EcoBoost Engines Lacking In “Eco”

Ford-F-150-EcoBoostEvery year, Ward’s Auto publishes a list of what it considers to be the 10 best automobile engines on the planet. Ford has invested a lot of time, energy, and money building a range of five different EcoBoost engines. They ever put one in the F 150, the best selling vehicle of all time. But only the lowly 1.0 liter three-cylinder Fiesta engine found its way onto the latest Ward’s 10 Best Engine List. Why is that?

Consider the curious case of the 2.7 liter Ford EcoBoost available in the F150. This thing is an engineering tour de force! It features “hybrid” block construction that uses compacted-graphite iron for the upper part and aluminum for the bottom. Then there are all aluminum heads with integrated exhaust manifolds.

Add to that, fracture-split connecting rods, a variable-displacement oil pump, a structural die-cast front engine cover, and finally deep-set fuel injectors capable of four spurts per combustion event. And that’s before we get to the stop/start system, the composite oil pan, the recycled composite cam covers, or the polymer-coated bearings. Last but not least are the twin turbochargers with inlet swirl vanes for flow initiation.

Yikes! How come this jewel didn’t make the list? According to Ward’s judge Tom Murphy, the engine just doesn’t cut it when it comes to fuel economy. The editors recorded a fairly dismal overall rating of 15.6 mpg in real world driving. Since fuel economy is a large part of the scoring process, the engine was dropped from the final list.

Next up is the 2.3 liter inline 4 cylinder EcoBoost engine used in the Mustang lineup. At 310 horsepower, it has more than enough power to make the Mustang gallop to 60 in just 5.2 seconds. It has a cutting edge twin-scroll, low-inertia turbocharger and high-pressure fuel injectors with six laser-drilled holes to fully atomize gasoline for efficient combustion. It even gets decent mileage at 25 mpg (observed). But it, too, was left off the list. Why?

Because it doesn’t sound right. The judges think a Mustang should sound like a Mustang and that means a throaty, V8 rumble burbling out of dual exhausts. And hey, they may have a point. Would the Corvette crowd accept a 3 cylinder engine even if it had 1,000 horsepower? It’s unlikely. Ford says the engine is quiet in order to comply with decibel restrictions in other markets.

The 1.5 liter 4 cylinder EcoBoost in the Fusion was tossed because it managed only 29 mpg, lower than many competitors in its class. The ultra-powerful I-5 diesel EcoBoost found in the new Ford Transit van was deemed to be a little bit louder and a tiny bit harsher than the 8 cylinder Dodge Ram EcoDiesel, which currently holds the record for standard pickup truck mileage at 29 mpg.

Add it all up, and Ford has spent a lot of time and money to create a line of engines that fall short of the competition, at least according to the people at Ward’s. What do you think?

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.