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Ford makes big promises for small engines

Auto manufacturers are furiously working up ways to increase the fuel economy of their vehicles without compromising the consumer's current expectations of large, powerful vehicles thanks to new CAFE regulations.

General Motors recently unveiled the 2009 Saturn Vue Green Line with an improved two-mode hybrid system, and still hopes to push out the highly anticipated Chevrolet Volt by 2010. Toyota is merrily improving their popular Prius, while Honda is promising both a hot-hatch revival with the CR-Z concept and the "family diesel" in the 2009 Accord. Ford, on the other hand, is taking an entirely different approach, trying to make the adage "More From Less" apply to high-powered SUVs and sedans.

At the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, Ford was showcased a new family of four and six-cylinder engines, dubbed "EcoBoost" to highlight their improved fuel economy. While the words "new engine technology" were thrown around fairly often to describe the EcoBoost line, the cornerstone technologies behind the engines -- direct injection and turbocharging -- should be immediately familiar to anyone who's followed automotive powertrain development in recent years. As the name suggests, Ford is trying to give small, high-boost engines a market beyond the current demographic of performance junkies -- but they need to get their foot in the door somehow.

The first vehicle to receive an “EcoBoosting” will be the upcoming 2009 Lincoln MKS. Shown in 2007 as the "MKR Concept," the MKS will feature a 3.5L twin-turbo V6 said to produce approximately 340 horsepower, and 340 lb-ft of torque between 2,000 and 5,000 RPM. Those hoping for a four-door, rear-drive performance sedan will be disappointed to discover the transverse mounting of the engine, and the associated choices of FWD or AWD; however, the possibility of such a vehicle hasn't been entirely ruled out.

Returning to the economical side of the impeller, Ford also featured a 2.0L turbo four, claiming an impressive 275hp and 280lb-ft. While such an engine would seem a perfect fit for a sport compact, Ford had bigger ambitions for the "little engine that could" -- announcing that it would be the base engine for the Ford Explorer America concept.

Ford's VP of product development, Derrick Kuzak, had high hopes for the technology, praising its low initial cost in comparison to other engine designs. "Compared with the current cost of diesel and hybrid technologies, customers in North America can expect to recoup their initial investment in a 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine through fuel savings in approximately 30 months." That's not to say that hybrids and diesels will be abandoned -- some light-duty Fords will be receiving these options as well.

Strangely, no mention of an EcoBoost engine was made for the Mustang -- perhaps Ford still has some of the hundreds of thousands of letters they received the last time they suggested a replacement.

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RE: About time...
By Spuke on 1/7/2008 4:20:17 PM , Rating: 3
I'd really love to see the MPG numbers of these engines.
I have a Pontiac Solstice GXP with 260hp/260lb-ft of torque from a 2.0L direct injection 4 cyl. I get 28 mpg on my mostly freeway commutes. That's with having some fun too. Best gas mileage was 33 on a longer freeway drive at around a 70mph average. Worst was 26 which was mostly city driving with a lead foot. Car is rated at 19mpg city/28 mpg highway by the EPA.

DI cars get great mileage in reality as well as on paper. A light foot could get better numbers for sure but that's not why I bought it.

RE: About time...
By Alexvrb on 1/7/2008 7:20:34 PM , Rating: 2
My buddy also has an 07 Solstice GXP. Those are fantastic engines. When they first came out with the 2.0L Turbo Ecotec in the US, I was speculating that it wouldn't be long until the 2.0L SC Cobalt SS recieved an upgrade. Sure enough, both Cobalt SS and HHR SS models are getting the engine. Of course, the FWD Cobalt won't be quite as quick as your Solstice, but its still a step in the right direction.

They've got room to grow with this engine design, too. It certainly hasn't reached its limit. The most amazing thing about it though isn't the numbers. 260HP and 260 ft/lbs of torque sounds pretty good already, but the torque curve is so amazingly flat for a 4-cylinder. So really, its even more powerful than the simple numbers.

RE: About time...
By Spuke on 1/7/2008 11:40:41 PM , Rating: 2
The torque curve gives the car the feeling of larger engine for sure. The turbo spools very quickly and power delivery is very smooth. I must admit I've driven other 4 cyl cars at this displacement with small turbo's too and I find the power delivery on this car to be the least smooth out of the cars driven. The other cars were equipped with Garrett turbo's and this one is a Borg Warner. That could be the difference there.

I've driven a BMW 335i (DI 6 cyl twin-turbo) and I could not tell when the turbo's spooled on that car. It was friggin amazing! Silky, super smooth power delivery. If Ford can duplicate that, those Ecoboost engines will be awesome.

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