This may come as a surprise for many, but naturally aspirated engines lose up to 30% of their power in the Rocky Mountains. It depends on the altitude and how efficiently your vehicle burns gas, but regardless – if your vehicle sucks air without aid, it will produce less power here.
Supercharging and turbocharging mitigates the power loss.
I first sampled the EcoBoost a while back when I played with the Ford Flex and its six-cylinder EcoBoost engine. It was up in Boulder, Colorado. We drove all through the hills, did some towing and high speed canyon carving. To say the twin-turbo, direct injection engine woke up the, normally weak kneed Flex would be an understatement.
For some reason, Ford opted not to place this powerful V6 EcoBoost in the Explorer – but at least they used a 240 horsepower EcoBoost four-cylinder with a single turbocharger. It makes an excellent 270 lbs-feet of torque way down at 3,000 rpm. Combined with a six-speed automatic transmission, this front-wheel drive (FWD) only Explorer can get about 28 mpg on the highway.
For those of you who don’t need all-wheel drive (AWD) and want all of the amenities of the big Explorer including seven-passenger seating WITHOUT sacrificing much performance; this may be your ride. It’s no rocket ship, but the off the line speed is comparable to any competitor. You will only notice the lack of cylinders when pushing this Explorer up a hill with every seat filled. Even then, it should do quite well.
Check out the Denver Auto Examiner’s review of the 2011 Ford Explorer (Here).
Personally, I was more impressed with the Ford Edge and this engine. I liked the 240 hp EcoBoost in the 2012 Edge so much; I had to wonder why a V6 was even offered. I got an answer when Scott Makowski, Ford manager of North American four-cylinder powertrains, joined me for a spin in the EcoBoost 2.0 liter Edge. He explained that the V6 is good both for towing and AWD. Just like the Explorer with the EcoBoost four-cylinder – the Edge uses FWD which is channeled through a six-speed automatic.
Makowski, a guy who was definitely one of the smartest in the room during the Ford presentation at their Romeo proving grounds in Michigan, showed me one of the reasons for the EcoBoost’s smooth demeanor. Small washers with a spring-like bend, act as a cushion for the injection sprayers. You see, direct injection requires huge amounts of pressure from the injector sprayers. When they spray, they jump back making a clicking noise. To some, it sounds like lifter tap or even rod knock – which it’s obviously not.
Add balance shafts and good sound isolation to the mix and the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine is velvet smooth.
While the Ford Explorer felt able with its EcoBoost engine, the Edge felt downright lively. Power comes quickly and the torque remains at its maximum throughout a majority of the power-band. Put your foot down and the Edge with EcoBoost goes… right now. It never ran out of breath and given its lighter weight and lesser capacity weight, hills and passing should be no problem.
It incorporates a nifty shutter on the grill, closing automatically for better aerodynamics. It’s similar in concept to the Chevrolet Cruz ECO’s closing grill.
You may ask if folks in Colorado will like it. Well, the Edge can get 30 mpg and the Explorer up to 28 mpg highway. Despite being turbos, they do not require expensive premium gas. Prices have yet to be announced, but expect a mild premium over the V6 FWD models.
Are there drawbacks? Not with the engine, other than no availability with AWD. I’m still not a fan of Ford’s electric power steering system with an over-boosted lack of feel either. I suppose most people don’t want or need a lot of feel when driving a crossover.
All in all, I think there are quite a few folks in the Rocky Mountains who don’t want the extra drag of AWD and welcome the idea of a higher bodied vehicle with good power and lots of capability.
I will keep you updated.