Ford Motor Co. rolled out its new second-generation 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 gasoline engine and new 10-speed automatic transmission for test drives during a media event held this week at its 4,000-acre Michigan Proving Grounds about an hour north of Detroit.
The new EcoBoost/10-speed powertrain package – announced back in May – is part of what Doug Scott, Ford’s truck group marketing manager, called an “aggressive product cadence” by the OEM over the last five years that he said will be even “more aggressive” going forward.
“It’s the whole idea of continuous improvement,” Scott explained to Fleet Owner. “It’s about improving performance to get the job done while providing fuel savings that drop right to the bottom line. A truck is a tool, so the constant question we must answer is, ‘how do we keep making it better?’”
Al Cockerill, head of engine systems design at Ford, said the new second-generation 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 offers "more content" yet no additional weight all while offering 375 hp and 470 ft.-lbs. of torque – 10 more hp and 50 ft.-lbs. more torque compared to its predecessor.
Ford achieved all of that without adding weight, he noted, by making a variety of changes to its componentry:
- Hollow camshafts within an all-new roller-finger follower valve train help save up to four pounds of weight;
- More durable intake and exhaust valves for the valve train, along with new hydraulic valve-lash adjusters that optimize engine durability over the life of the truck;
- Incorporating both dual direct and port fuel injection into the engine, with two injections per cylinder;
- The twin turbochargers on the EcoBoost are now connected to electrically activated wastegates to boost operating efficiency. Turbo turbine wheels are lighter, too, made out of high-temperature super alloy Mar-M-247 that also improves responsiveness;
- Auto Start-Stop as a standard feature, specifically tuned for truck customers, shutting off the engine when the vehicle is at a stop except when towing, in four-wheel-drive mode, or when needed to power on-board systems such as air-conditioning.
The new 10-speed transmission is partially the result of a joint development program with General Motors, though Al Bruck, Ford's manager of transmission and driveline calibration, stressed that partnership only focused on the transmission’s hardware.
"The software and the calibration algorithms are very different" between the two 10-speeds, he told Fleet Owner, with Ford focusing on towing performance and fuel economy with its version of this jointly-designed 10-speed, whereas GM is focused on acceleration and quicker shifting; attributes it aims to offer for its 2017 Chevrolet Camaro sports car.
Kevin Norris, Ford’s manager for the 10-speed transmission, noted at the event that it features three overdrive gears with wide ratio spans and “optimized spacing” to boost acceleration, towing performance, and fuel economy. Other improvements include:
- Lower weight by ditching cast-iron components in favor of aluminum, high-strength steel, and even composite materials;
- An integrated turbine clutch that saves weight while reducing the transmission’s packaging footprint;
- Integrated Auto Statrt-Stop “E-Pump” for “seamless” engine restarts;
- All-new real-time adaptive shift scheduling algorithms, so the transmission learns in “real time” what is being demanded of the truck so it can shift gears better.
“And it fits in the same envelope as our 6-speed,” Norris noted. “It’s also exclusively designed for the F-150; you can’t bolt this to a GM vehicle. And while it shares internal parts like gears and clutches [with GM’s version] all the software and tuning is completely different.”
At the end of the day, Brian Bell, Ford's retail marketing manager, said the new 10-speed transmission is all about achieving better “alignment” with the torque the new EcoBoost engine is producing.
"That is what provides both the commercial and the retail customer with a better-performing truck that also consumes less fuel," he emphasized.