February 18, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Ford (turbo)charges ahead with refreshed Expedition

Ford in 2009 began producing its first EcoBoost engine and on Tuesday introduced its refreshed Expedition full-size SUV with a standard 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, due out in late 2014. (Ford Motor Co.)

By the end of the year, all gas-powered Ford Motor Co. brand cars, crossovers and sport-utility nameplates in the U.S. will have at least one EcoBoost powertrain option, solidifying Ford’s bet on its patented engine software.

Ford in 2009 began producing its first EcoBoost engine — a marriage of direct-injection, turbocharging, variable camshaft timing and proprietary Ford software — and on Tuesday introduced its refreshed Expedition full-size SUV with a standard 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, due out in late 2014.

When it debuts, all Ford nameplates, aside from the hybrid-only C-Max and the soon-to-be-defunct E-Series vans, either come standard with EcoBoost or have at least one of the engine offerings.

“The number of vehicles that customers are buying off of our dealer’s lots with EcoBoost engines is proof that our strategy is working,” said Raj Nair, Ford’s product development chief. “We’re making progress toward our Blueprint for Sustainability to increase fuel efficiency and EcoBoost is a major part of that Blueprint.”

The allure of EcoBoost is that drivers can attain better fuel efficiency and performance compared to conventional engines, although outlets such as Consumer Reports have criticized EcoBoost for not meeting fuel efficiency and performance expectations. EcoBoost engines cost more than conventional engines, but have a payback period — the time it takes an owner to recoup the added cost through fuel savings — that is four times faster than diesels.

Joe Bakaj, Ford of Europe’s vice president of product development and former vice president of powertrain engineering, said last September he envisions a day when conventional gas engines could disappear as an option on Ford vehicles in favor engines like EcoBoost, which are turbocharged.

“At some point in the future, that will be an option,” Bakaj said. He said that hybrid vehicles, which have conventional gas engines and electric motors, would be exceptions.

The reveal of the refreshed Expedition, which debuted Tuesday at the DFW Auto Show in Dallas — Dallas and Houston are the top two markets for Expedition sales — comes about a month after Ford debuted a refreshed Lincoln Navigator, which is built on the same platform as the Expedition.

Aside from the standard 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, which replaces the current 5.4-liter V-8, the Expedition will have three drive modes: comfort, normal and sport. Sensors will detect body, steering and braking inputs, and the suspension will adjust the damping system and change the Expedition’s body movements. The Expedition remains the industry’s only non-luxury full-size utility vehicle with an independent rear suspension, Ford says.

Ford is also adding new trim levels to the Expedition, including Platinum — which aims for a “fresh and sophisticated” look — and King Ranch, which are both available on Ford’s F-Series trucks. Limited and XLT trims will also be options. Outside, the Expedition has a new, more aggressive-looking grille, a new back hatch and standard 22-inch wheels.

The Expedition will improve upon its current 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque, though Ford is not yet releasing specific figures. Ford will announce fuel efficiency figures and pricing at a later date.

khenkel@detroitnews.com
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