Ford is on a mission to silence the critics that say a turbocharged V-6 gasser couldn't possibly challenge the V-8 in pickup truck land. Their quest continues at the Detroit auto show, where Ford will disassemble its "hero" F-150 EcoBoost V-6 and showcase to the world that its new six-cylinder can tackle over 160,000 miles of hard work truck use with as much ease and reliability as its big-displacement counterparts.
Whether it’s the fuel economy or emissions concerns, the use of turbochargers is on the rise throughout the auto industry. Though diesels have long used the exhaust-gas-spun compressors to aid in developing power, their application on gasoline-fed engines had been nearly non-existent on production pickup trucks, save for novelty performance purposes. Ford hopes visually showing the durability of the EcoBoost V-6 will swing onlooker opinions — from truck newbies to jaded towing/hauling veterans.“Customers will be able to see for themselves how the components fared during a regime of tests that, when taken together, are far more extreme than even the harshest-use customer could dish out,” said Jim Mazuchowski, Ford’s V-6 engines programs manager, in a statement. “This EcoBoost truck engine received no special treatment, and now we’re going to see how it did.”
Hopefully, Ford will offer glimpses of everything, from the valvetrain and cylinder heads down to the block and exhaust assemblies where the turbochargers make their home.
Built in Cleveland, Ohio, the EcoBoost V-6 developed for the F-150 isn’t a complete copy of the engine featured in the Flex and Taurus SHO. To support 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque (70 pound-feet extra), the F-150 EcoBoost employs a different intake manifold, cylinder head, and piston design. The direct-injection and accessory drive systems were redone, as was the cooling system with a heavy-duty radiator. The V-6 also has twin independent variable camshaft timing; the Flex and Taurus SHO integrate variable cam timing on the intake side only.
First, an EcoBoost V-6 was randomly selected and sent to a dynamometer to simulate nearly 10 years of different temperature and load extremes. Then, it was sent straight to a fresh 2011 F-150 without an overhaul or rebuild and tasked with hauling 55 tons of lumber in Oregon, competing in a competitive towing competition at Davis Dam along the Arizona border, and pulling 11,300 pounds for 24 hours straight at the high-speed Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. The engine was later pulled and put into an off-road-prepped race truck for a quick shakedown at the infamous Baja 1000. It survived.
And that wasn’t even the end of the exam. Back in Dearborn, Michigan, the same was strapped to a dyno again and run from 1500 to 5000 rpm to check the cylinder compression, fluid leaks, and power output. After its hard work, engine output still read at the factory ratings.
Finally, the heroic V-6 was torn down. Its operating days are numbered, but its memory and influence will live on in Cobo Hall and, most importantly Ford hopes, in the minds of showgoers in the market for a new truck.