AutoMatters: 2014 Ford Coast-To-Coast EcoBoost Challenge


y Jan Wagner

Ford is touring the country to showcase their EcoBoost technology in cars, trucks and utility vehicles, as compared to competitors’ vehicles. This 12-city tour began in Phoenix in April and will end in Indianapolis in July.

Ford’s objective for EcoBoost is to provide the power and performance of larger displacement engines with the fuel economy of smaller engines “by combining advanced engine technologies such as turbocharging, direct injection and variable valve timing.” “By the end of 2014, more than 90 percent of Ford’s North American lineup will be available with an EcoBoost engine.” Even the new Mustang will have one.

Ford set up three relatively low speed autocross courses in a large parking area to demonstrate the handling and acceleration of the vehicles. Before we drove an instructor prepared us with a “chalk talk” to introduce us to the EcoBoost Challenge Drive Course, the Hybrid Challenge Drive Course and the ST Performance Academy. Then, at each course, another instructor spoke about that course and the vehicles we would be driving on it. Basic engine output and vehicle specs were presented on the white boards, alongside course maps. I will relay that data here. However – conspicuous by its absence, the data on the white boards did not include fuel economy figures.

The first vehicles that I drove and compared were Ford’s 2014 F-150 FX4 with the available 3.5 liter V-6 EcoBoost engine and Chevy’s Silverado, equipped with its much larger displacement 5.3 liter V-8.

The Ford’s 365hp and 420lb.-ft. of torque exceeds that of the larger displacement Chevy’s 355hp and 383 lb.-ft. of torque. Also impressive is that 90% of the Ford’s power is available at 1900 RPM (100% at 2500 RPM) versus at 4100 RPM in the Chevy.

Next up were the Ford Fusion, equipped with an I-4 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine that produces 240hp and 270 lb.-ft. of torque, matched up against Toyota’s Camry V-6 3.5-liter, which produces 268hp and 248 lb.-ft. of torque. The Camry has higher horsepower than the Ford and less torque.

The course began with a straight stretch, where we were asked to accelerate to 45mph. Acceleration in the Camry was good, as was its handling. It was fun to drive.

The Fusion has a much more comfortable driver’s seat than the Camry. Acceleration was strong but I noticed big-time torque steer, which tried to pull the car off my intended line. I was able to keep that in check with the precise steering. Turn-in was good but I repeatedly noticed turbo lag (a momentary hesitation when I planted my foot down on the gas pedal) when I tried to accelerate hard after slowing down for turns.

Ford’s Escape was also equipped with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost I-4 engine, whereas the Honda CR-V AWD had a larger, 2.4-liter engine. Once again Ford beat its competitor’s larger engine in horsepower and torque: 240hp and 270 lb.-ft. for the Ford versus 185hp and 163 lb.-ft. for the Honda. On the course, the Honda’s handling was nimble, predictable and fun. Combined with a sporty exhaust note and brisk acceleration, it was very impressive – not at all what I expected from an all-wheel-drive SUV.

The Escape, with its EcoBoost engine, accelerated smartly, but I did notice some turbo lag.

At the Fiesta ST’s autocross course our runs were timed. However, we were required to shift the ST’s manual transmission into second before the first turn and then leave it there for the rest of the course. This did not play well to the strengths of the EcoBoost engine, because slowing for the turns meant we then had to accelerate from low RPM. So, instead of accelerating hard out of the tight turns, the noticeable turbo lag kept me waiting and waiting and waiting.

Ford’s hybrid offerings include the C-MAX Hybrid and Energi (Plug-In Hybrid), and the Fusion Hybrid and Energi. Toyota’s largest Prius – the V, was there for comparison. The C-MAX has much better acceleration than the Prius.

I was disappointed with Ford’s EcoBoost engines, as compared to non-turbocharged, larger engines. With EcoBoost you will get the power of a larger engine, but you will have to wait for it due to turbo lag. That may be a reasonable trade-off if fuel economy and not acceleration is your primary goal.

In the future, electrics will probably provide the best of both worlds, but first we’ll need batteries that provide more range and quicker recharging.

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Copyright © 2014 by Jan Wagner –