Oil topped $100 per barrel in America just the other day and fuel conservation is now a hotter topic than ever. Some pundits are predicting gasoline prices in excess of US$4 per gallon before the end of Q1. Sure, these prices are pretty tame by the rest of the world’s standards, but Americans - and American manufacturers - are already feeling the pressure to become more fuel-efficient. To that end, Ford is previewing its new EcoBoost technology at Detroit next week, and it’s packaging it for success in the ultra-modern Explorer America concept.

The Explorer America combines dramatic exterior styling, such as its ‘power dome’ hood, massive three-bar grille and wrap-around rear glass with a refined appearance and a utility-focused interior. The sliding, stackable seats make easy access to the rear, and the tailgate hides a worktable with seats. The real story, however, is under the hood. Ford’s new EcoBoost technology is intended to get more power from less displacement - meaning greater efficiency, and therefore less fuel consumption - through a combination of turbocharging and direct injection.

The powertrain lineup being hawked alongside the Explorer America should provide the next-generation Explorer with more than adequate power and a boost of 20-30% in fuel economy. The two engines available include a 2.0L four-cylinder making 275hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.5L V6 cranking out 340hp. Aiding efficiency is a six-speed transmission and weight reduction in the engine itself of about 150lbs.