Why the EcoBoost 4-banger is going to be a hit -- but it won't be for everyone

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

Ford’s message with its EcoBoost four-cylinder 2012 Explorer and Edge is that the engine offers good fuel economy and the performance of a V-6, but not all buyers will want it.

The engine will be offered as a $995 option on both vehicles this fall. Ford’s 285-hp 3.5-liter V-6 is standard in the Edge and a 290-hp version is standard in the Explorer.

The 2.0-liter engine combines small displacement with a turbocharger and direct injection. Horsepower is rated at 240, with 270 pounds feet of torque.

I think most drivers will be pleasantly surprised with this engine.

Speaking at a Ford event today, Amy Marentic, Ford group marketing manager, said “36 percent of customers are purchasing Explorer because of fuel economy. It was only 6 percent back in 2007.”

The 2012 Explorer is rated at 28 mpg on the highway and 20 in the city with the four-cylinder engine. The lighter-weight Edge pulls 30 mpg on the highway and 21 in the city.

But the small four banger wouldn’t be all things to all people.

“This EcoBoost engine is not for everyone, it has a distinct place in the Explorer lineup and in the Edge lineup,” says Marentic. “If you want to go off road or if you enjoy towing your boat, you are going to absolutely want the 3.5- liter V-6.

"But if you drive back and forth to work everyday, take the kids to school, this is a perfect engine for you.”

My first impression with a limited amount of driving today at Ford’s test facility in Romeo, Mich., is that the EcoBoost four banger will more than meet the needs of suburban drivers. Ford delivered on its promise to create a powerful, fuel efficient new engine.

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