Just a few years ago the very notion of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in a full-size car that weighs around 4,000 lbs would have been absolutely absurd. In fact, it still is. And yet here we are, behind the wheel of just such a machine.
|1. The 2013 Taurus 2.0L EcoBoost is certified as the class leader in the full-size sedan segment with a 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway rating and 26 mpg combined.
2. Like the rest of the 2013 Taurus lineup, the 2.0L model has both Torque Vectoring and Cornering Control to help optimize handling through bends.
3. With class-leading fuel economy the Taurus 2.0L also delivers impressive power numbers with 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque.
4. Pricing is for the 2.0L model starts at $33,995, just $995 more than the base V6.
The 2013 Ford Taurus, equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, might appear to echo the slow-selling Five Hundred from 2005, a car that was not only virtually invisible in the marketplace, but which was powered by a 3.0-liter V6 that developed a meager 203 horsepower.
And yet in the new Taurus, when punching the throttle in order to merge with traffic on the Southfield Freeway in Dearborn, there’s definitely a decent amount of pep under that contoured hood.
According to Raj Nair, who’s succeeded Derrick Kuzak as Ford’s vice president of Engineering and Global Product Development, the 2.0 EcoBoost powered Taurus is aimed at people “who want fuel-efficient vehicles but don’t want to sacrifice power, cargo space or convenience preferences to get them.”
Besides Taurus, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder motor is offered in the Explorer, Escape and also the high performance Focus ST hot hatch.
LIGHT AND TORQUEY
For starters, using an aluminum block and cylinder head, it weighs around 55 lbs less than the regular Taurus’ 3.5-liter V6. Featuring a relatively high compression ratio (10.0:1) and high pressure fuel system with seven jets for each injector, plus a Honeywell turbocharger with a low inertia rotor that spins at speeds of up to 195,000 rpm, boost builds up rather quickly at low rpm, to the point that this engine is making its maximum 270 lb-ft of torque at 3000 revs.
Even a decade ago, the very notion of a high compression, turbocharged engine, especially one that can deliver that kind of V8 like thrust at low rpm, would have been barely conceivable, especially in a full-size, production sedan like this.
However, according to Taurus program engineer Robert Kay, forcing fuel at high pressure directly into the combustion chamber, combined with the small diameter turbocharger, essentially mitigates the chance of detonation while improving airflow and burning. As a result, higher compression ratios can be utilized in conjunction with relatively high boost levels (16 psi). To give you an idea, on Ford’s very first turbocharged engine, the 2.3-liter Lima four, which debuted for 1979 in the then new Mustang, boost was limited to just 6 psi to prevent knock. Perhaps even more impressively, the 2.0 in the Taurus has also been designed to run on regular grade fuel, just like every other EcoBoost engine.
In an effort to maximize efficiency and fuel economy, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost sports a one-way alternator clutch and a low-tension accessory drive, plus Ford’s Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) to reduce parasitic loss on the engine.
BEST-IN-CLASS FUEL ECONOMY
The result is that the Taurus is able to deliver an EPA certified 32 miles per gallon highway fuel economy rating and 26 mpg combined city/highway figures; seriously impressive for a full-size sedan.
Ford also says that by utilizing low-friction 5W30 oil in the 2.0-liter EcoBoost, the engine is able to do 10,000 miles between oil changes, enabling customers to save a bit on maintenance as well as at the gas pump.
A WORTHY ALTERNATIVE TO THE V6?
During our drive route, which took in approximately 50 miles around Southeastern Michigan, the Taurus 2.0L felt decently responsive through most normal traffic situations; the power and torque is there when we needed it and yet despite being a four-cylinder it doesn’t feel too buzzy under load, especially considering the size and girth of the car this engine has to haul around.
The six-speed automatic transmission definitely helps its cause, with gearing that enabled us to observe close to 30 mpg on the open road and over 21 on city streets. Perhaps the only down-side we noted is that the combination of an automatic transmission, plenty of weight and a turbocharger meant that heavy throttle application is met with significant delay in power delivery.
Thanks to slightly less weight on the nose, the four-cylinder Taurus is a little bit lighter through the corners than its V6 counterpart and the EPAS steering is one of the better electric setups we’ve sampled amongst current offerings on the market. On center feel is pretty good and turning input provides good feedback.
The EcoBoost 2.0L is offered in all three trim levels of the regular Taurus (SE, SEL and Limited), though perhaps in an effort to tread cautiously (at least for now) Ford has elected to make the engine an option, rather than standard (the 3.5-liter V6 remains the base engine).
That said, the 240 horsepower EcoBoost four does carry a $995 premium over the base motor, which might put off some buyers, though Ford is adamant that by touting healthy fuel economy numbers and delivering more torque (270 lb-ft versus 254 lb-ft), it should attract a following in much the same way as the EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 did for the F-150, versus the 5.0-liter V8. Of note, based on current fuel prices it would take just under two years for motorists to recoup that $995 premium on the four).
That said, the V6 has received a few improvements of its own for 2013, namely improved breathing via its Twin independent Variable Cam Timing (Ti-VCT) setup. The result is slightly better fuel economy, though still significantly less than the new EcoBoost four (19 mpg city, 29 mpg highway).
Obviously skeptical that the small engine would really be able to pull its weight in a car like the Taurus, during out (admittedly brief) first test it appears to be more than up to the job.
The rear-drive Chrysler and Dodge full-size twins are close in terms of fuel economy with a 31 mpg highway rating thanks to an 8-speed transmission mated to a V6 engine, while a new Chevy Impala for 2014 is shaping up to be seriously solid competition.
Until then, if the looks, ride and features of the Taurus already have it on your shopping list, then opting to down-size what’s under the hood in order to add both power and fuel economy is a no-brainer.