By on August 5, 2008

A bit more sophisticated than a PintoDuring the first energy crisis, pundits predicted the death of the American V8. In those dark days (as opposed to these dark days), Detroit was desperate to supply an alternative to the gas-gargling engines they'd planted under the hood anything that moved. They developed a few dogs promising V8 performance with the economy of a cylindrically-challenged motor, with much talk of mechanical miracles to follow. History repeats itself; Ford is once again trying their luck with EcoBoost turbo-four technology. Once again, they could be barking up the wrong tree.  

As TTAC's Best and Brightest know, Ford's first attempts at smaller high-performance engines were shitcans. Slapping a turbocharger on a Pinto-derived, carbureted 2.3-liter in-line four with a thin shellacking of electronic sensors was an all-around nightmare. Finding a mechanic dumb smart enough to repair a hair dryer slapped on a toilet bowl draw-through turbocharged engine was not for the faint of heart. As for the V8 promise, this quirky mechanical mutt was dog slow and pig inefficient. Missed it by that much!

But that was the late ‘70s. By 1983, Ford leapfrogged the competition with a multi-point fuel injection system run by the biggest brain in the industry. It's name was EEC-IV, and it performed a quarter million commands every second. Even with a meager 128 bytes of read/write memory, EEC-IV played well with an AiResearch turbocharger feeding the four-pot Ford. The result was a "V8-ish" 145hp in the import-minded, Neidermeyer-approved, Thunderbird Turbo Coupe.

With newfound power and drivability, the American V8 faced a credible treat from within. Ford, the near-bankrupt automaker, coined a marketing phrase for their efforts: "Power on Demand." The return of gas on demand (for peanuts) put paid to that process.

Still, in the middle of the 1984 model year, The Blue Oval Boyz' skunkworks produced something quite EcoBoost-ish: the turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder Mustang SVO. With a bevy of braking, suspension and cosmetic improvements, this top-dollar Pony Car courted BMW 3-series buyers with more performance for less bread. Of course, such badge snobbery requires a premium over a V8 motivated Mustang. To the tune of $6k. Ouch.

The extra clams bought you a full 175hp, equaling the Mustang GT's carbureted V8. Come 1985, this ‘riod-infused Pinto added thirty ponies and boasted better mileage than the V8. The four-pot Mustang delivered on all those early promises of cake-and-eat-it-too power and fuel economy combo. Sort of.

In reality, the SVO was a cobbled-up wannabe, still sporting that cheap fox-body Fairmont dashboard. The dynamic improvements simply didn't cut it for an upper-crust offering. In typical Detroit fashion, factory rebates countered the SVO's sticker shock and eventually moved the metal. But it wasn't exactly what you'd call breakthrough engineering.

By 1986, the four-pot Mustang SVO was dead– and not just because gas was cheap (and, of course, available). The V8 alternative– a fuel-injected, 200hp, 5.0-liter Mustang– sold for just $10k. Once these new fuel-injected V8 ‘Stangs hit the ground, even a Blue Oval bureaucrat could predict the SVO's demise.

Ford's "new" era of the small block V8s was EEC-IV powered, with a long runner intake and eight sequentially firing fuel injectors. In Mustang terms, the finale was a (1987) Pony Car with a robust 225hp and a jaw-dropping 300lb-ft of torque. With tall gearing, the V8 was one or two MPG thirstier than the turbo-four AND it ran on regular gas. It was cheaper, smoother and didn't know the meaning of heat soak or turbo lag.  

Today, Ford's putting its remaining eggs into an "EcoBoost" shaped basket: a line of turbocharged motors promoted as more efficient than "larger displacement engines." In fact, the autoblogosphere is buzzing over a rumored comeback of the mighty SVO, in EcoBoosted form. It appears that only the player's names changed.

Given today's Energy Crisis 3.0, Dearborn's quest for the last possible mile per gallon is understandable. And the small cars that the Blue Oval's rushing to market require small yet powerful engines. But compared to normally aspirated engines, turbo powerplants are relatively expensive and more complex. And that means they're more expensive to maintain and repair.

If Ford stands for one thing– which it should– it's simple, robust and affordable vehicles and powertrains. In the rush to satisfy federal fuel economy regulations, Ford would do well to remember history, and not overlook the modern, efficient V8's appeal to their core audience.

Hang on; while Ford PR is promoting EcoBoost like there's no tomorrow (which may well be true), the Blue Oval's boffins have been busy developing their next generation 5.0-liter V8. The new engine leapfrogs the 1980s upgrades with a cutting-edge direct injection system (similar to its EcoBoost siblings). The new 5.0 will be faster, cheaper to produce and easier to repair. It's an "honest" component delivered in the true spirit of the Ford brand.


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41 Comments on “EcoBoost: SVO Redo?...”

  • avatar

    Interesting history. I would agree with the burden of this article (don’t lose focus on updating the V8 properly). Oddly, though, I haven’t thought of the latest set of turbo-charged engines being bandied about as competitors to the high-end V8s, but rather as a way of getting a reasonable amount of power out of a 4-cylinder engine and replacing V6s and the like in ‘normal’ cars. As an example, I’d point to the Audi 2.0T engine. I was helping a friend car shop, and I was quite pleasantly surprised by that engine in an A4. Plenty of power when required, smoother than I expected and all in all, completely adequate to the task – and fairly efficient to boot. Quite unlike some of my other turbo-charged engine experiences (mainly a Honda CX500T [motorcycle] – wicked turbo lag with a massive step-change in power once the turbo actually spooled up and pretty poor mileage)…

  • avatar

    Hasn’t GM been doing this direct injected/turbo thing for a while?

    Ford is not doing anything special…

  • avatar

    Every automaker has dabbled in turbos, DI or both. Ford’s work with ecoboost, however, is really focused on engine control and optimization (fuel management, injection control, throttle control, torque curve, etc).

    Ford’s Ecoboost is not an exercise in making a 4-cylinder more powerful just for the sake of power but to replace a V6 in a specific application with greater efficiency. So, you have to understand how users use their V6s and then make sure that you aren’t just spinning up your turbos as hard as possible for back-in-the-seat acceleration. This is where throttle control comes into play and interacts with fuel management systems and injection control on the engine. This is not a rehash of Mazda’s SIDI. Nor a direct copy of VW’s TDI’s. The hardware is all there, but what Ford is really working on alot is software and few hardware tidbits that make the system overall more efficient and less expensive than turbo setups normally are.

    As for the point of the article, Ford is trying to walk a tightrope, but ultimately, their hand will be forced by gas prices or CAFE to introduce something that is drastically more efficient than a 3.5 V6, but with the power of a 3.5V6. I don’t know if you could say all their eggs are in the Ecoboost basket, but it appears a lot of them are. So, in the meantime, their 5.0 engine will be welcome with new found efficiency and even more power, but in the medium-term, they will have to meet either a consumer or government requirment. And relying on a V8 would not be wise at that point…

  • avatar

    Simply put, with turbos if you dip into the boost they will use a lot of fuel because that’s what boost requires to avoid pre-detonation.

    I owned a Buick Grand National (hence my screen name) for ten years and finally sold it in 2006. It was a great car, far ahead of it’s time, and a pleasure to drive.

    One thing it was not was a fuel miser.

    Yes, on the open road with the cruise set it did achieve 30mpg consistently. When I lived out in the country with no traffic, no stoplights and uniterrupted driving it averaged 24mpg overall per tank. Very good.

    But, when I moved to the city and brought the car with me it’s fuel consumption instantly rose from all city driving. Commuting to work and back it dropped to 12-14mpg.

    I have a modern V8 muscle car now, it averages 16-19mpg in the same driving conditions on the same route. Which is a marked improvement.

    I have driven plenty of modern turbo engines too from the Neon SRT4 to the DI Ecotec in GM’s roadsters to Subaru’s boxer in the STi to BMW’s sublime twin-turbo. The BMW is about as close to turbo perfection as it gets but it’s still no V8. The other two are still a very far cry from a good modern V8. And the funny thing is that if driven as intended they use nearly as much fuel.

    I don’t know about anyone else but only 20mpg overall in any four cylinder is a little eye-watering to me when my V8 beating on eight cylinders and producing power at the low end and across the RPM range is already delivering that number.

  • avatar

    To be fair, direct injection with a turbo produces some fairly substantial improvements over a nastily aspirated gas engine. Whether or not the Ford engine will do it justice is another matter.

    Around the world people are happily driving diesels and gas engines with these technologies and getting Prius level fuel economy from their 1.4L to 1.8L engines.

    Why can’t we? Oh yeah, because we have our collective heads in the 70’s and 80’s where diesels sucked and turbo’s lagged. We are so far behind the rest of the world it’s comical.

  • avatar

    Turbocharging may not be the panacea the car companies think it is. Two modern examples, the Mazda CX-7 and the Acura RDX, are not exactly class leading with their mileage. 3.5L V6s can still beat them.

  • avatar

    This reminds me of something that drives me nuts about today’s vehicles. I checked Edmunds a while back and found that the new Toyota Tacoma access cab is heavier than last generation’s four-door crew cab, both with the 2.7 liter four-cylinder engine.

    By 130 pounds.

    The new access cab is useless for carrying backseat passengers with any degree of comfort. In addition, payload is down by 330 pounds over the last model according to Edmunds, gross weight is down 200 pounds, and length is up by six inches.

    Bottom line: The newfound size of these trucks–not to mention cars like the Ford Mustang–is not only making them lose fuel mileage, but is making them less useful.

    If Ford reduced the F-150 back to its size when it was aerodynamically-correct (i.e. 1998), it could easily use a NA V6. Instead, they’re going to try using a turbocharged V6 because the NA version isn’t powerful enough. Towing and hauling with the V6 likely won’t be much more than had they used the V8, neither will fuel economy, but you have to pay for extra complexity when you go to get it fixed. Oh, yeah, and you’ll probably have to use premium fuel.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Good article, Sajeev.

    The biggest challenge most folks have is in believing that a small (modern) turbo engine can be more efficient than a larger non-turbo engine. That’s because most of us experienced them in vehicles where their purpose was primarily to boost power in a performance-oriented car (like the SVO). But thanks to the latest in electronics, valve control, etc., the chips can do pretty much what the engineers want.

    There is no question that the “downsizing” trend is already taking Europe by storm, started by VW’s excellent 1.4 TFSI engine that produces 170hp, like the US market 2.5 engine, but with substantially better efficiency.

    A smaller engine has less friction and pumping losses, heats up quicker, and when running in no or low boost situations, approaches diesel-like efficiency. That’s why they’re selling well. We just haven’t experienced any here yet.

    The Audi/VW 2.0 turbo is not a true “downsized” engine like the 1.4; but it showed the way. And almost every European manufacturer is working on their similar engine. That’s also why GM is adopting the turbo 1.4, which was developed by Opel.

    Have an open mind to these “downsized” engines until you have a chance to experience them. A fatter, flatter, almost turbo-diesel torque curve (plateau), no peaky horse-power curve, efficient, smoother (than a bigger four).

    The one downside: as Sajeev said, they’re more expensive. In Europe, with their higher gas prices, that’s mostly working. Over here, the economics are the biggest question mark.

  • avatar

    Great article, Sajeev! I still own my 1984 SVO and feel that it was easily about 5 years ahead of it’s time, if not more. For me, the biggest advantage to the SVO Mustang was the lighter weight over the front wheels, making it much better balanced while easily outhandling the heavier V8. In this era of super-heavy vehicles, cutting weight is going to be critical to better MPG…

    If Ford is going to do this right, they need to make the EB be more things to more people than the exclusive approach taken with the SVO. It also has to have clear advantages in fuel efficiency without giving up performance. And after all, what is a Ford supposed to be if not honest, durable, affordable and for the masses?

  • avatar

    If Ford stands for one thing– which it should– it’s simple, robust and affordable vehicles and powertrains. In the rush to satisfy federal fuel economy regulations, Ford would do well to remember history, and not overlook the modern, efficient V8’s appeal to their core audience.

    I guess this is the core audience that appears to be buying less and less Ford v8 equiped products every year!

    OK, folks lets be honest here and really look at how well the v8 has served Ford PASSANGER CAR lineup over the last 25 years. You have the Mustang THE ONLY V8 EQUIPED FORD PASSANGER CAR THAT EXIST 25 years ago and still exist today!
    The Joke is that the Mustang is a V6 car with a v8 option.

    Like it or not outside of the Panther platform Ford has NOT made a RWD 4 door v8 sedan since god knows when. The V8 only managed to see limited duty in the T-bird and Cougars in the late 1980s and early 1990s and was NOTHING to write home about in those cars. In the Panther cars the v8 was not even as powerful as a decent modern v6.

    Just like GM, Ford likes to talk a big v8 game yet they primiarly make FWD cars! Outside of that Taurus SHO (engine by Yamaha) Ford has not produced a transverse v8 in any of its cars. Damn, almost forgot about that FWD Conti although it is easy to forget!

    The flip-side is that Fords 4cyl and v6 engines have NEVER been any thing to wrtie home about.
    IF (BIG IF) Ford was smart they would understand that they do NEED a engine like the Nissan 3.5l v6. AN engine that does excellent duty in BOTH FWD and RWD platforms NOT a another V8 with very limited use for Ford.

  • avatar

    I’m old enough to have very fond memories of the SVO Mustang (developed by Michael Kranefuss, it should be remembered). For its day, it was very sleek and stylish, and went like a bat out of hell. What the article above fails to give the SVO credit for was the sophistication of its ride, handling and braking vis-a-vis lesser Mustangs of the day. For the extra dough you got a significantly more sophisticated vehicle.

    I know that for TTAC nothing makes up for a chintzy interior, but for some of us there are more important aspects to the driving experience.

    Perhaps that’s why today I drive another turbo-charged 4 cylinder: the SAAB 9-3. If it’s done right, it is actually better than a thirsty V-8.

  • avatar

    I guess Ford didn’t get the memo. Word from across the pond(Mitsubishi) is:

    “Mitsubishi is determined to retain their leadership position in electric cars”


    “The company plans to skip the hybrid phase of future car development and go straight to a plug-in”,23599,24070715-2,00.html

    And the final nail in the coffin for the “big” three:

    “The new electric powered vehicle, the MiEV..”

    “Fleet testing at various US companies will commence this fall in preparation for the 2009 launch.”

    Depending on price; I’ll be buying one(paid in full) next summer(somewhere it’s written about a summer release and progress going faster then expected).

  • avatar
    John Horner

    If fuel prices stay high then we are going to see more small displacement, turbocharged, direct injected engines. Modern OHC V-8 and V-6 engines with massive heads, complex valve-trains and highly optimized intake manifold systems are not exactly cheap to make either. Computer power for engine control is vastly better and cheaper than it was in the EEC-IV days.

    A 4 cylinder engine compared to a V-6 does away with two pistons and their associated bores as well as one head. The 4 banger needs only one exhaust manifold and a much simpler intake manifold than a “V” engine uses. In high volumes the cost adder for a turbocharger need not be more than the cost savings from ditching the extra stuff needed for a V-6 over a straight 4.

    Many years ago Volvo pursued two different developments to improve the performance of the venerable “red-block” Volvo 4 cylinder engine. The avenue they stuck with for a long time was turbocharging. For several years they also had a parallel high performance version built by bolting a then state of the art double overhead came, 4 valve head onto the old block. The DOHC solution was killed after a few years because turbocharging was a better, cheaper way to get the job done.

    Sure, if gas drops back below $2/gallon and a new US government says just kidding about CAFE restrictions then the EcoBoost and similar projects might get killed off. If not, they will be around.

    Finally, the Ford car core audience cares not a bit for V-8 engines. Mass market cars are a 4 cylinder and V-6 game even today. Camry and Accord both sell the majority of their output as 4 bangers, and they literally define the core of the US car market. The Mustang is a specialty vehicle which probably makes some money for Ford, but it is hardly the core of the business.

  • avatar

    Not a big fan of the upcoming EcoBoost Sajeev?

    I hear rumors that the twin-turbo six they’ll put in upcoming Stang’s will be making 350HP! Maybe from an enthusiasts perspective the new 5.0 will be marginally more fun while providing slightly lower miles per gallon but unlike the TT V6 Ford can’t put that 5.0 in anything other than a Mustang GT or take an iron-block version and stuff it into a truck/SUV.

    Even though the EcoBoost motors might only provide marginally better fuel economy and higher maintenance costs than a V8 it also seems like the TT V6 or 4 will have far more applications for Ford/Mercury/Lincoln cars than a V8 will, especially with their shifting emphasis away from SUVs/trucks. I think the upcoming 5.0 will be awesome but what ultimately that can only be a relatively niche motor these days…

  • avatar

    I live on the same balancing act here too. I have a Saab 9-5. 260hp, turbo-charged intercooled 2.3L 4-cyl. But, even with powerful computers, very low aerodynamic drag (.29), the 9-5 is currently only getting 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway. If it was a direct injection motor I believe it would probably get better mileage!

  • avatar

    I am looking forward to the EcoBoost quite a bit. While others may have DI V6 engines, and even turbo versions thereof, the big difference in the Ford plan is to spread it across the lineup and thus hopefully make it affordable for all through economy of scale.

    With the new Camaro making 300hp in v6 trim, and 400hp in V8, the new Mustang needs to at least match that plus add a fuel economy benefit to make sure it has the edge in the market.

    The 3.7 liter duratec already makes 270hp and near the same amount of torque in the MKS and Mazda CX-9/’09 Mazda6, so coaxing it up to the 300 hp mark shouldn’t be hard, and beating GM at getting a 400hp fuel efficient engine I would hope is within Ford’s grasp.

  • avatar

    I am a big fan of the Ecoboost idea, even if not a new idea, it is promising in that it attempts to get the most out of our current inexpensive combustion engine. In a way, I feel like I am already driving the the test mule for Ford’s Ecoboost. My Mazdaspeed6 has been a fantastic car. The 2.3 direct injected turbo is fantastic to drive. I have never gotten below 20 mpg and do my fair share of hooning. Getting 25+ mpg on the highway at 80mph is no problem. Not too many other 3600 pound AWD cars with 270hp and 280 lb-ft of torque can boast those fuel economy numbers.

    The new MZR 2.5 is more efficient and powerful than my 2.3 .Properly tuned toward economy rather than fire breathing performance, regular fuel and a little weight reduction could give us a serious fuel miser with very decent performance.

    I look forward to it and will be an early adapter if they keep delivering on their new products like they have of late.

  • avatar

    The only reason I’d buy a Furd or any other American product is for a big honking torque addled V8 that makes rumbly noises. If the “next big thing” is turbo fours, I’ll just skip the otherwise-crap vehicle they will inevitably stuff it into and buy a GTI or a Cooper S – cars that do it perfectly, right out of the box, right now. I’m willing to overlook the (serious) flaws of an American car if I get a big fun V8, but not with a run of the mill four cylinder design. There are too many other options out there that do it much better.

  • avatar

    I’m currently the ‘proud’ owner of a car with a downsized engine: a Peugeot 308 1.6 thp. You can buy that same engine in the US in the Mini. My previous car was a atmospheric 2.0 Citroen C5. (Let’s talk about reliability another time;-)) These cars are -on paper- quite comparable performance wise: both weight roughly 1350 kg (Citroen slightly heavier) both engines are rated at roughly 140 bhp and have about the same frontal surface. Both have (the same?) 4 speed automatic.

    The interesting question now is, is the Peugeot more frugal? The answer: yes, but no. At constant speeds, it is. However, it has a lot more torque at low revs and that does not come for free. So around town I have the impression that it uses more fuel. In return I get a quicker car. But I pay at the pump. For long drives it is more economical. If I would control myself better, I probably would get a better efficiency overall.

    In the end the person behind the wheel is maybe the most important factor.

  • avatar

    If we are discussing real world considerations my question is, How long will these turbos last? Will I need a $1000+ repair at 100,000 miles? Will I need to use synthetic oil changed religiously every 3000 miles? Will I need to let the turbo spin down before I shut the engine off? (“Sure I promise I will, everytime I drive the car.”) If you are looking at total cost of ownership fuel is not your only expense (financial or environmental).

  • avatar

    I think the real gain for Eco-boost is in using 4 cylinder engines to replace V6’s in the C/D and D class cars. As has been said, Mazda already makes an outstanding 4 cylinder turbo. It has smooth monster power and reasonable economy. Using a 2.3L DI Turbo 4 instead of a 3.5L 6 should show real gains in economy with minimal loss of power. Tuning would be critical though, as a quick peak online shows the Mazdaspeed 3 returning 18/26 mpg, and the 3.5L V6 in the Lincoln MKZ with 18/28 mpg.

    Using a twin turbo 3.7L V6 in Lincoln flagships doesn’t make sense to me. The gains over a V8 will be minor and it will lack that cachet and smooth performance. Now, that engine would be awesome in the Mustang and even better in a Mercury Cougar with an IRS, but I digress.

    Naturally, these will be more maintenance intensive than their NA counterparts and could require premium fuel, so something will be lost in the transition.

  • avatar

    Morea: mainstream turbochargers are getting pretty cheap, and they’re very reliable. You don’t really need to “spin them down”, either, or change oil every time it rains. Thank water-cooled center sections, modern casting technology (thinner walls, less heat soak), and reduced mass for lower inertia. Of course, a twin-turbo V6 would be a maintenance nightmare, but a turbo inline 4(or 5, or 6) is actually easier to work on than an NA v6, especially in a transverse form. Only one of everything, and you don’t need a midget mechanic to service the rear half of the engine.

  • avatar

    guyincognito :

    Naturally, these will be more maintenance intensive than their NA counterparts and could require premium fuel, so something will be lost in the transition.

    Aye, here’s the rub. Isn’t the Ecoboost short sighted on Ford’s part? Sure they can sell them on higher gas mileage and it will help them reach their CAFE targets but when the customers realize the overall cost of ownership is greater than the V6 won’t Ford be left holding the bag (again)? If you put in regular fuel and the microprocessor retards timing will you end up with the same mileage as the V6?

  • avatar

    alex_rashev, I agree with what you wrote, but I am not convinced that the overall cost of ownership is less for a turbo four than an NA V6, especially for appliance cars that will not get the TLC of high-end performance cars.

    Another approach: Why has there been so little work on increasing engine red lines as a way to get more power out of a smaller displacement? Passenger car engines seem to have been at 5500 to 6500 rpm red line forever. Will the Honda S2000 approach work? That is an 8000 rpm red line on a smaller engine to generate the power when you need it but save fuel when you don’t. Motorcycles (sport bikes) seem to use the approach successfully (more for weight reduction than fuel efficiency though)

  • avatar

    You know that it’s a sad day for the American auto industry when the idea of building a turbocharged engine is a big deal worth discussing.

    The Big 2.8 have always made minimal effort to make a compelling four-cylinder engine of any type. They always sound nasty and aren’t well matched to their transmissions. Before adding more components to it, the first step should be to improve the foundation.

  • avatar

    Another approach: Why has there been so little work on increasing engine red lines as a way to get more power out of a smaller displacement? Passenger car engines seem to have been at 5500 to 6500 rpm red line forever. Will the Honda S2000 approach work? That is an 8000 rpm red line on a smaller engine to generate the power when you need it but save fuel when you don’t. Motorcycles (sport bikes) seem to use the approach successfully (more for weight reduction than fuel efficiency though)

    I’d say the biggest reason is that outside of sports cars (and I am using this term pretty broadly here) people don’t want an engine that they have to spool way up to get the power out of.

    In daily driving scenarios where there is a good bit of stop and go having gobs of power and torque and low rpms is much more useful. No one wants to have to rev the engine and drop the clutch every time they pull away from a stop light.

  • avatar
    Ryan Knuckles

    No one wants to have to rev the engine and drop the clutch every time they pull away from a stop light.

    Careful with the generalizations there. If I could get 40 more horsepower revving the mess out of my Civic (and not throwing a piston through the hood) and still maintain my mileage in normal driving conditions, I would jump at it. The S2000 is an insanely fun car.

    Additionally, how often do you use all of your cars potential when leaving a stoplight? Unless you are stoplight-dragging, 200HP should be plenty for most cars. Having more on tap should I want to access it sounds great to me. It’s kind of like a turbo charger, without the all around worse gas mileage.

  • avatar

    One reason for low-revving common cars is expense. It’s hard to make a high-displacement engine spin fast. IIRC the big diesel two-stroke rigs on ships redline at about 100rpm, which is pretty damn good for a piston that you can sleep on top of ;)

    For comparison, many liter-bikes redline below 10000rpm; my 2-pot 250R Ninja can go up to 14K, and its four-cylinder JDM brother (talk about us getting only crap on this side of the pond) can top 18000rpm.

    Turbocharging is actually easier, and has the benefit of added power across the entire power band. With direct injection, good chargecooling and proper detonation control, modern turbo engines can run a lot leaner, and with much higher compression ratios, than the hairdryers of the yore.

    Turbo engines have another added benefit when used to increase fuel economy – you can overdrive the hell out of your top gear in a manual gearbox. You can also use less gears, since the powerband is wide enough. Both will improve mileage.

    Finally, modern engine control systems allow you to have infinite control over a motor’s character. You can have regular versions, economy versions, and high-power versions, all out of the same design; cost savings can be immense (and tuners will sell you their souls).

    Notice how the turbo Sky gets 4 highway MPG more than the N/A version, despite having far more power; if this is a good reason to join the turbo camp, I don’t know what is.

  • avatar

    Newer turbos aren’t much fun – when the boost finally hit midway through a turn in my 1990 Ford Probe GT, you never knew what direction you might go.

    Now THAT was fun. Bring back the scary in turbos…

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “Now THAT was fun. Bring back the scary in turbos…”

    I bet that the tuner-chip guys will be willing to accommodate you!

  • avatar

    I’ve mentioned this point in at least three other TTAC threads and never even gotten a nibble.

    European car co.s did not develop the latest generation of high-output, small displacement, forced air motors out of the goodness of their heart or to showcase their technical innovation.
    They did it because the EU high commission levied displacement taxes on purchase, resale and annual registration of vehicles.

    The EU started the tax in the 90s when we were paying $1.05/gallon and ratched them up over the course of 10 years. The timeline was intended to allow auto makers enough lead time to develop the new generation of motor. It’s really simple if you buy a car with a 1.4L or smaller motor, no tax. Otherwise you have to pay a tax at purchase and each subsequent registration for each 0.1L of displacement. It effectively makes the 1.4L Golf with all kinds of goodies less to buy than the stripped one with a 2.5L motor. It also offers an economic incentive to trade in your large displacement ride for something more efficient.

    Think about the grassroots dynamic – dealers always prefer stocking vehicles loaded to the gills with high-margin options. Guess what EU dealers started steering walk-in buyers towards for a test drive five years ago? Hop across to our side of the pond circa 2002 & walk into a U.S. car dealer. It was literally impossible to buy something, anything off the lot with basic safety equipment like side air bags not laden with premium option pkgs or anything but the biggest motor available.

    We wound up with a displacement war plus an inefficient national fleet – Europe wound up with the motors we’re all drooling over…
    It’s too late to use this approach and give our 2.3 a ten year head start. The bed Detroit is now lying in was made by their own lobbyists and the spineless Clinton/Gore administration that couldn’t muster the fortitude to levy a displacement tax when gas was $1/gallon.

  • avatar

    mgrabo : It’s true that it’s a little-mentioned fact that some countries tax aggressively on displacement and/or horsepower. A de-tuned turbo motor with relatively low HP can provide generous torque. Some countries like Japan also have strict inspection and maintenance requirements to keep cars in good condition. In a grossly simplified explanation, the US is the world’s largest auto market. Displacement and horsepower are just as important as 0-60 times in marketing. Normally aspirated vehicles are generally cheaper to design, build, fuel and maintain as well. That and people generally want the next generation of car to be more powerful, and more efficient.

    The high cost of gas would also damage many small and medium businesses as well as put a strain on the wallets of a lot of people, commuters especially. It would also raise the cost of living, etc. I wouldn’t trust the government to properly spend billions in gas tax revenue anyway.

  • avatar

    Areitu, those Japanese maintenance requirements are certainly another factor that helps other countries maintain more modern, efficient auto fleets. The point of displacement taxes is to create the option to pay the tax if you gotta have cubes or chose a more sensible vehicle.

    Displacement / horsepower taxes create a framework in which auto co.s are incentivized by market forces to develop efficient motors AND dealers are incentivized to actually stock cars equipped with them in order to minimize the Gov’t take from these taxes.

    Market forces dictate that most average buyers when faced with a choice between say an Accord equipped with sunroof + goodies and a 1.4L turbo motor which delivers 30+MPG or a similarly priced because of displacement tax say Explorer with no options and a 4.0L motor which delivers 16MPG will gravitate towards the more comforable whip.

    There have literally been 100s of posts on TTAC deriding US consumers for buying SUVs with big motors and towing capacity that they had no reason to own. Displacement taxes would have subtly steered the vanity SUV buyer away from grossly inefficient personal vehicles while allowing these vehicles optioned in their historic form (see recent In Defense of thread; BTW have you ever sat in a fully optioned 2500 series Suburban from the 80s) for those buyers that actually need and use these capabilities.

    By choosing not to tax displacement and providing those oft mentioned small business depreciation benefits, the gov’t actually created an inverse environment where cheap to build BOF vehicles could be laden with creature comforts and offered at lower prices than smaller, more expensive to build unibody cars. US consumers don’t do TCO very well.

    It’s actually one of the few structural tariffs a government can deploy to encourage automotive frugality without gutting all the fun out of the cars available. I think the end point we reached (SUV clogged highways and by-ways) versus that of Europe (proliferation of nimble, 5-speed coupes and hatchbacks with sprinkling of 12 cylinder autobahn destroying sedans) illustrates the effectiveness of these regulations as part of a cohesive energy/transit policy.

  • avatar

    mgrabo makes an excellent point. I would only add that some countries (like Italy) have had a displacement tax much longer than the EU as a whole. This explains the plethora of hot, small displacement, low weight Italian engines through the years (Fiat, Alfa, Lancia).

  • avatar

    Thank you all for reading. When reading and discussing, keep in mind how well this technology works in premium cars, and how the Ford brand is not premium.

    Qusus : Not a big fan of the upcoming EcoBoost Sajeev?

    Ecoboost has its place, but I’d rather hear about a 1.3L EcoBoost in an upcoming Fiesta.

    I don’t believe it will work in a larger Ford car or the original Pony Car. We shall see if EcoBoost works for the Lincoln MKS, but I’m not holding my breath. That car has “dud” written all over it.

    And for the Mustang: The rumors on the “Coyote” 5.0L V8 are already circulating: 400hp, 400lb-ft torque, direct injection, all motor, no extra moving parts to break. And it supposedly gets better economy than the old 4.6L.

    The rumors make sense, its simple thermodynamics. Just look at how much more power you get from the DI 3.6L engine in the Caddy CTS over its IDI counterpart. Ditto other DI motors from Europe and elsewhere. When the Coyote comes, it’ll be the 5.0HO all over again: American power with modern technology.

    Regarding V6 EcoBoost applications to other sedans: who really wants to spend $30,000+ for a Ford car with EcoBoost? Think 2010 Taurus SHO, or simply look at how terrible the premium Ford Flex performs in this climate.

    The D3 chassis is a dud and V6 EcoBoost just raises the asking price. The future of Ford is with RWD premium sedans and FWD fuel misers like the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion and whatever Ford of Europe imports for Mercury.

  • avatar

    “…requires a premium over a V8 motivated Mustang. To the tune of $6k. Ouch.”

    Wrong. In 1985 I bought a new Mustang GT which stickered for $12K. The premium for an SVO Mustang was about $2000-$2500 as it stickered at about $14-$14.5K. Some dealers were trying to get a premium for the SVO which is why you may remember the difference as being $6K, but the actual difference was less than half that.

    For me, it still wasn’t worth the difference in price as it represented about 20% of the cost of a GT. As the former owner of a ’69 Mach I, I was already a fan of the Windsor small-block V8. In the end it turned out to be a very good decision as gas prices were a non-issue and after a while, the classifieds had quite a few SVOs for sale by owners who thought they were making “investments” instead of buying a decently-priced, well-performing car.

  • avatar

    Of course, we are all assuming that these 4 and 6 cylinder turbocharged engines will get better fuel economy than equivalent power 6 and 8 cylinders.
    Sajeev- Is that 5.0L V8 a pushrod engine?
    Can we get a new Mercury Cougar going? Nothing complicated, just a Mustang chassis notchback coupe with a nice interior.

  • avatar

    bunkie: Wrong. In 1985 I bought a new Mustang GT which stickered for $12K…Some dealers were trying to get a premium for the SVO which is why you may remember the difference as being $6K, but the actual difference was less than half that.

    You’re right, 6k sounds high. But its probably more like 4k, because I wasn’t talking about the SVO versus the GT, I was referring to the LX 5.0 Notchback.

    Anyone remember how much a zero-option 5.0 notch went for back in ’85? It may not draw attention like a GT, but it got the job done with less weight and less money.

    davey49 : Sajeev- Is that 5.0L V8 a pushrod engine? Can we get a new Mercury Cougar going? Nothing complicated, just a Mustang chassis notchback coupe with a nice interior.

    Its a fair assumption that the new 5.0 is a Modular motor just like the 4.6L.

    I expect we’ll get a new Cougar when GM’s BOD thinks that Rabid Rick isn’t a good CEO. So I’m not holding my breath.

  • avatar

    Anyone remember how much a zero-option 5.0 notch went for back in ‘85?

    Probably a hair under $10k. Talk about bang for the buck!

    I sure hope that Coyote motor is a reality….but 400 HP out of 5 liters is really not much to speak of, when BMW was achieving this 8 years ago without the benefit of Direct Injection….albeit in a much more expensive car. I’d like to see some documentation that the new Five-Oh is indeed a DI motor.

  • avatar

    Torque to launch is a relative need. I spent three years in the early 90s living in Npaples, Italy courtesy of the US Navy driving 1.0L and less cars. My Beetle had 40HP (base 1200cc engine offered there in 1972).

    If everybody’s car is slow then its no big deal and a 15 second race to 100 kph can still seem fun while wringing out a 900cc Autobianchi A122E.

    My driving style changed to one that seemed like a lead footed hypermiler. Ways to take advantage of that minimalist powerplant. Understand we were slow off the line but cruised at 160 kph+ (100 mph) sometimes.

    Service folks who brought their 80s vintage Detroit iron to Italy were surprised to find that their cars with large engines could not keep up and their suspensions could not cope. These cars also needed alot more maintenance like brakes, shocks and tires. A modest Tempo or Cavalier was not designed to be driven hard on rough cobblestoned streets.

    I left with a real respect for those small Euro-cars that continues today. I sold a Mustang before leaving for Italy and have not owned a domestic product since except a ’49 Chevy p/u. I still drive compacts.

    I have to wonder if the “eco-boost” programs and their cousins at the GM and Chyrsler might just be part of corporate shell-games for CAFE. Look – these cars test well on the MPG routine but in real life they don’t measure up quite as good.

    In otherwords they meet the federal regs but driven like mere mortal consumers whose expectations are rather shallow (go fast, good performance numbers for the marketing materials) these cars will return mileage similar or slightly worse than a V-6.

    You know, like the relative that told me with an embarassed smile that she knows gasoline is expensive but she can’t help herself – she likes to launch her SUV from stoplights like it was a muscle car even if it does cost her alot of money. To each their own – to a point I suppose.

    I’d be happy with more GOOD 1.4L engines on the road with some turbo 1.4L engines for those who “need the speed”. I’ll trade 0-60 speed for better mileage anytime as long as there are enough gears (5 or 6 speeds) in my manual tranny to accelerate and climb the hills.

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