The Ford Explorer America concept showcases a new kind of utility for the vehicle customers have known and loved for years: even better fuel efficiency.

"Ford gets it," says Ford's VP of Marketing and Communications, Jim Farley. The Ford Explorer America Concept is a vehicle that accepts shifts in the SUV market and thus adapts to consumer concerns, namely those for more fuel-efficient vehicle design. Maintained however are the elements of a vehicle American consumers have lapped up in droves, the Explorer being the top-selling SUV in America for a decade and selling over 400,000 units annually.

Dubbed as the 'smart' SUV showing Ford's commitment to the development of sustainable vehicles, the Ford Explorer America Concept features innovative powertrain technology at its heart. Based on Lincoln's TwinForce V6 is Ford EcoBoost - the incorporation of three key elements that reduce emissions and fuel consumption while increasing engine performance.

In pursuit of these three resultant improvements, gasoline direct injection technology is coupled with standard turbocharging. Direct injection allows for the cooler and denser charging of cylinders, providing greater economy and responsiveness. Turbocharging, a process channeling exhaust air to the turbine at high pressure, increases power output per litre and thus performance, which with direct injection, allows for the responsiveness of a larger displacement engine in a more economical, smaller engine block.

Eight cylinder engines are reduced to six and 6 cylinder units to four, without hindering performance and improving fuel efficiency by 20 to 30 percent, depending on engine specification. Demonstrating Ford's future sustainable engine line-up, the Explorer America Concept highlights two versions of the new engine technology soon to be available in half a million Ford vehicles annually. A 2.0-litre unit delivering 275 hp and 280 lb.-ft of torque powers the four-cylinder option, while a 'premium' option 3.5-litre V6 engine delivers 340 hp.

Addressing the more demanding new SUV market, Ford recognise that consumers now want capable, flexible and intelligently-executed vehicles rather than those simply personifying an 'adventurous, rugged lifestyle'. "Customers are smart. They value vehicles – the more efficient, the better," says Farley. But design is evidently an aspect that remains with the rugged concept of yesteryear. A muscular design language aims at those whose lifestyles remain active, requiring moderate off-road capability and towing, while desiring improved efficiency and adventurous packaging.

From stylish integrated three-bar grille, wrap-around rear glass panel and sliding rear door, the intelligent design continues inside. Stackable seats allow for easier access to the second row, the tailgate conceals a worktable and seats, while a 3D compass - for a rather less conventional navigation system - is built into the instrument panel. Stylish leather trim and finishing adds a touch of class to a minimalistic cabin.

Bring on the production Explorer.

Gallery: Ford Explorer America Concept to Debut at Detroit