The EcoBoost engine line-up is Ford’s turbocharged line of motors. They’re specifically designed to offer drivers both good fuel efficiency and strong power. The first EcoBoost motors were launched in a variety of vehicles for the 2010 model year. Although small turbocharged engines with direct injection are now extremely common in all segments, Ford was a pioneer at the time.
In an era of tightening environmental restrictions, turbocharged engines are important for automakers. Historically, turbos were mostly found in diesel engines and performance cars. Today, they allow every vehicle type to use a smaller engine displacement and reduce emissions.
What Does EcoBoost Mean?
EcoBoost is a combination of the words "Ecological" and "Boost." "Eco" describes the eco-friendly nature of the smaller engines, while "Boost" describes the added performance from the turbocharger.
There’s nothing technical in the EcoBoost name. It’s really just a marketing term, like Earth Dreams (Honda) or Pentastar (Fiat Chrysler). The EcoBoost nameplate is most commonly associated with the 2.3L EcoBoost Mustang and the F-150 pickup. But it’s used in dozens of Ford vehicles, from economy cars to cargo vans, and even the 647 hp GT supercar.
How Do EcoBoost Engines Work?
EcoBoost motors are between 3 and 6 cylinders. With smaller displacement, they offer better compliance with environmental regulations. They also give consumers better fuel economy.
EcoBoost engines use three systems to give drivers the best of both worlds. Direct injection and variable cam timing allow the motor to be as fuel-efficient as possible. The addition of a turbocharger gives the engine good acceleration and plenty of power.
Turbochargers are different from superchargers, but both provide boost to the engine. By using exhaust gases to spin a turbine, more air is forced into the cylinders. This means more power, typically in the mid-band of the RPM range. It allows for quick acceleration when needed. However, when cruising at low RPM, the engine has little or no boost. It doesn’t need more power and is able to operate more efficiently.
Exhaust gases (red) exiting the engine spin a turbine, which forces more cold air (blue) into the engine.
Direct injection is one of the main types of fuel injection used today. The other most common method is port injection. Port injection sprays fuel into the intake ports, where it mixes with air before entering the cylinders. Direct injection sprays the fuel right into the combustion chamber. This means a more efficient burn, saving fuel.
The downside of direct injection is the potential for carbon build-up, which is covered below in the reliability section.
Fuel is sprayed directly into the cylinder prior to the compression stroke.
Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT)
Ford actually pioneered variable camshaft timing. By changing how the camshaft operates at a given time, the engine can be optimized for different conditions. The intake and exhaust valves open or close to let more or less air into the cylinders. Managing the timing in this way allows for better torque when needed, while minimizing fuel consumption during lower load. In other words, it allows for more power or better efficiency based on driver demand and other conditions. The effect is similar to variable valve timing (VVT), just achieved in a different way. Ford refers to their variable cam timing system as Ti-VCT.
Ti-VCT allows the intake and exhaust cams to be opened or closed in resposne to load, increasing efficiency.
Are EcoBoost Motors Reliable?
EcoBoost motors have proven to be mostly reliable. They’ve been used for over a decade with almost no widespread problems. Well-known issues include head gasket problems on the Focus RS and exhaust manifold cracking on some 2.0 engines. Most of these reliability issues occurred in early EcoBoost engines. Current EcoBoost engines are as reliable as any other motor.
Carbon Build-Up in EcoBoost Engines
Because EcoBoost engines use direct injection, carbon build-up can occur. This is an issue that has only cropped up in the last decade, so there isn’t much data on the potential negative effects of carbon build-up.
Routine maintenance, such as changing your oil regularly, can help prevent carbon buildup. Always follow the recommended schedule and use the appropriate oil type. Other solutions include aftermarket oil catch cans or periodic removal of carbon. The latter can be done with chemical treatments, walnut blasting, or old-fashioned scrubbing. There’s also the option of an "Italian tune-up," which involves (safely) bringing your engine to redline to burn off some carbon.
While it’s not clear what effects, if any, carbon build-up has in the long run, manufacturers have recognized the potential for issues. They’re alleviating it by switching to dual-injection, which uses both direct and port injection. It’s possible the EcoBoost line-up will switch to this method in the future.
Which Ford Vehicles Use EcoBoost Engines?
Every U.S. Ford model, apart from the Transit Connect van and the all-electric Mustang Mach-E, offers an EcoBoost engine option. The same can be said for Ford models across the world, spanning from Europe to India to the Philippines.
The table below lists all the different EcoBoost engines Ford has used globally. There are also example models for each, and an estimate of the typical power output.
Ford EcoBoost Engines
|Engine||Cylinders||Example Models||Power Output (Ford Models Only)||Notes
||Bronco Sport, Fiesta ST
||Fiesta ST (U.S.)
||Discontinued, replaced by twin-scroll 2.0
||Bronco Sport, Edge
||Focus RS, Ranger
||Bronco, Edge ST
||494 hp achieved in Lincoln Aviator plug-in hybrid
||Raptor (2nd-Gen), Ford GT
Note: Power output range includes Lincoln vehicles. However, it does not include low-production vehicles from companies such as Zenos or Dallara.
The Future of EcoBoost Engines
EcoBoost engines are vital for Ford right now. This is especially true with the tighter European Stage 5 regulations that were approved in 2016. They’re not going anywhere anytime soon, and are sure to be used in more hybrid configurations in the future.
The 2021 F-150 has a PowerBoost hybrid option, a cousin of the EcoBoost family. As Ford shifts to more electric vehicles, the technology offered by the EcoBoost motors will become less relevant. Though they’ll be used in hybrid and PHEV applications, the EcoBoost name may not be used in fully-electric vehicles.
Sources: Ford 3.5L EcoBoost Engine Specs, Problems and Reliability, MotorReviewer | BorgWarner Supplies Turbocharging and Engine Timing Technologies for the Ford EcoBoost 3.5-liter Engine, BorgWarner | EcoBoost, Ford
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