EcoBoost gives Ford cars performance and fuel economy

The Focus and other cars in Ford's lineup are benefiting from breakthroughs on fuel economy.
The Focus and other cars in Ford's lineup are benefiting from breakthroughs on fuel economy.
Posted: July 09, 2012

Maybe EcoBoosterism is the new corporate religion at Ford.

The automaker keeps developing more new EcoBoost engines and dropping them into more and more vehicles. Indeed, it plans to build 1.6 million of them for the global market in 2013.

With good reason, we might add.

The high-tech EcoBoost design finds the holy grail of engine development by increasing both performance and fuel economy — qualities that normally are mutually exclusive.

The EcoBoost achieves this win-win in several ways. First, it is significantly smaller than the conventional engine it replaces or serves as an alternative to, thus increasing economy. It also employs direct fuel injection, which improves both mileage and performance by engendering more efficient combustion. Finally, the EcoBoost engine compensates for the power loss caused by its reduced displacement through turbocharging.

Ford now offers two EcoBoost engines in the U.S. market and will add a third next spring. The 365-horsepower, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 is employed in the F-150 pickup and the performance-minded Taurus SHO. The 2-liter, 240-horse EcoBoost finds a home in the Edge and Escape crossovers, and will be offered in the 2013 Taurus later this summer, and subsequently in the 2013 Fusion. A new 1-liter, 123-horse EcoBoost three-cylinder engine, already available in Europe in the Focus compact, will be here in the spring, possibly in the Fiesta subcompact.

The F-150 EcoBoost V-6 gets better mileage (16 city and 22 highway) than the base V-8 yet can tow 3,000 pounds more (11,500), thanks to its big-time torque (420 foot-pounds).

"It performs like a V-8 while returning V-6 fuel efficiency," said Raj Sarkar, F-150 marketing manager.

That feat, in turn, has worked a little magic on sales: "For the first time since 1985," Sarkar said, "V-6s are outselling V-8s in the F-150."

The 2-liter EcoBoost Taurus boasts EPA highway ratings of 22 city and 32 highway. The latter is best in class, beating out full-size sedans like the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon.

I drove an early production Taurus EcoBoost at a recent regional show-and-tell and found its good mileage complemented by adequate power, despite the fact that Ford is asking a small engine to do a big job. Robert Kay, an engineer who helped develop the 2-liter EcoBoost, put it this way: "If someone told you, not so long ago, that they were going to put a 2-liter engine in a 4,000-pound car, you'd have thought they've got to be crazy."

The EcoBoost, a $995 option, gets 3 m.p.g. more in both city and highway driving than the Taurus base engine, a 3.5-liter, 288-horsepower V-6. And while it develops 48 horsepower less than the V-6, its relatively high torque (270 pounds) keeps it in the same performance ballpark.

The Taurus EcoBoost also proved a quiet, civil four-banger with a reasonable price tag. The well-equipped, mid-market SEL model I tested started at $28,800.

Perhaps I saved the most exotic EcoBoost for last. This three-cylinder mighty mite (it weighs only 221 pounds), is being offered in Europe in the Focus. In Europe, where the mileage estimates are more generous than the EPA's, the EcoBoost Focus gets a city rating of 49 m.p.g. and a stunning 65 on the highway, for a combined 54. Richard Truett, Ford's power train spokesman, says Ford does anticipate a combined mileage number in the mid-40s, which would suggest an EPA highway estimate of better than 50.

That number will depend, to some extent, on whether the 1-liter EcoBoost is offered in the Focus, as it is in Europe, or in the smaller, lighter Fiesta. Ford has been quite coy about this, refusing to say which car will get the engine. I'm guessing that this market's higher performance expectations may tip the scales in favor of the lighter and, hence, quicker Fiesta version.

After driving a preproduction EcoBoost Focus at the Ford event, I was pleasantly surprised. I expected this Cuisinart of an engine to make a bow-wow out of the compact Focus. But it proved reasonably lively.

Contact Al Haas at alhaasauto@aol.com.

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