Trucks are normally the news at the Chicago auto show and Ford continued that theme — sort of. Ford rolled out the refreshed 2011 Edge crossover SUV with the upgrades seen previously on the Lincoln MKX introduced at the Detroit show plus a taxi cab version and the production battery electric version of the Transit Connect commercial delivery van. The 2011 Edge will mark the debut of the 2.0-liter four-cylinder, direct-injected, turbocharged Ecoboost engine, an engine the company says will provide a 15 percent improvement in fuel economy compared to a similarly powerful conventional engine. The Edge will also be available with a pair of V6 engines — a 285-hp version of the 3.5-liter engine used currently in the Edge, and the 305-hp 3.7-liter V6 previously announced for the 2011 Mustang.
So far, customer demand for the current V6 Ecoboost products has exceeded the company’s expectations, according to Mark Fields, Ford president of the Americas. Eventually Ecoboost engines will account for 750,000 vehicles a year, and the company will offer the technology in 90 percent of its models by 2013. Two-thirds of those engines will be the new 2.0-liter version appearing in the Edge. The promised 15 percent improvement in fuel economy would yield fuel economy ratings of 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.
The Edge also gains the cool LCD instrument display and My Ford touch controls previously seen in the Lincoln MKX and iron-pumpingly muscular front sheet metal.
The electric Transit Connect looks unchanged from the gas version, but it will offer the ability to drive as far as 80 miles per charge of its under-floor lithium ion battery pack. The van will go on sale before the end of the year for a price the company says will be “competitive” with similar battery electric products.
With plans to discontinue its ubiquitous Crown Victoria, Ford needs a replacement for taxi fleets and it will offer the Transit Connect to fulfill that role. The rear seat is moved back three inches to improve legroom as well as ingress and egress. Big news for fleet operators is the availability of a compressed natural gas or propane conversion that will let them take advantage of those clean, domestically produced fuels.