As we're in the midst of a trend that equates green with cool, just about every automaker is showcasing ecologically-minded concepts at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. (Thank you Lamborghini for bucking the trend ... vehicles in their display are powered by gasoline gulping V10s and V12s.)
Wisely supporting the green trend, Ford Motor Company chose to combine two important concepts in the debut of a single vehicle, the Explorer America. Compared to Ford's current SUV champ (the regular production Explorer), the America concept is smaller, lighter, more efficient and more refined. Moving away from traditional truck-like body-on-frame construction, the America is a lighter-weight unitized design. The styling may be a hint at what a future Explorer might look like.
But even more important than the styling is what's under the America's short hood. The V6 engine debuts a combination of technologies that delivers the fuel economy of a 4-cylinder with the power punch of a big V8. Here are the highlights of the technology that Ford will roll out in the 2009 Lincoln MKS luxury sedan; the so-called Eco-Boost engine features turbocharging and direct-injection.
Readers with some automotive background know that turbocharging has been around over 100 years and that direct-injection style fuel injection is also not new. Diesel engines have positioned fuel injectors within the combustion chambers for several years. However, for the first time, Ford has combined these two features on a gasoline engine. The result is an affordable line of 4- and 6-cylinder engines that deliver excellent economy, reduced emissions, and impressive power.
The 3.5-liter Gasoline Turbo Direct Injection V6 in the Explorer America is claimed to produce 340 horsepower, more than the base 4.6-liter V8 in a Ford F-150 pickup truck. Ford also pointed out that while a GTDI engine is more expensive than a similar engine without GTDI, it's a technology that will pay for itself. Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president in charge of Global Product Development told us, "The EcoBoost technology is affordable. Compared with the current cost of diesel and hybrid technologies, customers can expect to recoup their initial investment in a 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine through fuel economy savings in approximately 30 months. A diesel will take the average driver 7.5 years to save enough on fuel to pay for the option, while the cost of a hybrid will take nearly 12 years of driving to recoup."
While we understand the concept of saving fuel and money, we're not exactly sure what the Explorer America's implies. Perhaps this is what Captain America would drive ... after all, there's plenty of room in this 6-passenger mid-size SUV for his shield and other members of the Justice League. Regarding names, we'd actually like to see the return of the Bronco nameplate. But we'd still let Captain America drive if he asked nicely.