Ford Motor Co.'s Triton modular V-8 engine family, launched with the '97 F-Series pickup, has been one of the company's most successful engine designs. Ford says it is ready to release a substantial upgrade.

Already in production for certain Ford Australian models, the new 5.4L Triton — whose primary new features are a SOHC/3-valve-per-cylinder layout and continuously variable intake-valve timing — will be launched in North America next year in conjunction with Ford's all-new '04 F-Series.

The Triton V-8/V-10 that now incorporates SOHC and DOHC layouts as well as 2-valve and 4-valve configurations will remain in production.

First-year volume for the 5.4L 3-valve Triton should be about 200,000 units, Ford says.

Meanwhile, the Ford Freestyle cross/utility vehicle and Five Hundred sedan could be powered by Ford's new Cyclone family of overhead-cam V-6 engines, Ward's learns. When production of the platform mates begins in 2004, they will be powered by a new version of Ford's 3.0L Duratec DOHC V-6.

But company insiders suggest the Cyclone, which Ford has refused to acknowledge until now, will go into the new vehicles later. One highly placed Ford Powertrain source says the first of the Cyclone family likely will be 3.5L. The engine family — like all of Ford's newer powertrain architectures — will incorporate a modular design to allow maximum interchangeability of parts between variants.