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What Is EcoBoost?

Posted by Auto.com Staff | Jan 3, 2019

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Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

EcoBoost is a Ford-specific line of turbocharged engines designed and manufactured to improve power output without the commonly associated reduction in fuel economy. As the Ford EcoBoost namesake would indicate, the addition of boost pressure via turbocharging is the basis for the improvement in power, torque and efficiency. Ford made headlines when it gave buyers an alternative to the traditional V-8 in some of their most iconic vehicles, including the Ford F-150. But how does EcoBoost work, and is it worth it?

We will start with the basics: Turbocharging is a technology with roots in aviation dating back to World War I. It involves using a combination of exhaust gas heat expansion and velocity to propel a secondary finned wheel. This secondary wheel draws in and compresses fresh air in order to increase engine air intake pressure beyond the typical atmospheric pressure that you would normally see. The pressurized intake allows for markedly improved power output from a smaller displacement engine while still returning improved fuel economy during less demanding driving situations.

Direct injection, which up until recently was much more frequently used on diesel engines, has also made an appearance in the EcoBoost line of turbocharged engines. In older multi-point systems, the fuel would normally be injected into the intake manifold runners. In the case of direct injection, it uses extremely high fuel pressure to atomize the fuel directly in the combustion chambers. This provides superior combustion efficiency to extract the most energy it can from every drop of fuel.

Older turbo setups were lamented for a notable lag in power as the turbo built up boost pressure. But improvements in turbo technology has largely eliminated many of the issues commonly associated with turbocharged setups. Improved low-end torque and a more linear power curve means that an EcoBoost engine will drive much like a larger, non-turbocharged engine. And by marrying improved turbo technology with direct injection, Ford has developed a proprietary setup that not only improves the power output of a smaller engine, but does so with increased fuel economy and reduced emissions.

The Ford EcoBoost comes in a variety of vehicles throughout Ford's lineup. From the Focus to the Mustang to the F-150, Ford has put their EcoBoost setups to good use. By Ford's own account, its EcoBoost engine improves fuel economy by as much as 30%. That may not seem like much but consider the 4x4 2017 Ford F-150: the 5.0L V-8 makes 385 horsepower and gets an EPA-estimated combined mileage of 16 mpg. That same F-150 with a 3.5L V-6 EcoBoost configuration on the other hand, makes 375 horsepower and is rated at 20 mpg for combined driving. If you are doing a lot of driving in a work truck, that small improvement in fuel economy starts to add up.