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Ford premium price for EcoBoost

Celebrity launch: Ford president Alan Mullaly gets some help from TV's Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe at the Ford Explorer unveiling in New York.

New four-cylinder Explorer hints at price premium for fuel-saving Falcon

Ford logo30 Jul 2010

By MATHIEU RAUDONIKIS

FORD reportedly will charge a premium for the fuel-saving EcoBoost four-cylinder version of its new-generation American Explorer SUV over the more powerful but thirstier V6 standard model.

The pricing policy for the EcoBoost Explorer in the US raises questions over the price plans for Ford Australia’s EcoBoost Falcon which is set to arrive on the Australian market in 2011 with the identical 176kW 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that will also appear in the European Mondeo from August.

While Ford has not yet announced the price of the EcoBoost variant of the Explorer, which was launched across the US this week, Bloomberg quotes Explorer's chief engineer Jim Holland as saying: “We really want to make a statement that the old baggage on fuel economy with the Explorer is gone.

“To get great fuel economy it takes technology, and it's our view that people will pay for that.”

Bloomberg has interpreted that to mean that to mean that Ford is planning to charge extra for the EcoBoost technology, as it does already in its Ford Flex EcoBoost V6 range.

In Australia, the EcoBoost engine will slot into the Falcon sedan range alongside the 4.0-litre in-line six-cylinder variants, which currently start at $36,950 for the XR50 50th anniversary model.

Holden’s most fuel-efficient Commodore, the 3.0-litre SIDI V6, lines up at $39,990 – the likely target price for the EcoBoost version that, like the 3.0-litre Commodore, will be aimed at fleets looking to cut fuel costs.

27 center imageThe EcoBoost Falcon, however, will have a significant fuel advantage, returning a combined consumption figures of about 8.5 litres per 100km compared with 3.0-litre Commodore’s 9.3L/100km and 3.5-litre Toyota Aurion’s 9.9L/100km.

With Ford’s Australia’s Territory SUV about to be updated in 2011 with a new 2.7-litre TDV6 diesel engine, the American Explorer is unlikely to return to local showrooms anytime soon.

Ford took the wraps off its all-new Explorer via social networking website Facebook before a multi-city launch roll-out across the US.

The 2011 Explorer dispenses with the truck-like frame chassis of previous models, instead being built on the lighter, monocoque platform of the front-drive Ford Taurus – the car that is expected to provide the base of the next-generation Ford Falcon in Australia.

Also gone is the traditional V8, as Ford addresses the fuel-sucking reputation that it says put many buyers off the big four-wheel drive in the past.

Ford is yet to release fuel consumption figures for the new Explorer except to say the new V6 will deliver 20 per cent better economy than the current model V6 and the EcoBoost four will be a further 10 per cent better again.

Ford claims the EcoBoost’s fuel consumption akin to a US-spec Camry V6, making the Explorer more economical than key US competitors such as the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander (Kluger) V6.

As well as the benefits of the EcoBoost and updated V6 engines, the 2011 Explorer reduces fuel consumption with low-rolling resistance tyres, a more aerodynamic shape, weight reduction and electrically assisted power steering.

Explorer 3.5-litre V6 prices start at $US28,995 ($A30,007) for the two-wheel-drive (front-wheel-drive) model producing 216kW and 345Nm. All-wheel-drive is optional on base model and standard on XLT and Limited Explorers.

The turbocharged direct-injection EcoBoost engine produces 176kW at 5500rpm and 337Nm between 1750 and 4000rpm and will be an option on all three grades but only as a front-wheel-drive. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard on both engines.

The radical styling of the 2011 Explorer shares a lot with current Range Rover design.

The floating roof effect is created by blacked out pillars, just as it is on Range Rover, with the scalloped door panels and shape of the front guards being reminiscent of the Range Rover Sport.

The Explorer retains the forward-sloping C-pillar of previous models, whilst the three-bar grille clearly marks it as a modern Ford.

The console in the new Explorer features a ‘Terrain Management System’, much like Land Rover’s acclaimed Terrain Response dial that adapts the vehicle’s electronically-controlled chassis and drivetrain control systems to different road conditions such as sand, snow and mud. The TMS dial in Explorer also features a hill-descent function.

The similarities to Land Rover come as no surprise as Mr Holland served as chief engineer at Land Rover for three programs while the British marque was under Ford ownership.

“The new Explorer represents the democratisation of luxury SUV levels of style, craftsmanship, technology and capability,” said Mr Holland.

“Explorer’s terrain management system is a great example of high-end SUV technology – and the customer empowerment this technology enables – becoming much more broadly accessible.”

Along with its heavy-duty chassis, the Explorer has lost its low-range gearing for serious off-road use.

Ford’s vehicle engineering manager Todd Hoevener said the new model would still deliver the go-anywhere experience American SUV buyers expected.

“Our new Explorer is going to change consumer perceptions of what an SUV can be,” he said.

“The user-friendly and accessible capabilities of the intelligent 4WD terrain management system combined with significantly improved performance, handling and fuel economy will help our customers to more efficiently and confidently use their Explorers just as they have before.”

The Explorer was the subject of a major investigation in the US in the 1990s following a series of vehicle rollovers resulting in deaths and injuries.

On its Taurus based monocoque chassis, the 2011 Explorer should offer much improved handing and dynamics and will feature electronic traction and stability control, plus curve control – a new feature that automatically applies the brakes if it senses that the vehicle has enter a corner to quickly.

Front and side airbags are supplemented by industry-first inflating seatbelt bags in the second row seats. These are designed to spread the force of an accident and reduce chest head and neck injuries for passengers.

The Explorer can also be optioned with BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) taken from another former Ford brand, Volvo.

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