EcoBoost Re­boot

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ince Ford’s EcoBoost V-6s first came onto the scene back in 2009, we’ve slowly come to love these ver­sa­tile pow­er­trains for the F-150 and Ex­plorer. While they might not be the most ef­fi­cient en­gines on the mar­ket, there is no ar­gu­ing their ver­sa­til­ity as a great ev­ery­day pow­er­plant for a full-size 4WD. Nearly half of all F-150s are sold with the EcoBoost op­tion. How­ever, we think the EcoBoost could be a lit­tle bet­ter.

While Ford ad­ver­tises a high­way fuel ef­fi­ciency rat­ing of 9.8L/100km on the first gen­er­a­tion 3.5L EcoBoost, the best we could ever man­age in test­ing was a de­cent, but not im­pres­sive, 12.4L/100km at reg­u­lar speeds, 11.5L/100km on the flat be­low 80 kmh. The good news is Ford is also think­ing this isn’t good enough, and as such have up­graded the 3.5L EcoBoost for the 2017 F-150.

The re­designed 3.5L EcoBoost fea­tures new tur­bocharg­ers ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing more boost thanks to a lighter tur­bine wheel made from high-tem­per­a­ture Mar-M-247 al­loy to im­prove re­spon­sive­ness. The new tur­bos also get Ford-first elec­tri­cally ac­ti­vated waste­gates, en­hanc­ing op­er­at­ing ef­fi­ciency.

Ford was able to slash an­other 2 kg out of the en­gine in­ter­nals thanks to the hol­low­ing out of camshafts and the all­new roller-fin­ger fol­lower val­ve­train. The val­ve­train also fea­tures more durable in­take and ex­haust valves, and hy­draulic valve-lash ad­justers that op­ti­mize en­gine dura­bil­ity over the life of the truck.

Other en­hance­ments in­clude Ford-first dual-di­rect and port fuel-in­jec­tion sys­tem. If that sounds a lit­tle con­fus­ing, that means the EcoBoost makes use of two in­jec­tors per cylin­der – one mounted in the in­take port and one po­si­tioned in­side the cylin­der – work­ing to­gether to im­prove power out­put, ef­fi­ciency, and emis­sions.

So, what does this all mean? Well, the im­prove­ments have yielded an in­crease of 30 lb-ft to give the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion 3.5L EcoBoost 450 lb-ft. Ford has yet to com­ment how much horse­power or ef­fi­ciency in­creases will come from these up­grades.

How­ever, they did say that the new EcoBoost will be mated to an all­new in-house built 10-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion that Ford claim will de­liver im­proved ac­cel­er­a­tion and per­for­mance com­pared with pre­vi­ous six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sions. The new 10-speed will make use of op­ti­mized wide-span gear spac­ing cou­pled with drag-re­duc­tion ac­tions. Three over­drive gears and a wider span will en­able lower-nu­mer­i­cal rear-axle ra­tios to help im­prove fuel ef­fi­ciency at high­way speeds while still main­tain­ing tow­ing per­for­mance.

We’ve driven 8-speeds and even 9-speeds in per­for­mance cars be­fore, and they are nearly as an­noy­ing as a CVT trans­mis­sion, con­stantly go­ing into fits over which gear they’re sup­posed to be in. How­ever, as we learned sev­eral years ago when Ram im­ple­mented an 8-speed trans­mis­sion into the 1500, truck own­ers don’t drive their ve­hi­cles like per­for­mance car own­ers… for the most part. We were quite skep­ti­cal about the Ram’s 8-speeds’ abil­ity to hold up to the torque of the EcoDiesel and its func­tion­al­ity with the HEMI. As it turned out, the 8-speed was by far our favourite driv­e­train op­tion in the FCA lineup, and con­tin­ues to be.

Will 10 cogs be one cog too far? Will the new en­gine be ca­pa­ble of reach­ing be­low the ideal 10L/100km high­way fuel ef­fi­ciency with the aid of the 10-speed? We’re not sure, but we’ll be the first to let you know when we jump be­hind the wheel of the up­graded 2017 F-150.

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