Torture Testing
Despite the rigorous testing all OE engines are subjected to, some readers raised on big-honkin' V-8s may still have reservations about the long-term durability of a small cubic inch engine in a large car. Fear not, for Ford has punished the EcoBoost V-6 more severely than you can imagine. During the R&D process, Ford engineers ran the EcoBoost at WOT for 10 minutes, then abruptly shut the motor down to halt the flow of oil and coolant to the turbos. This test-in which the turbos hit temperatures of nearly 1,800 degrees F-was repeated 1,500 times without once changing the oil. Upon disassembling the turbos afterward, the bearings showed no signs of abnormal wear. "Every 10 minutes, the test alternates between peak power at max exhaust temperature, and completely cold motoring," explains Keith Plagens, Ford turbo systems engineer. "The goal is to verify that the turbochargers can withstand extreme thermal cycling without affecting their performance. It's pretty brutal and extreme, but it's important to prove out durability. In another test, we ran the motor at WOT for 15 days straight, and it passed with flying colors."

Is The V-8 Doomed?
Ford has big plans for the EcoBoost platform, and will begin offering the 3.5L V-6 variant in the Taurus SHO and Flex crossover, as well as the Lincoln MKS and MKT, in this year alone. None of these vehicles will be available with a V-8, and it's no coincidence. Ford's simple downsizing strategy calls for replacing V-8s with V-6s, and V-6s with inline-fours. Already in the works is a turbocharged 2.0L EcoBoost four-cylinder motor-also equipped with variable valve and direct injection-poised to replace its line of V-6s in the next few years. This potent four-banger produces 275 hp and 280 lb-ft while boasting superior gas mileage to the six-cylinder engines they'll one day replace. "While the 3.5L EcoBoost is our primary focus right now, it's just the first phase in a much broader plan to improve the fuel economy of our vehicles. By 2013, our goal is to offer either a four- or six-cylinder EcoBoost motor in 90 percent of our vehicle lineup," explains Ford spokesman, Jay Ward.

For traditionalists, the obvious question is if Ford will eliminate V-8s entirely. After all, none of Ford's current line of naturally aspirated 4.6L or 5.4L mod motor V-8s can match the output of the 3.5L EcoBoost. According to Jay Ward, Ford is committed to producing V-8s well into the future, but in far lower quantities. "In applications where customers demand a V-8, such as in Mustangs and trucks, we will continue to offer them, however, you will start seeing smaller-displacement engines where you might not have expected in the past. In 2010, the F-150 will be available with an EcoBoost V-6."

Hop-Up Potential
As with any engine equipped with forced induction from the factory, extracting a few extra ponies is as easy as cranking up the boost. With the EcoBoost's maximum psi regulated by an electronically controlled wastegate, it's simply a matter of the aftermarket hacking into its engine management computer. In an effort to reduce lag in a small-displacement application, the Ford V-6 uses relative small Garret GT15 turbos. While they're each rated at a modest 200 hp a piece, there's still enough spare capacity in them to conceivably wring out an additional 50 hp over the factory's 355-365hp rating. As far as the virtues and limitations of the factory short-block and cylinder heads are concerned, we'll have to wait until these motors fall into the hands of hot rodders to find out.

Ford won't confirm whether or not the 3.5L EcoBoost may someday be offered as a crate motor through Ford Racing, however, some enthusiasts are bound to put their V-8 predispositions aside and contemplate an EcoBoost swap into a muscle car once they hit the second-hand market. In this regard, the little V-6 has a lot going for it. Although its external dimensions weren't available for a direct empirical comparison, Ford engineers did confirm that the EcoBoost V-6 is smaller in almost every dimension than both SOHC and DOHC variants of the 4.6L mod motor V-8. Obviously, the EcoBoost's smaller bore spacing and lack of two cylinders factor into the equation, but the acute 60-degree angle of its block provides extra room between the shock towers compared to the 4.6L V-8, even with the turbo hardware attached.