FORD ENTERS UNCHARTERED WATERS with plans to build a 1.0L 3-cyl. turbocharged direct-injected EcoBoost engine, its smallest production engine ever.

Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president-global product development, says the time is right for the diminutive engine, which will be sold in all global markets.

Five years ago, when Kuzak announced the EcoBoost engine lineup, the strategy was met with skepticism, and he anticipates a similar reaction to the 1.0L.

“Some said we were crazy, that North American customers would never accept a V-6 in lieu of a V-8, never accept fewer cylinders and never accept smaller displacement,” Kuzak says.

“Over the past five years, the world has changed considerably. Customers are much more interested in smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles,” he adds, noting the new engine will arrive by 2013.

The auto maker says the 1.0L engine will be used to power C-segment and smaller cars around the globe.

The engine previously was featured in the Ford Start concept car at the Beijing auto show and the Ford B-Max in Geneva.

Developed at Ford's Dunton Technical Centre in the U.K., the new engine boasts a number of technologies designed to improve efficiency.

Among the features is a new Ford-designed split cooling system that allows the block to warm up before the cylinder head, which saves fuel.

“Warming up the oil as quickly as possible reduces friction,” says Joe Bakaj, vice president-global powertrain engineering. “Split cooling allows us not to circulate water around the block, but maintain cold water to the cylinder heads and turbo.”

The split-cooling system does not add weight to the vehicle but costs more due to the control valves needed to split the coolant flow, he says.

For now, the new cooling system will be used only on the 1.0L EcoBoost, because “you can only implement it with an all-new architecture,” Bakaj says without ruling out the possibility the system will be used in future powertrain programs.

The exhaust manifold is integrated in the cylinder head, which lowers exhaust temperatures and allows the engine to operate in a wider speed band with an optimal fuel-to-air ratio.

The unique setup, which Ford claims is an industry first for an engine this size, shaves some 2 lbs. (0.9 kg). Bakaj says it's likely the integrated design will make its way to other Ford engines.

To reduce side loading of the pistons, the 1.0L has an offset crankshaft, which cuts friction 3% to 5%.

The new engine is part of Ford's EcoBoost rollout, which calls for 90% of its North American and 80% of its global nameplates to have some version of the powertrain architecture by 2013.

Kuzak hints Ford now is considering adding the technology to its hybrid-electric vehicle lineup. “Right now, we're using Atkinson-cycle engines, but there may be opportunities for EcoBoost hybrids in the future,” he says.

Ford is tightlipped on the expected output or fuel economy of the new engine but promises it will be among the most efficient powerplants it has ever built.

Prototypes equipped with the 1.0L already are on the road, and Bakaj says he's “amazed” at the low noise, vibration and harshness levels, a common problem among downsized engines. “It has a great sound to it; slightly different than a 4-cyl., but not high-revving at all.”

Ford has not said where the engine will be built.

The auto maker also says it plans a new 8-speed automatic transmission, which will be paired with larger vehicles.

The new 8-speed gearbox is expected to increase fuel economy by 2% to 6% and will “be the first (gearbox) with a number of advanced new technologies that provide faster, smoother and more positive shifts,” Bakaj says.

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