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Will Lincoln chase Europeans in the move toward smaller engines?

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

DETROIT -- Ford execs won't talk about future powertrains -- specifically, whether there is a four-cylinder engine in Lincoln's future.

Ask the question and you don't get a "yes," you don't get a "no."

But there are hints the brand is headed in that direction, other than in hybrid models.

Paul Mascarenas, Ford's chief technical officer and vice president of Ford Research and Innovation, says the success of Ford's V-6 EcoBoost engines shows Ford and Lincoln buyers are willing to accept a smaller-displacement engine with fewer cylinders. They don't miss that bigger engine — in this case a big V-8.

What accounts for the EcoBoost V-6's success? The driving experience must be comparable or better than the larger engine.

"We have to deliver the right driving experience in terms of performance, the right driving experience in terms of refinement, the right driving experience in terms of fuel economy and CO2, and it must be durable and reliable," says Mascarenas. He was interviewed last month at the Frankfurt auto show.

Jim Farley, Ford's group vice president of global marketing, sales and service, says "more and more, we see customers flexible about technology."

While Farley would not say if or when a four-cylinder will would appear in a Lincoln, he says some car buyers need to see technology go mainstream before they trust it.

Europe's luxury makers are quickly adapting four-cylinder engines to their model range to meet stiffer CO2 and mpg regulations. Both the BMW 3 and 5 Series will offer a four-cylinder engine, as will Mercedes-Benz A- B- and C-class models sold here. Audi already sells a four-cylinder model in the United States.

I expect Lincoln to offer a four-cylinder engine. But the German automakers likely will fill showrooms with four-cylinder vehicles before Lincoln joins the fold.

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