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EcoBoost Quick Spins: Ford Taurus 2.0 and Ford Focus 1.0 [Review]

Ford is promising impressive fuel economy from its latest EcoBoost-ed vehicles, but how do they drive? We find out.

Like it or not, downsized engines are here to stay, and Ford has been at the forefront of the movement toward smaller mills. The Blue Oval's replacement for displacement, a combination of direct injection and turbocharging known as EcoBoost, has gained sales momentum quickly since its introduction in 2010 and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Ford recently invited us out to its Dearborn Development Center to sample a pair of cars that demonstrate the current state of EcoBoost technology and also point to its future. The first, the 2013 Taurus equipped with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost motor familiar from Ford's crossovers, is just hitting the market with class-leading fuel economy figures. The second, the European-market Focus powered by a pint-sized 1.0-liter three-cylinder, previews a motor that will show up in the engine bay of a Ford compact in 2013.

2013 Ford Taurus 2.0-Liter EcoBoost
Of the myriad aesthetic and mechanical changes that the full-size Taurus sedan received as part of its 2013 refresh, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost is likely the most significant. The engine produces 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, giving it fewer ponies but more torque than the Taurus' standard 288 horsepower, 254 lb-ft of torque 3.5-liter V6.

On the road, we found the 2.0-liter to be a capable performer with strong midrange power. Initial acceleration is a bit leisurely, but once revs climb near the 3000-rpm torque peak there's plenty of scoot to be had. A Ford engineer told us that the company expects 0-60 mph to come in the low eight-second range, which is about a second off the pace set by the V6.

The EcoBoost's dancing partner, a six-speed automatic transmission, provides smooth shifts and is adept at keeping the little motor in the meat of its powerband. The engine is hushed at idle and unobtrusive during partial-throttle situations, although it can sound a bit coarse when pushed hard.

Weighing 55 lbs. less than the V6, the 2.0-liter helps make the Taurus seem a bit less nose-heavy and more willing to change direction at the drop of a hat.

The turbo four's other advantage is, of course, fuel economy, earning 22/32 mpg to the six's 19/29 mpg. Those EPA-certified numbers are good enough to lead the class (ignoring mild hybrids like General Motors' eAssist in the Buick LaCrosse) and even nip at the heels of some four-cylinder midsize sedans, at least on paper: As always, your real-world mileage may vary. It should also be noted that as a $995 option, the engine represents a somewhat pricey way to eke out an extra 3 mpgs over the quicker six-cylinder model.

Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost
Taking the EcoBoost mantra of downsizing to an even further extreme than the Taurus' 2.0-liter is Ford's 1.0-liter, three-cylinder mill that debuted in the European Focus earlier this year. Despite its diminutive displacement, the engine makes a healthy 123 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, and fuel economy is rated at 56.6 mpg on the European cycle (a 101-horsepower version returns 58.9 mpg).

On the short road course where Ford let us loose with a Focus 1.0-liter hatchback, the little engine performed admirably, displaying plenty of kick midway through the rev range along with an eagerness to spin smoothly up to the redline. The 37-horsepower deficit to the U.S.-market Focus' 2.0-liter four-cylinder was hardly noticeable, and the car felt decidedly livelier than Ford 12.5-second zero-to-60 mph claim would suggest.

At the second- and third-gear speeds permitted by the course, the engine was quite smooth in its operation; to combat the inherent imbalance of a three-cylinder design, Ford uses eccentric balance weights on the flywheel and front pulley. The setup seems to largely quell unwanted vibration, accentuating the sense of refinement created by the engine's low noise levels.

In our Focus, the 1.0-liter was teamed with a six-speed manual with a precise shifter and a progressive, easily-modulated clutch, though the engine will likely be offered with Ford's six-speed "PowerShift" dual-clutch automatic when it makes its way stateside next year.

Leftlane's bottom line
Our time in the Taurus left us thinking that the 2.0-liter is a good fit for the big sedan, being efficient, polished and potent enough for the average buyer. If it were our money, though, we'd be tempted by Dodge Charger's Pentastar V6/eight-speed automatic powertrain combination, which offers nearly the same fuel efficiency along with more power at roughly the same price.

The 1.0-liter, on the other hand, could be a truly standout powertrain thanks to its combination of superlative mileage, excellent refinement and class-competitive power. We look forward to testing it in U.S.-market form when it launches next year, likely in the refreshed 2013 Fiesta.

Taurus Images