As Ford’s entry-level SUV, the Ford Escape, has been on the market with only a handful of changes for a decade now, but Ford has big plans for its compact crossover for the 2012 model year. Unveiled this morning at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the 2011 Ford Vertrek Concept is a thinly disguised version of what the next-generation SUV will look like when it debuts later in the year although it still isn’t clear whether or not the Escape nameplate will carry over. As a part of the One Ford Plan, in addition to the North American SUV, the Vertrek is also a look at the replacement for the European Ford Kuga.
Compared to the boxy Escape that debuted at the height of the SUV craze, the Vertrek Concept features a more aerodynamic styling and Ford’s European kinetic design language. The trapezoidal grille, flared wheel arches and rising beltline are all a part of the Vertrek’s styling, and help to give it a more modern and aggressive look. Overall, the Vertrek has a look similar to something that Audi might come up with which says plenty for the elegance and sportiness of this design. One of the coolest elements of the Vertrek Concept is the stylish hood that looks like it was fashioned after a cowl-inducted hood from a classic muscle car. Of course, the pillar-less door windows and slim panoramic roof panel are concept-only features, but they both give the Vertrek a unique look. Helping maintain the sporty proportions of the Vertrek’s design, it has a longer wheelbase and overall length than the Escape (6.7 inches and 3.8 inches, respectively) and it is 2.7 inches wider. It is also longer and wider than the Kuga.
“The Ford Vertrek concept is inspired by contemporary compact sport utility customers’ expectations and aspirations,” said J Mays, group vice president, Design, and chief creative officer. “It unites stylish design, world-class craftsmanship and outstanding capability to present a fresh vision that we believe will resonate globally.”
While most of the exterior is a good indication of what the production version of the SUV will look like, most of the interior design will remain with the concept vehicle. One of the most stylish and unique design elements inside the Vertrek is the wing-shaped instrument panel that crosses the entire width of the vehicle and even continues outside to the door mirrors. This will likely be toned down, but it is easy to see from the angular center stack that it will take cues from newer Ford models such as the Ford Fiesta and Ford C-Max. Like the Escape and Kuga, the Vertrek Concept is a two-row vehicle. Despite its flashy design, Ford says that Vertrek still focuses on maximizing passenger and cargo volume. An SUV based off the Vertrek will be able to match the current Escape for cargo capacity (66.3 cubic feet behind the front row and 29.2 cubic feet behind the second row) and best the current Kuga by offering 15 percent more space behind the front row and 20 percent more behind the second row.
In the United States, owners of Ford’s next compact SUV will have three engines from which to choose. The base engine will be a 2.5-liter inline-four, while two EcoBoost inline-four engines (1.6-liter and 2.0-liter) will be available as options. In addition to the 1.6-liter EcoBoost, Ford’s 2.0-liter Duratorq TDCi diesel engine will also be offered in the new SUV for markets outside the U.S. For even better fuel economy, this will be the first vehicle to utilize Ford’s fuel-saving Auto Start-Stop technology which is expected to improve city fuel economy between 4 and 10 percent. Initially, this technology will be available on other Ford models offering the EcoBoost inline-four engines (such as the C-Max, Ford Focus and Ford Explorer) although eventually it will spread to Ford vehicles with bigger, and thirstier, V-6 and V-8 engines under the hood. Between the aerodynamics and the fuel-efficient technologies available on the Vertrek Concept, this design should return some fairly impressive EPA fuel economy estimates.
Built of the same platform as the 2012 Ford Focus and 2012 Ford C-Max, the Ford Vertrek Concept is yet another example of what Ford can accomplish with its C-segment platform. In total, Ford says that at least 10 new models will utilize this compact platform, and it expects these models to account for more than 2 million sales globally by 2012.
“This segment is uniquely diversified across the globe,” said Jim Farley, group vice president, Global Marketing, Sales and Service. “In the U.S. these are considered small cars, while in Europe and other markets they are considered midsize cars. No matter how you classify it, the segment is vitally important and only those manufacturers who demonstrate leadership in design, customer-focused technology, capability and fuel-efficient performance will succeed.”
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