Ford has an SUV-focused plan for the near future. Here are all the exciting details.
This week, Ford unleashed a bevy of news to boost excitement in its future product plans. Over the span of an hour, the Dearborn-based automaker offered gathered journalists the most in-depth look yet at what to expect over the next 24 months. And during that hour, there was a common theme: Ford is going big on SUVs, and not just the ones you see trawling mall parking lots. Here are all the exciting vehicles you should expect from Ford's SUV lineup for the next two years.
After the success of the first and second F-150 Raptor Baja-conquering pickups, Ford is doubling down on rough-and-tumble SUVs with serious off-road credentials. “We are going to add a lineup of off-road SUVs that allow people to get out there and really use their vehicles for their intended purposes,” Jim Farley, president of global markets, told gathered media in prepared remarks. The first model to join Ford's new-found off-road ranks is the 2020 Bronco, confirmed last year.
Using a platform shared with the recently revealed 2019 Ranger, the Bronco will be offered as a two-door model, based on its wheelbase shown in teaser images provided by the automaker. That doesn't mean it will be limited to two doors, however. Expect it to take on the venerable Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited with both two- and four-door models. Ford will aim for Bronco to be more comfortable than Wrangler, too. “We want to give people true off-road vehicles that are comfortable at higher speeds… on two-track trails… and do well in deep sand on the beach,” Farley said. “And they don’t want their SUVs to look like doomsday vehicles… or have spartan, government-issued interiors.”
The second model likely to join Ford's new off-road offerings is a new, as-yet-unnamed small SUV. It looks slightly shorter than Bronco in teased photos and could be a more rugged alternative to Ford's other compact SUV, the Escape. At the end of the SUV portion of the presentation, Farley served up one more hint at what to expect from Ford's off-road lineup: “We don’t have any Raptor news today. But please watch this space,” he said. Read into that what you will, but we believe this means a Raptor version of the Bronco will arrive to take on the Wrangler Rubicon, which typically gets beefier, off-road-capable components, but it doesn't typically include engine upgrades.
At Ford, the Raptor recipe offers off-road gear and a unique engine option. That could mean a Bronco Raptor powered by Ford's 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 or—if rock-crawling is Bronco's focus—a low-revving diesel with lots of torque on tap.
As Ford phases out the Fiesta and seriously considers axing the Focus and Fusion from its North American lineup, the automaker needs new donor models for its expanding (and very profitable) ST performance line. Ford's first future ST model will be the new 2019 Ford Edge ST due later this year. Further on in Ford's product cadence will be the new rear-wheel-drive Explorer, which Ford has confirmed will get an ST variant, and a redesigned Escape. As the new off-road concept will fill the role of bush buster, it makes sense for the Escape to gain an ST variant. Ford did not mention or confirm an Escape ST.
Another possible model to join Ford's ST line could be a hopped-up version of the new Ecosport. Riding upon the same basic bones as the Fiesta, the Ecosport will fill the gap left behind by the subcompact hatch and sedan when those models are phased out sometime over the next couple of years. An off-road Ecosport has already been previewed in Brazil with the Storm Concept, but that model would be panned by off-road enthusiasts here due to its size. Instead, expect an Ecosport ST to arrive in the United States powered by the same 1.5-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder as the European-market Fiesta ST beating out 197 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque.
Ford confirmed the next Explorer and Escape models will gain hybrid powertrain options as a hedge against rising gas prices in the future. But the Blue Oval won't stop there. “Every time we launch a utility in North America, our intention is to have a hybrid. That’s a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or—in some cases—both,” said Farley. That foretells the arrival for hybrid versions of Bronco, the as-yet-unnamed off-road concept, Edge, and Expedition in addition to the already confirmed Explorer and Escape hybrids. It likely means hybrid versions of Lincoln SUVs, too.
Still, there are three models that likely won't ever receive hybrid powertrains: Ecosport, Flex, and Lincoln MKT. For the Ecosport, it's a matter of packaging. There's not enough room to convert that model into a hybrid. Plus, there's likely more possible return in coming out with an all-new battery electric vehicle in that segment than there is in simply offering an electrified version of Ford's smallest SUV. The other two models—Flex and MKT—haven't received significant updates in a number of years and are expected to be phased out in the future. Instead, Ford's more likely to offer long-wheelbase versions of the Explorer and Aviator.