GENEVA -- European engine launches don’t generally make a lot of noise in the United States, and so it is not really much of a surprise that Ford’s latest motor, an innovative 1.5-liter three-cylinder, pretty much went unnoticed here a month ago when Ford unveiled it.
Except for filling in some blanks late last year on several new hybrids and electric vehicles in the works, Ford has been quiet lately on powertrain development. But don’t mistake that for inactivity.
Ford has led the industry in downsizing and boosting engines with its successful EcoBoost line of direct-injected, turbocharged small-displacement engines. And, even though there hasn’t been much news out of Dearborn as of late, Ford engine designers here and in Europe have been steadily cranking out cool stuff.
This new three-cylinder engine, which will first see action in the European Fiesta ST, shows Ford engineers are nowhere near done innovating. And they, as well as engineers at other automakers, can’t stop now. While the Trump administration has agreed to open a review of Obama-era 2022-25 emissions standards, the law remains on the books and will likely be difficult to change or remove.
That means fuel-saving initiatives will continue coming for the foreseeable future. The new Ford three-cylinder is a powerhouse that breaks new ground in several ways.
First, it’s going to be used in a performance car, the Fiesta ST. But with 197 horsepower and 213 ft.-lbs. of torque, it’s roughly equal to the outgoing four-cylinder, 1.6-liter engine. You might think just chopping off a cylinder wouldn’t make much difference, but the 1.5 is smaller, lighter and has fewer moving parts, which means less friction. Ford declined my request to speak with engineers about the new engine, so we’ll have to wait until closer to launch for more details.
Another innovation on the 1.5-liter is cylinder deactivation that shuts down one cylinder at certain rpms and loads. Ford of Europe’s product development chief, Joe Bakaj, told me at the recent Geneva auto show that Ford is first with a three-cylinder that can run in two-cylinder mode. He’s right. I can’t find another. Also, the last time a Ford [intentionally] ran on two cylinders was the 1896 Quadricycle, the first vehicle developed by founder Henry Ford.