For all the attention lavished on the 2012 Ford Focus, its 2.0-liter four-cylinder has gone relatively unnoticed. But as we learned today, it's a key achievement for Ford and will play a significant role in the company's lower-priced, mainstream offerings.
The new engine is Ford's first application of direct-injection technology independent of turbocharging. The normally aspirated four-cylinder is in some respects an evolution of Ford's seven-year-old Duratec engine, featuring the same layout and bore spacing, but most of the major components, including the block, cylinder heads, and pistons have been either redesigned or significantly revised. Like other new Ford engines, including the Mustang's 5.0-liter V-8, the new four-cylinder also features twin independent variable camshaft timing, whereby both the intake and exhaust can be advanced or retarded to improve power and emissions. As a result, the new 2.0-liter produces 20 more horsepower than its predecessor in the last-generation Focus.
All these bells and whistles belie the fact that the new engine is essentially Ford's new value offering, and is also something of a hedge against the company's big bet on Ecoboost. With the cleverly named and marketed technology, Ford has been a vocal leader in the shift toward downsized engines that make their power through turbocharging along with direct injection. Following this logic, Ford might have fitted the Focus with its new 1.6-liter Ecoboost four-cylinder, which will power the C-Max. However, when it comes to the notoriously slim-margin American compact segment, Ford is more reluctant to add the cost of a turbocharger and all its cooling components.
"It would be tough for the customer to afford," said Stephen Russ, one the engineers who worked on the direct-injection 2.0-liter.
Instead, Ford will reserve Ecoboost engines for high performance versions of the Focus, namely the forthcoming ST, which will use a 247-hp turbo 2.0-liter.
Paired with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic in the Focus, the 160-hp 2.0-liter achieves up to 40 mpg highway in EPA testing (36 mpg with a manual) while producing significantly more power than the similarly efficient Hyundai Elantra (148 hp) and Chevrolet Cruze (138 hp).
Ford has not yet announced any other applications for the engine, which will be built in Dearborn, but some obvious guesses include the Transit Connect and the new Escape. The new engine has a displacement range of 1.8- to 2.5-liters, meaning a larger version will also likely wind up in the four-cylinder Fusion, as well. One place you certainly won't see these new engines is in any Mazda. Though they jointly developed the Duratec, Ford's sale of most of its stake in the Japanese company limits that cooperation.
"These are Ford only motors," Russ said.