The V6 wars may show no signs of stopping. However, Ford is quietly making contingency plans for a future conflict: The war of the four-bangers. Start hoarding your big bore brutes and head for the hills. Ford may want to take them away.
Ford will use the upcoming SAE World Congress, to be held from April 13-15 in Detroit, to showcase its engine-building prowess. Ford will demonstrate to the world’s most eminent confab of piston-heads that there is a replacement for displacement.
On display (at least in PowerPoint form) will be three new four-cylinder mills. A 1.6-liter Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT) Sigma I-4, a 2.0-liter direct-injection Ti-VCT Duratec® I-4 and a 2.0-liter Ti-VCT EcoBoost™ I-4.
That alone wouldn’t be worth the keystrokes for that post, wouldn’t Ford’s press release stress the point that small is beautiful, that V8 brutes are going the way of the dodo, and that the destiny of the V6 may be doubtful.
The four-bangers are Ford’s response “to shifts in consumer buying patterns with the introduction of more fuel-efficient small engines.”
In1969 “nearly 90 percent of vehicles sold in America were powered by V-8s,” says Ford. Last year, the share of the eights was down to 4.9 percent, “an all-time low,” while I-4s dominated with nearly 62 percent, according to Ford’s numbers. The way they are announcing this, they make us believe that that number will rise to European and Japanese proportions. It used to be an overseas thing to get more and more power out of smaller and smaller engines. No more: Ford is stepping up to the (most likely CAFE-induced) plate full of mini-mills.
The 2011 Ford Fiesta, powered by a 1.6-liter Ti-VCT I-4, is projected to deliver 40 mpg on the highway. The turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 promises fuel economy “at least 10 percent better than a comparable V-6, while delivering class-leading power and torque for an I-4,” fawns Ford over the four.
And where are the batteries? Not included? A “more efficient battery-electric vehicle culture” receives only passing mention in the announcement. Ford forecasts that by 2020, plug-ins, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids might garner “up to 25 percent of total vehicle sales in the U.S., Europe and Japan.”
Paul Mascarenas, Ford vice president of Engineering Global Product Development, who happens to be chairman of the 2010 SAE World Congress, sounds like someone working at Volkswagen when he says: “As important as alternative energy sources are, in the foreseeable future most passenger cars and light trucks will continue to use petroleum-based fuels. Our challenge in the engineering community is to make them vastly more efficient.”
Ford makes it clear that the ICE is here to stay for the foreseeable future. And it looks more and more like a fourseeable future.