The second-generation Ford Kuga was this week launched in Australia ahead of its official on-sale date of May 1st. It comes in three trim levels powered by either a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol or a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel.
The identical US version of the Kuga (pictured below) – called the Escape – is already fitted with the same 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol found in the Ford Focus ST hot-hatch for its most premium variant.
That engine isn’t offered in Europe and is unlikely to come to Australia as a result, but the Ford Kuga’s global head of engineering has suggested a new 2.3-litre version of the company’s range of direct injection, turbocharged petrol engines dubbed EcoBoost would have potential for a sportier model.
“There’s no clear plan [for a Kuga ST] at this point in time but when you have head engineers like myself who are interested in looking at alternatives, we’re going to keep that option open,” said Eric Loeffler.
“We do share underpinnings with the Focus but [Kuga] is basically a slightly heavier configuration.
“But clearly you can feel the capability of the product so if you wanted to throw more horsepower at it certainly the platform of the vehicle would respond well to it.”
Loeffler pointed to a new 2.3-litre turbo petrol EcoBoost engine that is not only set for the next Mustang due in 2015 but also the Lincoln MKC SUV that’s based on the Focus/Kuga platform.
The engine is expected to produce more than 230kW, compared with the 180kW power output of the 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine in America’s topline Kuga.
“I’m just theorising as a chief engineer and enthusiast [that the 2.3L could be an option for a hot Kuga],” said Loeffler. “I’ve got to put together a business case and proposition and put that forward to the company to see if it makes sense from a financial perspective.
“As long as you manage the overall [Kuga] portfolio for CAFE [Corporate Average Fuel Econony] requirements [in US], fuel economy requirements elsewhere… those are all things that once we get a product out there we start looking at the response to it to see if there are certain models we can build to continue for more profit and volume.”
Ford has so far only applied the ST badge to its small car hot-hatches, the Fiesta ST and Focus ST.
More car makers, however, are starting to introduce sports versions of their SUVs in response to the unrelenting growth of the body style.