The P71 purred its way north to Dearborn. I was looking forward to this opportunity to meet with an engineer or two at the Ford Product Development Center. I have been to that neighborhood as an Autoweek Fantasy Camp member and enjoyed getting out on the track at the proving grounds across the street.
I met up with Chris and Al in Building One and we escalated our way up to the upper floors where the standard array of cubicles spread themselves out across the floor. This was a little different though, since scattered about were engine parts and components in and amongst the cubicles. Al stopped by a cut-away of the Ford EcoBoost engine that is used in the F-150 to give me a look at the beast. It is a twin-turbo 3.5 liter V-6 with direct injection and variable valve timing. It is a magnificent piece of automotive engineering.
Off we went to find Al’s office so we could have an hour’s conversation, but my eyes were constantly pulled to the various components that the engineers had at their desks and cubicles. I could have spent days soaking up the technology.
For more than two decades straight the F series was America’s best selling vehicle, and for thirty years the F-150 has held the title of Americas favorite pickup truck. In 2011 Ford offered the V-6 EcoBoost engine in the F-150. Its promise of V8-like power while delivering better economy and lower emissions was enticing to many F series customers.
We sat down and I had a chance to get some clarity on the EcoBoost engine. One of my first questions was on terminology. I had heard of one of the engine’s systems being called a “Charge-Air-Cooler” and wanted to understand just what it consisted of. Al was able to pull up a graphic of the system and to me it was an intercooler. Al said, yes, that it was essentially an air-to-air intercooler with associated plumbing. He also explained that it was a highly efficient one.
I had to bring up the recent press articles on reported problems with some customer experiences and the F-150’s EcoBoost engine. Since there is some legal activity going on it really limited what the guys from Ford could talk about, but we still were able to explore some important areas.
Al went over their test procedures both in the “real world” field conditions and the lab-type environmental testing that preceded the release of the Ecoboost engine in the F-150. In the lab, the engine was run at max power and max temperature with intake temps at 100 degrees F and exhaust temps at 900 degrees. Then the engines were chilled with –40 degree coolant for ten minutes and cycled through this kind of testing for 150 hours. Talk about torture.
Pickup trucks was not the only thing that we talked about. I related my experience in 2012 driving the Taurus SHO and how I was a bit disappointed in the performance I experienced versus what I had anticipated. I was hoping to experience something more akin to the Yamaha powered SHO’s of the 92-95 era, but the Taurus has put on nearly 1000 more pounds and even with the twin-turbo 3.5 liter V-6 it is hard to make up for all the added weight.
Al pulled out some horsepower and torque charts for the F-150 EcoBoost engine that were very impressive. The torque curve was impressively flat. Much flatter than you could hope for out of a naturally aspirated V8. It’s hard to beat what a turbocharger can do to provide power and efficiency.
We talked about some of the design considerations that go into the development of a Ford product and while there might be opportunities for more power lurking in the engines, that had to be balanced with the need for NVH (noise vibration and harshness) limits that customers also desire.
The hour passed pretty quickly. We covered a lot of ground and the guys from Ford were generous within the limitations of trade secrets and other legal considerations. Al headed off to another meeting, and Chris and I headed for the parking lot. The P71 was anxious to head off to the next museum.