LIMA, Ohio — A few weeks ago, Ford Motor Co. opened the doors to its engine plant here and gave reporters a look at its 3.5- and new 3.7-liter V-6 engines.
I liked what I saw.
These new all-aluminum engines are compact, light and designed for long life and low maintenance. They might not lead the league in new technology, but they aren't far behind recent entries from Toyota, Audi and General Motors.
Ford's engine designers did nifty work on the water pump, pistons and rigid block. For example, the pump is recessed in the block and driven by the cam chain. It probably will last as long as the engine.
The plant uses automated production equipment that practically eliminates the possibility of human error and records everything as the engine is being built. Testing machines will flag an engine if there is any trace of a leak or if it takes too much effort to turn the crankshaft, says Adrian Price, the plant manager.
The 3.5-liter started production last year. The 3.7 is due next spring in the Lincoln MKS. It's too early to say whether they will go down in Ford's history as great engines, like Ford's classic 289 and 351 V-8s. But they are hugely important.
For the foreseeable future, the V-6s will be Ford's workhorse car and small SUV engines, and they'll carry a variety of performance and fuel-saving technologies.
The engines were designed to use direct fuel injection and turbochargers. With just a few production tweaks, they can be built to be mated to a hybrid powertrain. They can run on ethanol.