DEARBORN, MICH. – Ford is making fuel efficiency a top priority in its 2013 lineup. By year's end the company will offer eight vehicles that with fuel consumption ratings of 5.9 litres/100 km or less (40 miles per U.S. gallon or more).
The company says that’s more vehicles with that level of efficiency than General Motors and Toyota have in their fleets combined.
In fact, Ford’s products have posted double-digit improvement in fuel efficiency since 2007.
For example, the compact Focus has improved its highway fuel efficiency 21%, while the new mid-size Fusion, making its debut this fall, is expected to show a 28%-improvement.
Adding the new 2.0-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder to the full-size Taurus family sedan’s engine choices will boost its fuel efficiency 27%, while the all-new Escape and Explorer crossovers can boast of 32% and 40% efficiency improvements, respectively.
Even the sporty Mustang (24%) and the iconic F-150 truck lineup (21%) are more fuel- efficient.
More electric power
Ford is also stepping up its plans for alternative power, with six electrified vehicles in its lineup by 2013, including the new C-MAX hybrid, and tripling electrified vehicle production capacity.
New transmissions, too, are contributing to reduced fuel consumption, with six-speed gearboxes (manual and automatic) now available in every car Ford builds.
Another fuel-saving device, electric power assist steering, will be standard on 75 per cent of its lineup.
Aerodynamics, which plays a significant role in fuel consumption, particularly at highway speeds, is being improved as new models are introduced. For example, the 2013 Fusion, hitting the streets later this year, will be 10% slipperier than the current iteration, while the aerodynamics of the new Escape are 12 %better than the previous generation.
"Fuel efficiency is now the prime reason consumers are buying Ford products," Mark Fields, Ford president of the Americas, told a group of automotive media attending a preview of the company’s 2013 lineup at the company’s proving grounds here.
"Our research shows Americans are driving 35% less than they did less than a year ago due to higher fuel costs," Fields said. To help combat those rising costs, he said his company is committed to delivering vehicles that consume less fuel, while continuing to offer optimum driving pleasure.
Ford’s new EcoBoost engine technology is one of its key strategies in the drive to improve fuel efficiency. It uses turbocharging to help give smaller-displacement engines big-bore muscle while requiring less fuel.
In its 2013 product portfolio, seven vehicles will have the smallest displacement engines in their respective segments. By next year, EcoBoost engines will be powering about 1.6 million Ford vehicles globally, about 100,000 units ahead of original targets.
An application of this technology can be found in the 2013 Taurus, which offers a 2.0-litre four-cylinder as an engine option ($1,000) on SE and SEL trim packages with front-wheel drive.
Fitted with this engine, Ford’s flagship full-size family sedan will have a class-leading fuel consumption rating of 9.2 L/100 km in city driving and 6.2 on the highway. Ford says the Taurus 2.0 is more efficient than three of its top competitors: the Chevy Impala, Chrysler 300 or Toyota Avalon, and its combined rating (7.7 L/100 km) beats the Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetec diesel, Toyota Camry V-6 and Porsche Cayenne Hybrid.
On the road
In a drive on roads near the Dearborn proving grounds, the Taurus 2.0 proved it’s no slouch, despite the small-displacement engine. This four-banger generates 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque and it partners well with the six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission to get the most out of the powertrain’s output.
The Taurus was able to accelerate with vigour – in fact, I inadvertently (and unexpectedly) chirped the tires outhustling a Chevy from a stoplight. The car was equally adept at accelerating into traffic on a freeway, where passing power was readily available on demand.
In highway cruising, it purred along quietly without effort. Overall, the Taurus 2.0 seemed more than capable of meeting most drivers’ needs for performance while still delivering impressive fuel economy.
"Ford understands people want fuel-efficient vehicles but they don’t want to sacrifice power, cargo space or convenience preferences to get them," said Raj Nair, vice-president of engineering for global product development. "Taurus fuel economy showcases Ford’s success in developing smaller yet more powerful engines for its larger vehicles."
To satisfy consumer preferences, the 2013 Taurus, which has a base price of $28,799 in SE trim with front-wheel drive, is offered with two other engine options – both still delivering impressive fuel efficiency.
The base 3.5-litre V-6 engine has been updated with twin independent variable camshaft timing, adding 25 horsepower plus a slight gain in efficiency compared to the previous base V6. For high-performance enthusiasts, the SHO (Super High Output) sport sedan retains its 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6 producing 365 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque.
The EcoBoost family of engines continues to grow. Ford provided an opportunity to try out its 1.0-litre three-cylinder during this media preview. This mighty-mite motor is already available in the European version of the Focus, where it was just named the 2012 International Engine of the Year.
It’s the smallest, quietest engine Ford has built, yet its 123 horses delivered impressive performance in the US-spec Focus I tested here. Ford is staying mum on its plans for this engine on this side of the Atlantic, other than to confirm it will be offered here "in a small car next year."
Two EcoBoost engines are also being offered in the all-new 2013 Escape compact SUV, and both were available for evaluation here. The 1.6-litre four-cylinder had decent power when it was driven hard around a twisty circuit on the proving grounds, but the 2.0-litre engine really stepped up the performance level.
The Escape with this powerplant pulled hard out of tight corners and seemed willing to spool up without effort, although the course layout didn’t allow for any high-speed driving.
There was also a hands-on comparison of the performance capabilities of the 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6 and a 5.3-litre Chevy V-8. A drag-racing exercise pitted a Ford F-150 pickup and a Chevy Silverado, both with a 450 kg (1,000-lb) payload in the truck bed.
The Ford outhustled the Chevy every time, regardless of who was behind the wheel. Its initial launch was far quicker, thanks to the six-speed tranny, versus the Chevy’s four-speed box, and it kept building its advantage through the final timing trap.
New Fusion & C-Max
We also had a quick peek at the new Fusion, which goes on sale this fall. Former Ford of Canada president Dave Mondragon, now the marketing boss for Ford U.S., said the new Fusion will offer the broadest range of engines in the model’s history.
Customers will be able to choose from a pure electric powertrain or a plug-in hybrid system, as well as a choice of two gasoline engines – a 1.6-litre four-cylinder and a 2.0-litre four, both with EcoBoost.
The new Fusion will also feature front-wheel or all-wheel drive and automatic or manual transmissions. "This new Fusion will raise the bar in the mid-size segment," he said.
On display, but not available for evaluation, was the 2013 C-MAX hybrid utility vehicle, which is expected to deliver fuel efficiency of 5.0 L/100 km. That’s better than the Toyota Prius V hybrid. The C-Max, which goes on sale this fall, will also have 50 more horsepower than the Prius V, with more performance and technology.
Ford says its 2013 product lineup is the freshest in the industry, but it vows to continue introducing new models. Using its One Ford global strategy, the company will trim the number of distinct vehicle platforms from 22 in 2011 to just 10 by 2017.
It says 80 per cent of the vehicles it will build in 2016 will be based on just five global platforms. It’s a strategy that will enable Ford to bring new products to the marketplace faster and respond more quickly to shifting consumer preferences – such as better fuel efficiency.