2012 Ford Explorer

The 2012 Ford Explorer will soon hit dealer show rooms. Since this is only the second model year of the transformed unibody Explorer, the model will see only minor changes. However, one big change is the addition of a new turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, making its first appearance for Ford. The engine will later be offered in the Ford Flex and other Ford/Lincoln models.

The 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine produces 240 horsepower and an impressive 270 pound-feet of torque. While this is 50 less horsepower than the standard 3.5-liter 290 horsepower V6 engine, the turbocharged four does offer about 15 more pound feet of torque and is lighter in weight.

While the engine will add more pep to the model, towing capacity is sacrificed by the smaller engine. The Explorer EcoBoost is expected to have a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds where as the normally aspirated V6 has a 5,000 pound capacity. Expect the Explorer EcoBoost to have a 0-60 time of about seven seconds.

The EcoBoost engine is rated at 20-mpg city and 28-mpg highway in the Explorer. This is 3-mpg better in city and highway driving than the normally aspirated front-wheel drive V6 Explorer. While not a large disparity, the 28-mpg highway figure does put the three-row, 7-seat crossover it in close competition with smaller compact SUVs such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

In terms of fuel efficiency in its class, the EcoBoost engine lags hybrids. The comparably sized 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is rated at 28-mpg city and 28-mpg highway with all-wheel drive although that model does have a starting MSRP of $38,140. The 2011 Explorer XLT 4WD has a starting MSRP of $33,520.

Ford will offer the Explorer EcoBoost in front-wheel drive form only. Those seeking all-wheel drive will have to go with a V6 Explorer. Also, despite its smaller size, the EcoBoost will be a modest up charge from a comparable front-wheel drive V6 Explorer although pricing has not been officially announced.

The 2011 Explorer has been a hit for Ford as it sold more than 65,000 units in the first half of 2011. The body-on-frame 2010 Explorer, with its fuel economy rating of 14-mpg city and 20-mpg highway in front-wheel drive trims, sold less than that amount in its full final year. The 2011 Explorer was also named truck of the year at the 2011 North American International Auto Show.

The 2012 Explorer is being assembled in Chicago, Illinois. It goes on sale this fall. Those seeking a more powerful engine may want to consider the EcoBoost V6 offered in the 2012 Ford Flex. The 355 horsepower engine is an option on Flex SEL, Limited, and Titanium models.

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