2 July 2007

Ford's Future Powertrain Direction

While many auto manufacturers are scratching their heads trying to decide how to meet likely new EPA fuel economy standards in the next few years, Ford thinks it has an answer. They also hope that answer will address the power shortages that some of their engines have relative to the competition (particularly their V8s, in a world where the competition has 400 and 500 horsepower, with the same or better fuel economy of Ford's current engine lineup).

Ford's solution is called Twin-Force, and it means twin turbos coupled with gasoline direct injection. Starting with the 2008 Lincoln MKS sedan, Ford intends to apply twin turbos to I4, V6, and V8 engines over the next several years, and rumor is that engine sizes and power outputs will be:
  • 260 horsepower for the 2.5 liter I4 (likely to appear in the 2009 Fusion sedan)
  • 350-420 horsepower for the 3.5 liter V6 (likely to appear in the Mustang and F150 later in 2009)
  • 400 horsepower for the possible 5.0 liter V8
  • 650 lb-ft of torque for the 6.2 liter V8 (likely to land in the F150 and Super Duty as a diesel alternative).
If the power figures appear as rumored, I'll be very impressed. Even more impressive is that Ford expects fuel efficency to be on par with contemporary diesels of similar size, but expects diesel-like fuel economy, at a lower cost because the expensive emission equipment will not be needed.

Finally, the last part of Ford's powertrain future is called a Powershift gearbox, which is similar in concept to Volkswagen's much-loved twin clutch DSG gearbox. DSGs promise less driveline loss than a conventional torque converter-equipped automatic (so better fuel economy) and faster, more direct shifts.

Giving Ford the benefit of the doubt that they actually can meet these rumored horsepower and fuel economy numbers, plus rolling out a DSG, all they'll need to get in order is a more interesting, engaging styling direction. They have the ideas (the Ford Interceptor would be a nice start), but need to actually implement them.

I was someone who questioned Ford's strategy of going with a twin turbo V6 in the upcoming Lincoln MKS rather than the Volvo-sourced V8 in the original concept car, but if a Twin-Force V6 exceeds the V8's fuel economy, and with potentially 400+ horsepower (versus about 311 for the V8), it's hard to argue with the results. The photo at the top of this post is of the Twin-Force V6 in the Lincoln MKR concept car, which was first shown at the NAIAS in Detroit in January 2007.

I wish them luck. Now let's see these engines and transmissions actually installed in production vehicles.

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