THE BOOSTER CLUB
A Ringer at Ford’s 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 Sun, May 18, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Ford invited LA Car to join them for the EcoBoost Challenge at Santa Anita Park, so we sent former Lotus 18 racer Doug Stokes to the occasion. It was suppose to be a showcase for Ford’s EcoBoost technology, but it also ended up being a showcase for Doug to smoke the driving competition, with the one-time executive director of the International Kart Federation bogarting the top spots throughout the day. So, what does Doug have to say about the EcoBoost Challenge?
Ford EcoBoost Challenge: Santa Anita Park
Story by Doug Stokes
The people at Ford are very proud of their new age engine turbocharging system that they call EcoBoost. In fact they are so proud that they’ve been going around the country showing off the machines that benefit from that technology by letting everyday consumers (along with selected journalists) drive a wide range of Ford EcoBoost(ed) products.
Quick Tech-talk: This is (at least) the second time around for engine turbocharging. All of the big three automobile manufacturers (along with numerous off-shore producers as well) had turbos hung on at least a few of their high performance models in the 1980s. To be kind, some were actually better hung (on the engines that is) than others, but all of the original applications eventually disappeared for various reasons, mostly having to do with durability. With a few exceptions (like my brother desperately missing his ’84 Turbo T-Bird), there was very little lamenting in the land.
The early turbo packages were fun to drive, they added good power (sometimes all at once), but they were also finicky, quirky, and tended to be gimmicky what with boost gauges that swung wildly when the throttle was applied. Not that it wasn’t fun to watch the needle race into the red numbers, but your butt and the rapidly narrowing road ahead were plenty enough to tell you that the turbo was doing its turbo thing and that is pushing more air into the engine and making more horsepower RIGHT NOW.
Flash forward to right now and turbochargers are fully-integrated engine components that do their magic act with no fanfare and do it far better than any of the last generation of hot rod add-ons. Precise electronic (computerized) control of every aspect of engine power generation is the reason for the comeback and the comeback is very cool.
Our friends at Ford call their integrated system EcoBoost and have almost seamlessly harnessed all the good stuff that turbocharging promises (in this case) a smaller, stronger, lighter, more efficient, just-as-effective engine that works like a bigger one but that sips fuel like a lightweight. Trying to feel the turbo “kick in” takes a finer set of rear end receptors than mine. Acceleration is strong and as linear as it can be.
By the end of 2014 (we are told), more that 90 percent of Ford’s North American line-up will be available with an EcoBoost engine. That, my friends is what I’d identify as a commitment.
Okay, back to our day the race track:
The Ford people laid out half a day of direct consumer tests of vehicles that use the EcoBoost system, the first of which was driving the Toyota Prius against the Ford C-Max on a closed course set up in the Santa Anita parking lot (no ponies running that day).
Disclosure: I had never driven a Prius (I rode in one once) before last Friday. I had driven a C-Max before when it was launched on the West Coast (and liked it).
Unfortunately for Toyota, this particular comparison was a no-brainer in favor of the C-Max. Every criterion, every point of comparison that I weighed between the two was won handily by the Ford product. From overall design to handling, to power application to steering feed-back and one to fit and finish, the C-Max simply out-pointed the Prius by a good margin.
Our second challenge of the day lay in a timed run on a tight and twisty ST Performance Academy Slalom course strapped in to a hot Ford Fiesta ST. Powered by a four-cylinder, 1,600cc EcoBoost engine that batted out 197 horsepower and 202 pounds-feet of torque, the ST is the littlest pocket-rocket in the Ford line and a fun ride if ever there was one. Loath to blow my own skirts up referring to my own driving prowess, I’ll let the accompanying photos tell my on track story with the wonderful Fiesta ST. I will say that, given a chance (and free of any compunction to not just use the little car up completely), I know that I could have shaved 4 or 5-tenths off my best time on the mini-road course.
In other side-by-side on site comparos, we were invited to drive Ford EcoBoost(ed) products against each of their most formidable (and in each case bigger-engined) sales rivals. Ford Fusion against the Toyota Camry, Ford Escape against the Honda CRV, and Ford F-150 against the Chevy Silverado. In each case, the Ford product was at the very least fully comparable and, on most points; they were superior to the benchmarked rival machines. This is the sort of thing that really sell cars (and trucks) for Ford and something that even the most ambitious and outgoing dealer just can’t do with a test drive that lets potential buyers take a vehicle around the block and maybe up on the freeway for a couple of miles. (As we were leaving a number of key sales people from a number of the Ford dealers in the area were checking in to get some hands-on product knowledge of the machines—a good idea (for both the sales people and the people that they sell to.) This is direct peer-to-peer comparison—and impressive fun! <" width="100%" />
Postscript: If you are a car-person (you are, after all, reading this on a site that’s called “LA Car Dot Com”, right?) and can find one of these sessions anywhere in your vicinity (we've conveniently listed the remaining EcoBoost Challenge dates and locations below), get on the participant list and GO. The food is good, the Ford people are all cheerful and wonderfully knowledgeable, and the driving experience(s) are informative and entertaining. Check out the possibilities at ecoboostdrive.com. – Doug Stokes . . Still to come: • Seattle: Emerald Downs, May 31 • Houston: Reliant Stadium, June 7 • Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University, June 14 • Chicago: Arlington Park, June 21 • San Francisco: Golden Gate Fields, June 28 • Indianapolis: Lucas Oil Stadium, July 19 [nggallery id=ecoboost2014]