The phrases “fuel efficient” and “seven-passenger SUV” used to be mutually exclusive. Sure, many manufacturers build seven-seat models, but most return fuel economy below 25 mpg on the highway. Ford promised to do better with its 2.0-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine option on the 2012 Ford Explorer, and that engine will deliver class-leading fuel economy, according to the company and the EPA.

The EPA rates the 2.0-liter EcoBoost Ford Explorer at 28 mpg highway, which beats the rival Honda Pilot and Jeep Grand Cherokee by 5 mpg, or better than 20 percent. Its closest rival, the Toyota Highlander, still gives up 3 mpg in highway fuel economy to the Explorer.

Buyers opting for the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine won’t be sacrificing horsepower, either. The EcoBoost-equipped Explorer is rated at 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, and the torque peak occurs at just 3,300 rom. By comparison, Ford’s 3.5-liter V-6, the other Explorer engine option, delivers 50 more horsepower but gives up 15 lb-ft of torque to the EcoBoost engine.

If there’s a downside to the EcoBoost Explorer, it’s in towing capacity and available configurations. The 3.5-liter V-6 Explorer is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, but the EcoBoost Explorer is rated for only 2,000 pounds. If you need all-wheel drive, you can’t get it with the EcoBoost engine, which comes on front-wheel-drive Explorers only.

Still, the EcoBoost engine is an attractive option for those who need seven-passenger seating and don’t use their vehicle for towing or back-country exploring. While 28 mpg highway isn’t exactly hybrid fuel economy, Ford deserves praise for doing what they can to promote fuel efficiency across the product line, including building SUVs like the EcoBoost Explorer and Escape Hybrid.

[Ford via The Car Connection]

 

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