Now that Ford has completely re-designed the Explorer, it’s time for them to turn their attention to the compact SUV market. Rumors have been flying that the next Escape would be based on the EU’s Kuga; the two vehicles were remarkably similar in size and capability, so making the Kuga a global platform seemed to make good economic sense. This “good enough” thinking may have been how Ford operated in years past, but it’s not how Ford operates today. One of the more interesting concepts debuted at the NAIAS was Ford’s Vertrek concept, which may be used to replace both the aging Escape and the relatively new Kuga.
Ford is being remarkably coy about the Vertrek, calling it a “concept vehicle” but releasing spec sheets comparing it to both the Escape and the Kuga. They’ve even gone so far as to speculate on engine options for both the U.S. (1.6 liter EcoBoost, 2.0 liter EcoBoost or 2.5 liter inline 4) and EU markets (1.6 liter EcoBoost or 2.0 liter Duratorq diesel), so I’m guessing that the Vertrek is quite a bit more than a design study. Compared to the current Escape, it’s a whole lot better looking, it’s got a longer wheelbase, it’s wider and it’s lower; in other words, it’ll handle more like a car than a truck while carrying more passengers and cargo in greater comfort.
Ford is highlighting the use of Auto Start-Stop on the Vertrek, which will reduce both emissions and overall fuel consumption. Auto Start-Stop places more of a demand on components such as the battery and the starter, but Ford has taken steps to address potential issues. Like a hybrid, the Vertrek will use regenerative braking to boost alternator output and ensure a proper level of battery charge. The system also has a failsafe to disable the Auto Start-Stop feature should the battery’s state of charge drop below a prescribed minimum.