Just prior to Ford’s fuel economy ratings adjustment, I returned a brand new Fusion with a 1.5L Ecoboost engine. The last car I’ve driven with 1500 cc’s worth of displacement was my grandmother’s 2000 Civic, with its D-Series, single cam engine and 4-speed automatic. You would think that such a tiny engine would help Ford’s mid-sizer deliver solid fuel economy, but the best I could do was a mere 21 mpg in mixed driving.
According to the EPA, the same Fusion gets 23 mpg in town and 36 mpg on the highway, and 28 mpg combined – that’s about 25 percent better than I got. I’ve never had particularly good luck with the Ecoboost engines, whether it’s the 1.6L in the Escape or the 2.0L in the MKZ in normal driving. My one good experience, in the utterly fantastic Fiesta ST, saw me return 40 mpg over a stretch of two lane highway at 60 mph. But who drives 60 mph on the highway, let alone in the Fiesta ST.
The Ecoboost engines are like the high school classmate who got infuriatingly good grades, but you always knew you were smarter than. They simply happened to be really good at standardized tests and repeating back information, even if their critical thinking and “streets smarts” were lacking.
So, these engines perform really well on the EPA fuel economy tests, but utterly fall apart in the real world. Driving them as one normally would means dipping into the boost of the turbo engine, and subsequently consuming lots of fuel. For an engine that’s been sold on the age-old promise of “the power of [insert large engine here], the fuel economy of [insert smaller cylinder count here]”, that’s not good at all. Especially when you are publicly forced to revise your own fuel economy estimates.
As fun as it may be for certain parties to mock Ford’s “Egoboost” engines, turbocharging is going to become near ubiquitous. The requirements for economies of scale dictate that global engine programs are the way to go, so no more separate powertrains for different markets. Engines must now meet European and Asian environmental regulations, while delivering power levels acceptable to consumers in America and China. And they must be able to motivate everything from an A-segment hatchback to a large crossover. Guess what fits the bill? A family of modular, turbocharged engines like Ford, BMW, General Motors, Honda and countless other OEMs have planned for the near future.
The big problem is not the engines themselves, but the flawed fuel economy tests that bear little relation to reality. These new technologies are then sold on the results of these tests, and the magic numbers never materialize. In some applications, like the Taurus/Flex/MKS/MKT and the ST cars, you at least get the feeling of “big power/torque” to make up with the so-so fuel economy. In the Fusion/Escape 2.0T cars, you get decent power, but fuel consumption is far below what one expects in vehicles of similar size.
In the newest 1.5L, you get neither. Like Jack said about the 1.6L its replacing, the 1.5L and 6-speed automatic “utterly, totally fails to impress.” The power isn’t there, but neither is the fuel economy. There’s a lot to recommend about the Fusion overall: it looks great, rides well, has a solid, well-built feel and they’ve finally fixed the once-awful MyFord Touch system. But I can’t seem to find a powertrain to works well. Perhaps I’ll have to rent a 2.5L base model. It might end up being the game changer for Ford’s mid-sizer.