THE BOOSTER CLUB
Tech talk on the Ford EcoBoost Challenge
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Wed, Jul 24, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Ford EcoBoost Challenge Drive Experience Pasadena Rose Bowl, Friday, July 19, 2013 Report by Doug Stokes This reporter (and about 75 of my closest automotive journalist colleagues*) are invited out to the Rose Bowl (parking lot) to get the lowdown on Ford’s latest take on engine turbocharging. My part of the day is covering the lead-in tech talk; we’ll get more on the actual drive experience from Sean Spear right after this. Ford’s Group Marketing Manager Amy Marentic, the lady who leads the EcoBoost bandwagon is our presenter. She’s talking in broad terms about the quest for good fuel mileage and the fact that stretching miles out of gallons of the stuff is often at odds with consumer’s wanting more than just adequate power. Marentic is talking about all the typical ways that fuel economy can be achieved, among them: aerodynamics, weight, vehicle size, and engine size. Right. And Ford (along with every other sentient automaker in the world) is working with every one of the above items (and more) in their own chase of better and better miles-per-gallon numbers. Enter turbocharging. Or perhaps I should say, re-enter turbocharging, because this is not Ford’s first trip to the candy store when it comes to asking the exhaust gas to spin a small metal pinwheel-like device its way out of an engine. There have been a number of notable examples of the use of turbocharging in Ford’s past. The technology was put to good use in the 1940s to allow piston-engined American fighter planes to fly higher and faster than their enemy. And it’s is standard equipment on every large diesel truck on the road today. There’s the Turbo T-Birds and Merkur XR4ti’s of the 1980s—both of which eschewed the common performance route of bigger capacity (and thus heavier) engines to ratchet up horsepower, for small, just over two-liter, four-cylinder engines beefed up by turbocharging. The effect was hailed as “free horsepower” … Of course, outside of the lunch provided the media by Ford at the Rose Bowl, we all know that nothing is free. Truth is that both of those cars were great fun to drive because they were light on their feet, handled cleanly, and their turbo-equipped engines spooled up nicely. They had boost gauges, so one could see the “new” magic happen as the engine exhaust spun a small turbine wheel that, in turn, spun an intake impeller that forced more air into the engine for an ever-increasing boost. The only problem was that the electronic engine control technology was not quite in lock-step with the whistling turbo and that disparity caused a few reliability issues in cars that were not carefully maintained. Okay, enough history lessons. Flash forward to the Rose Bowl, July 19, 2013 and the new era of turbocharging that Ford has entered. Heck, they don’t even call it that any more. It’s “EcoBoost” now, and the turbo, once singled out as an ultimate badge of high performance is now just one of the team of components (like direct fuel injection and variable valve timing) working to make power and mileage mutually unexclusive. And of course with every team there is a key player here, the one who, for my money, is the reason that turbos are back in business, and that’s the electronic engine management (sometimes referred to as mapping) side of the spec sheet. Not real sexy, but e-management of the combustion process (atomizing the fuel, squirting it into a combustion chamber, and lighting it off so it explodes and drives a piston downward) is what makes all the good mileage below possible. And a word here should be also allowed for the great work that modern electronically-controlled automatic transmissions do in almost all new cars. At one time the “slushbox” was the enemy of good fuel mileage; it is now the guardian angel of getting farther on fewer gallons. Ford wrapped the tech and the tinsel up very nicely in the machines that we saw (and drove) at the Rose Bowl. Even the smallest of them, the Fiesta, features aggressive looks and knockout colors that connect fun with economy and performance. It will also be featuring a very small (for America standards) 1,000cc, three-cylinder, turbocharged engine and available at a dealer near you shortly (wonder where they got that idea?) EcoBoost is Ford’s word for the experience; it pulls the best of engine tech (new and old) together, and puts it on the street. Nice work! – Doug Stokes * If you think that was a “cattle call”, we were informed that some 1,500 “consumers” were scheduled to run through the same experience the next day! (Pssst … Hey buddy… wanna buy a two-three day old, small Ford vehicle with only 600 miles on the odo and a set of thoroughly shredded tires?) - DS RACING NOTE: Just as we were leaving for the above event, word came in that the “EcoBoost” branding was going racing … in the Daytona prototype class of sports car racing as part of the newly-formed United SportCar Racing Championship series. Performance figures for the new 3.5 liter V-6 engine have not been released, but the exhaust note is said to be “distinctive” and the Ford racing brass is said to be very high on the turbocharged mill’s winning potential. For Part 2 of THE BOOSTER CLUB – Driving Ford’s EcoBoost Cars, click here. For more information about the Ford EcoBoost Challenge Drive Experience, click here.