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What You Need to Know About Ford’s EcoBoost

Chris Kaiser

As Ford’s most popular engine design, the EcoBoost combines efficiency and power like few others. We explain how Ford achieved the best of both worlds.

From the spartan Ford Fiesta to the burly F-150, Ford has put its EcoBoost engines in vehicles up and down its product line. And since the name might not immediately convey what EcoBoost actually does, we thought we should lay it out in plain language.

The two most common questions about EcoBoost are: What is it? And then, should I consider one when buying a Ford?

What Is It?

Ford EcoBoost Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT)
Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT) | Ford.com

EcoBoost is a combination of three existent engine technologies: turbocharging, direct fuel injection, and variable camshafts. The goal being to increase fuel efficiency and reduce the emissions of Ford’s engines, all with the added benefit of a turbo “boost” in output.

Taking a step back, what exactly is turbocharging? Turbocharging involves running exhaust gases through a turbine connected to a centrifugal air-compressor (integrated into the air-intake) which in turn forces more air into the combustion chamber. More air (and oxygen) equals more bang and more engine output.

Direct fuel injection is just what it sounds like. Direct fuel injection sends fuel directly to the combustion chamber where it then mixes with air, rather than a throttle body injection or port injection, both of which mix air and fuel before injecting them into the combustion chamber. This direct injection is similar to what happens in a diesel engine.

Read Also: Diesel vs. Gas: What’s the Difference?

Ford combines these two technologies with dual overhead camshafts. Dual overhead camshafts (DOHC) double the number of values per cylinder and allow more air in and out of each cylinder. Again, more air, more power. The result are engines capable of equaling the output larger engines while using less fuel.

Welcome to the Big SHO (Yes, the Sixth Gen. Taurus had an EcoBoost Too)

Now that we’ve established what EcoBoost is, the question remains: Do you want one in your next Ford? The answer, you probably do.

2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost
2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost | Ford.com

Take the Mustang as an extreme example. Now, a V6 Mustang has been something of a sacrilege going back to the mid-60s and going down to just four cylinders would seem like sheer blasphemy. But the 2.3-liter EcoBoosted inline-4 in the 2020 Mustang (borrowed from the now defunct Ford Focus RS) puts down 332hp and 350 lb. ft., that’s more than many vintage Mustang V8s. Adding the Handling Package and the lower entry price makes the EcoBoost Mustang HPP (High Performance Pack) a genuinely exciting pony car, regardless of the number of cylinders.

2020 Ford Edge on Carsforsale.com
2020 Ford Edge on Carsforsale.com

The EcoBoost isn’t just for burning rubber. It’s also useful in the most practical and ubiquitous of all vehicle segments the midsize SUV, in this case the Ford Edge. The base 2.0-liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost lends the Edge 250hp. Jumping up to the 2.7-liter V6, the Edge gets a healthy 335hp. And all while boasting an excellent 29 mpg on the highway (or 26 hwy. for the 2.7L).

Jump down another notch and the EcoBoost also allows the Ford EcoSport to run on just 3 cylinders. However, at this absolute bottom end, even the “boost” isn’t enough to lend much pop to the generally sluggish EcoSport.

2020 Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost
2020 Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost | Ford.com

How about the most popular of all vehicles in the US, the Ford F-150? In the F-150, the EcoBoost 2.7-liter V6 gets comparable numbers to the standard V8 with both netting 400 lb. ft. of torque. The real story is the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 which gets the F-150’s top torque of 510 lb. ft. The Raptor sports the 3.5L EcoBoost, need we say more?

Paying the Piper

This is all well and good, but grandma always said you don’t get anything for free. What then are the drawbacks of going full “boost”? First, the turbo “boost” you get from the EcoBoost encourages driving in a manner that might, just might negate large portions of that fuel efficiency savings.

The good news is using the “boost” has the added benefit of making sure the entire turbocharging system gets regular use. Without regular use, components can experience problems, such as with the waste gate which can seize and get stuck open if it isn’t used regularly. Problems with the wastegate and other exhaust components can also be the cause of, or worsen, another common problem with EcoBoost engine, turbo lag.

Lagging But Not Lacking (in Most Cases at Least)

2020 Ford EcoSport on Carsforsale.com
2020 Ford EcoSport on Carsforsale.com

With turbo comes turbo lag. Throttle response is often delayed (especially at low rpms) when turbocharging is added to an engine because the system needs a moment to “spool up” due to the initial low pressure in the engine’s exhaust system. Without a supercharger or a twin-turbo set-up, some lag is likely in almost any turbocharged engine. Additional problems or deficiencies with valves and/or timing only increase lag.

With that said, lag, while persistent across Ford’s EcoBoost engines, is not parceled out equally across their line-up. At the higher end, for instance in the Ranger, turbo lag is relatively subtle until you turn on the “Sport” mode. The extra oomph from “Sport” mode is preceded by a noticeable lag in throttle response. Jump over to the EcoSport and pretty much every moderate acceleration is laggy.

To Boost or Not to Boost

Added complexity and some inevitable lag aside, Ford EcoBoost engines are an engineering success story. Higher or equal outputs with less resource expenditure (globally and from your wallet) and reduced emissions are both unquestionably great things. In truth, Ford’s EcoBoost largely fulfills its have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too billing.

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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