Ford put its sleek new design language for its global compact utilities in the spotlight at NAIAS when it rolled out the Vertrek concept. Very similar in exterior form to the production 2011 Kuga sold in Europe, the Vertrek gives North American customers a glimpse of the 2013 Escape, according to engineers.
The all-new Escape (Ford has not yet confirmed the nameplate will be retained) is scheduled to switch to the global C1 architecture, which underpins the 2011 Focus and C-Max, as well as Kuga.
By 2012, the new platform will support 10 nameplates and account for annual sales of more than 2 million vehicle. The new global-C architecture replaces three regional C-segment platforms, dramatically boosting economies of scale.
The current North American Escape is based on the old CD2 architecture, itself derived from Mazda’s GF platform.
According to Derrick Kuzak, the company’s Group Vice President, Product Development, approximately 80% of the total bill of materials used by the new common architecture will be shared across regional models.
At a late 2010 reveal of the Vertrek, Vice President of Design J Mays told AEI that the concept’s overall design is “quite close” to the next-generation production Escape.
At a 178.5-in (4534-mm) overall length, the four-seat Vertrek is longer—by 3.8 in (97 mm)—and wider than the current, boxier Escape. It provides 15% more cargo volume behind the first-row seats than the smaller-and-taller Kuga, and about 20% more volume behind the second row.
The larger cabin addresses a desire for more interior space by Kuga customers in Europe and the U.K., and will please North American customers used to the larger Escape, Kuzak noted.
Ford product planners see considerable upside in the global compact crossover segment. European demand in the segment has grown 200% since 2000. According to Mays, sales of compact utilities in China is forecast to increase 60% from 2009-11.
Vertrek’s raised beltline, compared with that of both current vehicles, reflects design for enhanced side-impact protection. According to Mays, preliminary testing shows the concept to be 5% more aerodynamic than the current Escape’s 0.29 Cd. He said Vertrek was developed in Ford’s Cologne design center.
Ford engineers said the production vehicle body-in-white is configured to package hybrid propulsion systems and their battery packs. Powertrains for the 2013 Escape are expected to be a base 2.5-L Duratec inline four-cylinder, with 1.6-L or 2.0-L EcoBoost engines optional. In Europe, where 95% of Kuga sales are turbodiesel models, the 2.0-L TDCi diesel and 1.6-L EcoBoost petrol engine are the likely offerings.
The new Escape/Kuga will also feature two- and all-wheel-drive systems, six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, and Ford’s new Auto-Start-Stop system, now in production in Europe and in the pipeline for North America in 2012.
According to Kuzak, Auto Start-Stop takes approximately 0.3 s to start the engine. The system can improve vehicle fuel efficiency by up to 10%.
Vertrek also features the company’s Smart Regenerative Charging. The system addresses the frequent charge-discharge cycles of start-stop technology. It increases alternator output when the vehicle brakes or decelerates, converting the kinetic energy of the vehicle into electric energy without using additional fuel, providing “free” electric current for battery recharging.
In North America, the 2013 Escape will be built at the Louisville, KY, assembly plant that produced the previous-generation Explorer. The facility is currently being retooled to make the C-segment-based utilities later this year.