Winning formula under the hood

by Andy Bryenton

While the overall vehicle of the year award is a coveted prize in the realm of automotive manufacturing, the engineers behind the scenes hold their breath for another yearly accolade — the prestigious Engine of the Year competition. Covering everything from fire-breathing V8s to frugal sub-1,000cc power plants, this is a closely contested fight between the big names in motoring.

While 2016 was a big year for big power — with Ferrari’s 3.9-litre biturbo V8 taking overall top spot — it was a motor with a cross section smaller than a piece of A4 paper which racked up the most talked about accolade. Ford’s diminutive but powerful 998cc EcoBoost three-cylinder turbo took home its ninth award in the Engine of the Year competition, holding on to the top ranking in its category convincingly, despite a spirited challenge from Volkswagen and BMW. “Despite lots of competitors recently launching their own three-cylinder turbocharged designs, Ford’s wonderful 1.0 EcoBoost is still the number-one engine in its category class,” enthused La Repubblica’s Massimo Nascimbene, while L’Automobile Magazine’s Christophe Congrega marvelled at the tiny unit’s unparalleled capability: “With high torque at the very low end, this high-tech three-cylinder turbo provides the driving performance of a small turbo diesel, but without any of the noise or vibration. It may be small, but the EcoBoost is one of the great engineering achievements f its time.”

Smart computer control, turbocharging and compression make all the difference in this category, and the EcoBoost engine has them all. 

It is now at the heart of no less than eight Ford vehicles worldwide, including a Kiwi favourite, the new Ford Fiesta.

Needless to say, that tiny displacement means big gains in fuel economy, but the real surprise for those getting behind the wheel of an EcoBoost powered vehicle is the amount of ready power on tap.

Combine this peppy response with Ford’s ability to construct a light yet rigid-framed chassis and body and 998cc suddenly feels just as willing as the ‘big’ two-litre mills of yesteryear. Of course, the EcoBoost technology pioneered here in the award-winning sub-one-litre class is set to change things up in other areas of the Ford family as well.

Another big surprise utilising the same tech, has been the turbocharged four found in the new Mustang — an engine which goes toe to toe with the classic muscle car’s traditional V8 and has won acclaim of its own as a modern alternative.