First Drive: 2011 Ford Edge EcoBoost
And So Begins the Reign of the 2.0-Liter EcoBoost
If the automotive outsider were to take a casual peek into Ford's product strategy, they'd probably think EcoBoost were the savior of the Blue Oval kingdom. Ledgers would be filled with scrawls of the word "EcoBoost." Planning posters would show the proliferation of the EcoBoost engine family in the United States and around the world. In this paragraph alone, you can't avoid thinking about EcoBoost.
Ford invited us to the outskirts of the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, recently to try out the latest member of the EcoBoost family. The family-hauling Edge is one of the first two Fords in the U.S. (the 2011 Explorer is the other) with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost, the next size down from the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that's been leaving its mark in the Flex, Taurus SHO, and F-150.
The key piece to this EcoBoost operation (and achieving Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements) is shoehorned into the gloss-black Edge: the direct-injected, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. Estimated output is 230 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, and this four-cylinder with forced induction and twin independent variable camshaft timing is expected to provide comparable performance to a naturally aspirated V-6 with more displacement. The transmission is the regular, non-SelectShift six-speed automatic.
There's precious little official information in terms of specifications, given the powertrain's preproduction state, but initial driving impressions are solid. The engine was in need of fine-tuning, with developmental issues such as delayed throttle response from a stop. The front-wheel-drive midsize crossover exhibited abnormally resistant steering that mimicked the loss of power steering. An alarming amount of torque steer was evident at speeds as low as 25-30 mph, but the ride itself was subdued and appropriately damped for comfort.
The good news comes for those who intend to mostly drive in a straight line. At speed, depressing the gas pedal delivers a linear surge of power that's difficult to discern from the Edge's currently available, base 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, even with four occupants onboard. Being able to immediately dig into the torque band was a critical concern for the engineers, especially for a vehicle expected to push 4000 pounds without the kids and sports equipment in the back.
Even more importantly, the engine drinks 87-octane gas and the turbocharger is expected to last many miles without needing dedicated engine idling periods just before shutdown. The Edge's controls system continue to pump the cooling system's coolant/water mixture through water jackets in the turbo's center housing rotating assembly to siphon heat until a predetermined temperature is reached, no matter when the crossover was shut off. This should effectively cool the very hot-running turbo, which can spin its wheels up to 170,000 rpm and measure as hot as 1740 degrees Fahrenheit during peak operation, to the point where engine oil coking is no longer a serious worry.
To those unfamiliar with the old order of the turbo, coking is when carbon deposits form in the engine, and Ford has addressed the potential problem in order to promote the daily-use turbocharger. The American family with a hectic lifestyle will surely benefit from the enhanced reliability and peace-of-mind that the Edge won't need extra babysitting.
For our comfort and convenience, the EcoBoost test mill is paired with the amenities of the Edge Limited. This model is fitted with all the goodies, including the aesthetically charming MyFord Touch with Sync and a Sony sound system with HD radio. It's business as usual from the cabin, with the normal Edge ride position and digitized gauge cluster, although we kept hearing a slight whistle around the passenger side C-pillar over 40 mph, which was strange considering the body appeared to be completely unmodified. We chalked it up to the preproduction status.
Now here's the fun part: fuel economy. The EcoBoost four-cylinder is expected to crest the 30-mpg mark on the highway, but the exact figures are unknown. Fuel efficiency is expected to improve from 10 to 20 percent over the 3.5-liter V-6 (19 city/26 highway mpg), which would put the city number from 21 to 23 mpg and highway from 29 to 31 mpg with front-wheel drive. The Edge's SelectShift auto (normally standard on Limited) nets an extra mpg on the highway and would presumably do the same if joined to the inline-four.
The 2.0-liter EcoBoost engines will be imported from Valencia, Spain, for the time being, so we wouldn't be surprised to see the same $995 premium currently being applied to the new Explorer.
And it's a good thing the Edge has been able to sustain itself in the Ford lineup during its time on the market. While the Explorer possesses a certain rugged heritage and name recognition (but where a four-cylinder may not be welcome), the more urban-directed Edge could see a nice EcoBoost take rate thanks to customers ready to welcome turbo technology into the family.
|2011 Ford Edge EcoBoost|
|Base price||$32,000 (MT est)|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door midsize SUV|
|Engine||2.0L/230-hp (est)/250-lb-ft (est) turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|Curb weight||4000 lb (MT est)|
|Length x width x height||184.2 x 76.0 x 67.0 in|
|0-60 mph||7.5 sec (MT est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||23/31 mpg (MT est)|
|CO2 emissions||0.75 lb/mile (est)|
|On sale in U.S.||Summer 2011|