RICK KRANZ

Will consumers pay a premium for fuel economy and utility?

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News
UPDATED: 7/26/10 6:50 pm ET How much are buyers willing to pay for better fuel economy?

$1,000?

Ford is touting the fuel economy in the redesigned 2011 Ford Explorer. For buyers that choose the new EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, at least a 30 percent increase in fuel economy is promised by Ford. Ford is still tinkering with the engine's calibration and won't reveal until later this year the city and highway mpg numbers. The engine won't be a slouch — an estimated 237 hp and 250 pounds-feet of torque.

The engine uses turbocharging, direct injection and other technologies to boost horsepower and fuel economy.

Ford hasn't announced pricing for the Explorer's Eco four-banger.

Based on information from a Ford dealer, an earlier version of this blog suggested that Ford might charge $3,500 for the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder on the 2011 Explorer. Ford executives at the Dearborn unveiling today would not reveal the pricing strategy.

But Mark Fields, Ford's chief for the Americas, told reporters in Los Angeles that the premium for the EcoBoost four-cylinder option in the Explorer will be in the $1,000 range.

The 2010 Explorer does not offer a four-cylinder. Ford's 30 percent mpg comes from comparing the new engine to the base 4.0-liter V-6 engine that is standard in the 2010 Explorer, which tallies 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. That engine is discontinued. So a 30 percent increase over that engine would mean an estimated 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway for the four-banger. Pretty impressive numbers.

Ford no longer offers a V-8 in the Explorer. The standard engine is the new 3.5-liter V-6, which Ford says will get 20 percent better fuel economy than the outgoing V-6. That would mean about 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

So, for $1,000, if that's the option price, the four-banger would offer an estimated 2 mpg over the standard V-6 in the city and 2 mpg over the standard V-6 on the highway.

It still seems like a pricey option for such a small gain in mpg, especially if gasoline prices stay in the $3-per-gallon neighborhood.

Tags: Ford Explorer

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