compare these two.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      The turbo in the Ecotech can make a far bigger difference than extra displacement and longer stroke in the Toyota 2.7.

      Have you been paying attention to the torque curves that engine builders are getting out turbos currently?

    • 0 avatar
      dkulmacz

      In case you haven’t (been paying attention to the torque curves that engine builders are getting out of turbos currently), here’s one to look at . . .

      http://www.allfordmustangs.com/articlemanager/uploads/1/ecoboost-slide-torque.jpg

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    Our CX-7 gets away with the 4. Not sure how well, though. My wife loves it….me? Meh. You get the NVH of a four (while burning premium) and the mileage of an 8. Sometimes, I think my Grand Marquis has it right: a V-8 with enough torque to cruise down the freeway at 1500 RPM (on regular fuel, in near silence).

    I hope they do well with the next Explorer. The last one’s style didn’t do it for me. It was too big, too dumbed down. A little downsizing, and weight loss, with an aggressive look, might make for a good product.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    Only 33K hybrids is, at first blush, somewhat disappointing but it’s the new Fusion hybrid that has the potential for some numbers. When did it hit the street? I don’t believe we’re looking at a full year of sales for it, are we?

    It’s not Prius-like volume, sure, but maybe it’s more respectable than the 2009 numbers imply.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Ford’s plan sounds like a good one. I have never jumped on the hybrid bandwagon; I find that the payback is too long, and as a shadetree mechanic, their complexity concerns me.

  • avatar
    ajla

    So no 3.5L Ecoboost Mustang?

    I guess a regular cab short-box F-l50 Ecoboost could be alright, and fall in my price range.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Does anyone–including Ford–know the purpose of this “new” Explorer?

    How is there enough difference between Ford’s half-dozen other SUVs to justify it’s existence?

    It seems like Ford wants to be a manufacturer who builds a different vehicle for every single person in the US. Why are they building such nonsensical niche vehicles?

    As for furthering this silly Egoboost nonsense…well…the mechanics will be very busy…

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      There is no reason to assume the Ecoboost engines will be anything less than perfectly reliable. The 3.5 liter V6 and 2.0 liter 4 cylinder are both very reliable engines in NA form, and the amount of boost provided for the EB versions is fairly low.

      GM is having some success with the Acadia/Traverse/Enclave triplets, even though they have serious issues with visibility and rear seat space. In comparison for a SUV-ish family hauler, the Flex should be outselling them all combined, but that hasn’t been the case because too many people either don’t know what to make of the Flex, or are turned off by the progressive-retro styling. Building what is basically a Flex, but taller and more SUV-styling-friendly should result in a ton of sales.

      The purpose of the vehicle is to make a comfortable people mover that can still tow a decent amount (at 4500 lbs capacity it will handle most people’s needs) that still gets good fuel economy and is styled such that mainstream American won’t reject it without giving it a fair shot.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I love the Flex, but whenever I mention it, my wife asks, “Is that the Ford that looks like a hearse?”

      Given her reaction to the Flex, there is no way that we will ever buy one.

      For whatever reason, women do not like it.

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      @geeber

      So true. I was ready to write a check for a Flex, but my wife, who loved everything else about it, said “it looks too much like a guy’s car, like a truck”. So…no Flex. We settled for the – yawn – Taurus X (our first domestic car, ever).

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      @NulloModo: There is much reason to expect this 2.0 won’t be reliable. Does HSC Taurus mean anything to you?

      It does to me. I spent every other day of my 16th year on this planet broken-down in that comfortably-sitting, handsomely-designed grenade of an automobile. My Brother’s Aries K was more reliable.

      I realize this is a decade later on an old car even then, but the question mark is still there. Ford will end any and all upward momentum if these cars suck like the HSC Taurus did. It really wasn’t totally teh suck. Just the engine, transmission, cooling, A/C, engine-management and mounting systems, along with the power steering pump.

      All in all, it was nothing a 16 year-old working at Taco Bell couldn’t handle… by buying a Dodge-branded replacement :)

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      “The purpose of the vehicle is to make a comfortable people mover that can still tow a decent amount (at 4500 lbs capacity it will handle most people’s needs) that still gets good fuel economy and is styled such that mainstream American won’t reject it without giving it a fair shot.”

      So rather than re-skin the silly looking Flex…they are developing a whole new vehicle?

      If that’s true…NOTHING has changed at Ford Motor. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

      And you assertion that the Flex *should* be outselling the Lambda’s is hysterical. The Lambdas haul more, they get the same mileage, they tow more, and they haul more people.

      The Flex is a perfect example of what I have been saying for a long time. You can’t design a poor vehicle and expect it to sell due to all kinds of electronic gimmicks. And not only is the Flex not selling, it’s been a colossal failure. Has it broken the 100K mark YET???

    • 0 avatar
      Runfromcheney

      If the EcoBoost proves to be unreliable, then hey, good for me since I am studying to be a Ford mechanic; I am entering Ford’s ASSET training program this fall.

      As per the Flex, I still believe it is really a full sized station wagon, and Ford just bills it as a crossover because they know if the ads said, “Check out the new Flex station wagon!”, they wouldn’t sell a single one. Besides, have you even sat in a Flex? Controversial styling aside, it is a very solid and well-done vehicle. Ford of course overstated their sales goals because they must have falsely believed that either the styling would catch on, or that people would look past it and consider the true virtues that lie underneath. They were wrong.

      I haven’t driven a Lambda, but I have sat in the Traverse and I don’t think the interior quality is even close to the Flex. The panels were poorly fitted and all the materials felt really grainy, as well as looking bland. IMO, the Flex is much better.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Regarding the Lambdas, while technically capable of seating 8, that third row has such limited room it is barely fit for two. More importantly, all three rows of the Flex are not only fit for adults, but comfortable for 6′ adults for extended trips. Every row in the Flex has more space than the Lambda crossovers.

      Yes, the Lambdas have slightly higher towing specs, but the 4500 lbs on the Flex is more than enough for most people. Actually, I have yet to see a trailer behind a Flex or a Lambda, so obviously people aren’t buying either with towing in mind.

      Finally, the electronics in the Flex are hardly gimmicks. Technology sells cars, and the technology in the Flex is integrated and polished many times over that of the GM crossovers. The Flex is also hardly a failure, sales are up month to month, and while it isn’t selling 100K units a month, it doesn’t have to to be profitable. It’s a premium vehicle that commands a premium price. Ford hasn’t laid huge incentives on it, so that alone shows that they are happy to sell a few less and make money on them.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Looks like someone enormous sat on the roof & flattened it.

    I would think for a 4 cylinder to be effective, a more aerodynamic shape would be in order. Turbo-charging, direct injection etc. will grow a lot of horsepower but torque is what you want to get this thing moving; the excessive weight can’t come off fast enough.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      I’m going to repeat myself. Turbos can generate a lot of TORQUE across a broad range of revs. Check out torque claims from any of the current turbo engines.

      Another way to look at turbos is that they can cram a lot of displacement into a smaller package. It used to be that the turbines could only be tuned to narrower rev ranges which either left the motors with no top end (my Colt turbo)or no torque off the line (ie. my Saab 900), but modern turbos can do it all (ie. GTI 2.0T HP=200 @ 5100 – 6000rpm, Torque=207 @ 1700 – 5000rpm).

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Turbos don’t help at the extreme low end of the RPM range. Good ones come on fairly early, but not so much as, say, an electric motor or a plain ol’ big-displacement engine would. That “broad range” still has step way down low.

      Bad ones (which come on way past 1500rpm and spin up slowly) actually got better fuel economy, if I recall.

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      Psarhjinian:

      What’s your take on turbo-charging long term? My fear has always been excessive heat and premature failure; compression chamber, valves, etc. Agreee with you on low-end nothingness and thus my post.

      Thx.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      I’m not Parshjinian, but my ’88 Saab 900 was going strong at 235000km (145,000miles)on its original turbo, and a friend of mine had 325000 (200,miles) on his when I last saw it. I think that the majority of big trucks are turboed – so it’s definitely a mature and reliable technology (and no shortage of off idle torque – though this may be due to their extreme gearing).

      The Saab used water cooled turbo bearings, and I expect they all do now. Either that or they’ve improved bearing technology since then. Regular oil changes with quality oil are required, but anyone expecting long mileage out of their vehicle should be doing this anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @rpol35: I had a Dodge Lancer Turbo with 2.2 and 5 speed for 10 years and 165,000 miles. I changed the dino oil religiously at 3500 miles and never once had a problem with the turbo. The turbo on that motor was oil and water cooled, the coolant line feeding the turbo developed a pinhole leak by the compression fitting, causing me to go through a head gasket prematurely. Once those two issues were cleared up, smooth sailing for the duration.

      I would think with the cheaper synthetics that are available now, one could reasonably run a turbo in average service for 200K miles, no issue.

  • avatar
    NN

    I was under the impression that this was going to be much smaller than the Flex…more of an Equinox competitor than a Traverse. Similar packaging size to the current Explorer, which actually has fairly decent room in the 3rd row for small kids. That makes sense to me. Yes, the Edge kind of sits there now, but the Explorer I think has a much greater chance at succeeding…the Edge isn’t packaged very well (too rounded for 3rd row), and the styling is awkward. If the Explorer improves on the Edge’s shortcomings, maintains a small semblance of off-road ability (just snowy roads and maybe a beach is all that people would expect), then I think it could be a hit.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    What is Ford trying to do here? Offer a record number of similarly configured pansy cute utes that can’t do jack shit off road? And how many people do they expect to purchase a noisy revvy 4 banger in something this big, about 5 a year? And could it be any more obvious that this is a Taurus X with an Edge front tacked on?

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Very few people actually take Explorers off-road.

      The 4-cylinder will appeal to those who don’t want to spend $40k on an SUV, but still have most of the utility they offer. Towing a camper will go off the list, but grocery runs in the snow will remain.

  • avatar
    noreserve

    Holy shit, my eyes! That’s Mitsubishi-ugly there. Just damn…

  • avatar
    JMII

    Ford if your listening: V6 Eco-boost Ranger-sized pickup please. If not I’m keeping my Dakota V8 forever, it has the right size & right power – just miserable mileage. The F150 is TOO big!

    As for a boosted 4 in the Explorer – if it was a diesel then maybe… but the only way a turbo 4 would work is in an Escape-sized CUV. So why not try to hit the MPG out of the park: combine a diesel turbo 4 with the current Escape Hybrid?

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    Everyone – relax. The vehicle in the pic is a test mule – Flex front clip, Taurus X from the A-pillar back. The new Explorer will look nothing like this. This pic, and many others, have been floating around different auto sites for a few months.


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