Consumer Reports Questions Turbo Claims, But We Don't

2013 F-150 King Ranch Red II

At a time when automakers are looking to squeeze every ounce of technology they can to get just a few more horsepower or just a little more fuel economy, turbochargers have become the darling of the industry. The theory seems simple enough: Turbos allow a smaller, more fuel-efficient engine to perform work like a larger displacement engine.

Ford has found great success with its EcoBoost technology that combines smaller, lightweight engines with direction injection and twin-turbo technology to get solid performance and mileage numbers. In theory, four-cylinders are supposed to work like V-6s, and V-6 engines should work like V-8s. In fact, Ford says 43% of all F-150s in 2012 were sold with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 just for this reason.

Of course, the operative words here are "in theory," and as you've probably heard before, "your mileage may vary" depending on how you drive.

A recent article published by Consumer Reports (registration may be required to view) reported not finding the purported benefits of turbocharging when comparing real-world fuel-economy numbers to the listed EPA numbers for a given vehicle or when compared to other segment players.

Admittedly, most of the vehicles CR is talking about are smaller passenger cars but the magazine included its Ford F-150 test data comparing the 5.0-liter V-8 to the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6.

In our most recent experience with a 2013 King Ranch F-150 with EcoBoost (click here for the price sheet), we were able to clock more than 100 miles of around-town driving in Los Angeles before heading to Las Vegas. With time on our side, we never felt the need to drive above 75 mph, with most of our driving done closer to 70. By the time we got to Las Vegas, we had about 120 miles worth of fuel in the tank and averaged 17.6 mpg.

It's worth noting that we never saw the transmission downshift out of 6th during the whole run, and we had several good hill climbs getting out of Los Angeles. One thing we know about the EcoBoost: It has great midrange torque - plenty to pull an empty full-size pickup truck up and over a small mountain range.

On the trip back, we decided to load the truck with about 1,500 pounds of payload (38 bags of rock salt), putting the truck right at its maximum gross vehicle weight rating. We drove a little slower on the drive back to Los Angeles, averaging about 65 mph, and also got a chance to put another 80 or so miles of city driving (a combination of rush-hour errands and city commuting) on the odometer before filling the tank to calculate our final fuel-economy numbers. At max payload, over a similar duty cycle, our King Ranch F-150 averaged 15.6 mpg.

We'll let Consumer Reports complain about the fact it's not seeing enough power or fuel economy from the smaller car turbo engines, but as far as the F-150's EcoBoost, it seems like there are plenty of truck buyers ready to pay the additional $1,095 (over the 5.0L V-8) for 420 pounds-feet of torque and get respectable mileage when they have to drive extended miles at maximum gross vehicle weight. 

 

Comments

Consumer Reports is like the Mikey in the old cereal commercial, they don't like nothing.

I don't put as much faith in what CR says. They use to be less biased. If it is not a Toyota or Honda they bash it. Also some of their electronic reviews miss the mark.

The problems with a turbo gasoline engine is the companies claim similar performance to a larger engine, with the benefits of fuel economy.

This is quite inaccurate though. If you drive at the levels of performance of the larger engines you will use more fuel, and in some case more fuel.

Gasoline, unlike diesels requires a specific fuel/air ratio. The only gains are lower rotating mass and moving parts, hence friction and the gains through more efficient engine design that would also benefit a non turbo engine.

I think CR should stick to testing toasters. I've scene a lot of claims on the ecoboost F-150 and even the SUV's. From what I've scene they don't do marketly better then the V8. Most owners are still getting around 15 MPG. If look on fuelly. com as well as other magazine reviews. A lot of people with SHO Taurus's are doing bettter then 17 so you know the F-150 isn't.

That truck cost $55,000!!! Who can afford these things?

I've only had one turbo-charged engine. It was awesome until it blew a head gasket. Things may be different now, but back then (20 years ago) it was hard to find anyone who would work on it and there was an upcharge for dealing with the turbo.

I think most people know the 5.0 is being held back as well. Add direct injection, cylinder deactivation and it would do better then the eco, Ford is just marking the eco for MPG. I'm not dissing the engine because the eco is a great motor I just don't think it does have an advantage in MPG.

Consumer Reports wants to have its cake and eat it, too. Common sense says you can't have big engine power with small engine fuel economy at the same time, turbocharged or not. Common sense is something CR has lacked for quite a while.

As with everything else in life, TANSTAAFL - there ain't no such thing as a free lunch!

Turbo motors have the ability to produce solid power and respectable efficiency, but not at the same time, a fact seemingly lost on many media outlets and consumers. To me, the central issue is the realism of the EPA testing parameters. For marketing purposes, the manufacturers are going to engineer these engines to perform as well as possible in the test, so the onus is on the EPA to ensure the test is as close to real-world conditions as possible.

@Roger,
Both the 5.0 and the Eco are held back. Soon we will see the 5.0 DI, and the new improved Eco, both with higher numbers. Both engines are in their youth and have many years of growth ahead of them.

@Luke and Co
Very true. The testing parameters should equate to the "average" use of a vehicle. And if you plant your foot on the accelerator then expect huge increases in fuel consumption.

If most vehicles are sold to urbanites, then most of the mpg testing should reflect this. We have the same issue regarding mpg testing in Australia.

I read an interesting article a while ago which I think was sponsored by Ford. It stated the primary reason they are going to the Eco Boost engines was the reduction in costs and the redcution in weight as much as the efficiency gains of the actual engine.

As a more "modern" engine irrespective of the form of induction you would expect efficiency gains from an Eco Boost.

How much are the real gains in a turbo engine. Like politician the marketing people will not be completely sincerel. If you are comfortable with a turbo then buy one, but don't complain if it doesn't meet your expectations.

Consumer Reports can are written by people who spin also. But generally there is some truth abeit maybe small, like the marketers of vehicles.

I think it's shocking that neither Consumer Reports or PickupTrucks.com have reported about numerous stalling/shuddering problems reported by EcoBoost F150 owners living in Southern US states.

While Ford has released three or four fixes for this problem, complaints about the usability of EcoBoost powered pickups continue to pile up.

http://www.tundraheadquarters.com/blog/2012/10/18/ford-f-150-problems-shuddering-power-loss-limp-mode/

And just to be clear, this isn't a situation where Tundra fans are trying to poke holes in the F150. For the record, the F150 is an EXCELLENT truck. It's the EcoBoost motor that has problems, and it's high time someone besides TundraHQ talked about them.

Ford recommends 91 octane. OUCH!

@MARK WILLIAMS......WHO OWNS PICKUPTRUCKS.COM?

IMO the only real advantage a smaller displacement turbo motor has over its larger similar powered NA motor is better performance at high elevation.

has there been a test of 3.5 tt vs the same option'd truck with a 5.0? towing and unloaded? I thought pickuptrucks.com did one but the only thing i found was where they put a two fx2 eco's one loaded and one unloaded to the test. http://news.pickuptrucks.com/2011/04/road-test-review-2011-ford-f-150-fx2-35-liter-ecoboost-v-6-part-1.html

quote from that article

(If you’re going to tow a trailer regularly around geography like the Midwest, we’d suggest the 5.0-liter as a better choice. From our experience, the 5.0 gets better fuel economy in that scenario -- we'll be putting this to a side-by-side test in the future. For the heaviest trailers, the 6.2 is a good choice, or consider moving into a diesel Super Duty. Light contracting work at a reasonable entry price can be accomplished with the naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V-6.)

also this quote was in there
(We have high hopes for EcoBoost engines in the future but we want to see if Ford’s powertrain engineers can do more about the stressed fuel economy figures we saw when towing so they better complement the stellar unloaded gas mileage we observed. Or perhaps we’re faced with the fact that some physical laws can’t be repealed no matter how much slick technology is thrown at them. Big towing needs big cubic inches and trying to deliver that same capability with twin turbos may always force truck guys to pay a low-mpg price when there’s a trailer behind the truck)

did this ever happen?

@ Hemi V8

From the 2012 F150 owners manual:

3.5L V6 EcoBoost engine
“Regular” unleaded gasoline with a pump (R+M)/2 octane rating of 87 is recommended.

From the 2012 Ram 1500 owners manual:

5.7L Hemi Engine
The manufacturer recommends the use of 89 octane for
optimum performance.

Ouch!

@TundraHQ
Many other sites/blogs have open discussions on the EcoBoost problems, including f150forum.com, powerstrokenation.com, and f150online.com.

To move "Z" amount of mass "Y" amount of distance requires "X" amount of energy. Gasoline burns with oxygen at a fixed ratio. You work a 3.5 litre turbo V6 hard it will consume fuel like a 5-6 litre engine.
The advantage lies in the realm of "normal" light load applications. The problem is that the average person does not drive smoothly enough to make a turbo V6 behave like a normally aspirated V6.
I can get 15/20.4 out of my 5.4 if I don't drive like everyone else. The EB3.5 is capable of huge mpg gains if driven properly.
I personally prefer not to jump on the TT V6 band wagon.

As Big Al has pointed out, there is a huge advantage to a V6 TT when ut comes to weight reduction. Imagine the weight Ford could remove from the F150 if they only had to make an engine compartment big enough to fit ONLY V6 and 4 banger engines.

@ Jeff S:

The reason Toyota's dominate reliability index's is because they are reliable, hint global #1 in sales...

Turbo's are never good long term for a engine...

TundraHQ, the fix has been out for months, as you already noted in your report. It affects a percentage of owners and it isn't only in the South. According to a poll on another site , of the many owners who have had the issue, most would buy another truck with the Ecoboost regardless of the problem. That says a lot for how much they like the performance, even with the occasional shudder.
Most who have had the new CAC installed find it resolves the problem.

@ Lou

Actually, the Ecoboost is slightly heavier than the 5.0L V8 and takes up more room in the engine compartment because of the piping.

Ecoboost: 449 lbs
5.0L Coyote: 444 lbs

My 2011 Ford F150 CC EcoBoost remains trouble free. Decent mileage, great power. Zero shuddering problem here in TX.

@Mark Williams
"You can have your cake and eat it too" claims for the Ecoboost( 2 Litre engine in our case )is being questioned here as well
@Evan noted the Pickup.coms article I was thinking about. Yes
the Ecoboost works well with little load, but load it up and the MPG's drop away.

a 3 ton truck needs a V8. Six cylinders don't make it. Ford missed on this. They should have put the turbo Six in the Mustang

I think toyota needs to set the record straight on really how bad there truck will shake on rough paved rds.

There are numerious reports of trucks shaking so violently baby seats have became loosened and tool boxes actually ripped from there positions. How much shake can a chassis take before it becomes to floppy to be safe at any speed?

Pull up videos on youtube from independent views and look at some of the shake .Would you want to put a kid into a back seat of a tundra especially a infant. Some of the videos are scarry with kids sitting back there.

The EcoBoost V-6 lived up to its expectations of V-8 like pulling performance towing trailers, but in our opinion it felt more like a small-displacement V-8 instead of large-displacement engine.

Fuel economy was also V-8-like. We observed a range of 8.9 mpg to 9.7 mpg, though it seemed like Ford is prioritizing fuel economy over stoplight sprint performance when the truck is pulling a trailer. It made us wonder how the truck would do with a full 11,300 pounds behind it.

What We Don’t like

Needs a boost gauge, like the F-Series Super Duty offers for its 6.7-liter turbodiesel
V-8-like fuel economy when towing
Wouldn’t hold sixth gear when towing on gentle rolling hills
5.0-liter V-8 ($1,000 more than 3.7-liter V-6)

http://news.pickuptrucks.com/2010/09/first-drive-review-2011-ford-f-150-35-ecoboost-v-6-and-50-v-8.html

Paul, let's try to keep it on topic, here. This is a discussion about turbo-charged engines and fuel economy. Thanks..

Although it seems that the ecoboost owners like what they have,I have to wonder how they will do come trade in time.Twin turbos on the used market would scare me away.That is expensive stuff.I wonder if that will effect the trade in value?

@Paul810
That is one engine the series of Eco Boosts.

The 1 litre 3 cylinder engine that will be used in a Focus is apparently lighter than the 4 cylinder it replaces and Ford is making the same mpg improvement claims.

Over time customers will decide if Ford is transparent enough. I suppose sales will show this.

@Big Al,
As you said, time will tell. I'm surprised the 3.5 sales are staying strong in the F-150. I really thought they would taper off after a year and the novelty of it wore off. Then the many posts from nay-sayers, especially other Ford owners who think anything less than a V-8 should not get top billng, and I thought for sure sales would drop. Then there is the percentage of those with moisture problems in their intercoolers, and I thought we would definitely see the sales turn towards the 5.0L. But here it is, in it's third year of production, with some high mileage trucks reporting no issues, and sales are still way above any of the other engines. I think this next year will tell a lot.

Paul810 - thanks fro that information. I assumed it would be smaller in mass and dimensions. I do suspect that Ford will ditch the 6.2 for 1/2 tons and shrink the engine compartment for weight savings. I'm more inclined to think that the 5.0 will recieve upgrades that will make it the premium engine. The EB 3.5 would then become the "middle" choice. The lower end of the range is wide open to speculation. Rumours abound as to what will end up in the F150. some rumours say an EB 4 banger will replace the 3.7.

@oxi--Toyotas are no longer the only reliable vehicles on the market. Consumer Reports has not changed in over 20 years. I have bought some items that they have recommended and they have been lemons. They are not always right as they are not always wrong. To take every recommendation that they make as being the gospel is misleading. I have my reservations about turbo engines especially from the experiences with 80s turbos. I would not be one of the early buyers of an eco boost 4 or 6 until they have proven reliablity. But saying this I am not a fanboy of any brand. I know that you will only buy Toyotas but I am more interested in looking at all brands and making up my own mind. I am not a follower. Also I do not buy a product because it is the number 1 global seller.

The verdict is still out. Have to wait until GM's new trucks come out later this year with no turbo. We will see how they perform without a turbo. Less moving products and cost is a factor. The need to replace a turbo will wash away most of the savings claimed by the truck manufacturer. We will just have to wait and see.

Would you buy a 3yr. old Eco used with 61,000 miles? Don't forget that fantastic 60,000 mile warranty. That would not be a smart move imo.

In addition to my above post. How much do you think the Ford dealer will give you in trade for your 3yr. 61,000 mile truck knowing he has to eat the bill if anything is wrong with it? Good luck with that. I'll keep my 100,000 mile warranty and the dealer knows he covered.

I think the biggest deal with these new turbo'd motors is that if they would get in mileage what the manufacturer claims that they should get there would not be an issue. The ecoboost from what I have heard from friends does not come close to the 22-24mpg's as claimed by ford. My friends are claiming that they get 17 - 19mpgs. That is a big difference especially when gas has gone up 20 to 25 cents a gallon in the last week

My 2011 F150 EcoBoost with 18,000 miles is trouble free. I'm in central Texas. and lots of power.

it comes down to one thing hp and tq. the more power the more fuel will be burned before high gas prices the 18 wheeler's had 450hp to 500hp now they are only putting in 400hp to 450hp for most of them. better fuel economy with less power thats why the none turbo v6 gets 23mpg compared to the ecoboost v6 22mpg.
consumer reports complained about ford fusion 47mpg is not get real world. the fusion has close to 200hp when the prii have only 100hp if you open up almost twice the power then expect twice the burn.

@everyone

this is actually an interesting article. imo, i think the benefits are more to ford than to the consumer. why? smaller engine blocks with less cylinders save the company money. i also agree with big al and lou. and consider this, my 2007 thunder road averaged 19 mpg over a 120 mile trip with quad cab short bed 2wd 3.92 gears and a hemi with mds. when i got to my destination i had 3/4s of a tank, roughly (26 gallon tank). yes, the road was flat and it stayed in mds most of the time. but my point is, v8s can get the same mpg as a v6, furthermore, v6s have to rev higher to compensate for the lost power. it is how you drive mainly. but a turbo has to be spooled up, and how? by revving the engine to speed up exhaust gasses. remember when the ecoboost was at k&n and pickuptrucks.com tried to dyno it? below i think 2000 rpm it had a hard time being measured because the turbos most likely were not boosting and it was running like a regular v6. not enough torque without boost, particularly at the most critical rpms for overdrive and mpgs. that also explains why pickuptrucks.com said in a test it would not stay in 6th gear when towing. not enough boost, so it downshifts, raises rpms, and produces more than enough torque, and gas mileage goes down because your running at about 2500 rpms. a v8 is always running enough torque and doesnt have to downshift as much. even with mds and afm, would you rather activate 4 cylinders for a minute and then go back to 4 or, run 6 cylinders all the time and downshift raising rpms? this is the question that will ultimately make the decision as to whether a techno v6 can replace the v8. i don't despute unloaded city mpgs, but trucks are not for unloaded city driving, you know? keep in mind, v8s are balanced motors V6s are not (I6s are). for a v6, the ecoboosts redline isn't that impressive either. if you want a true small motor with torque and the mpgs, the coming light duty diesels will take that spot (not just ram, i believe ford will do the same, lion V6 or I5). as far as gasoline, and v8s, sometimes if it isn't broke, don't fix it. some of these v6s have larger bores and strokes than some v8s just to keep up with them. long term drink about the same fuel, especially in a full size truck.

@Jeff s,

Taking CR recommendations? Who does that?

Reliability index is what CR is about...

CR never recommends the Tacoma but the Tacoma is tops in reliability among any pickups over the years thus further backed up by the best re-sale, retention of value by KBB...

Numbers do not lie...

turbos add heat as well, running at about 10 times the rpms of the motor itself. imo, synthetic is a must for boosted motors. the bigger the hardware, the bigger the protection needed. if you only use the best, you will only get the best performance. so many times people try to blame a manufacturer for problems that is there falt. if i had an ecoboost and i only put the best in it and serviced it like the owner's manual said, and it broke, then i would blame ford. i would not blame ford for a turbo going out at a 100,000 miles because i used havoline in my ecoboost and i drove the hell out of it. don't get me wrong, i drive hard, but i also use the best. do you think nascar or any racing for that fact use conventional oil when they are spinning rpms, boosted or not? so what's my point? imo the ecoboost has more total cost of ownership, but that isn't a bad thing if that is what you want and you are responsible enough. just don't complain about it and the fact that v8s do the same thing with less responsiblity.

This OXI guy must have a tiny schmeckle! Just sayin...

CR..oh my ! I listened to them bought a Toyota and it wa the most unreliable vehicle ever ! My sister also bought a new Sienna minivan by Toyota,a total nightmare 20,000 miles and it needed a transmission,an a/c unit,power door locks failed and a engine replacement,due to Toyota's famous faulty 6 cyl engines.And there was a recal for the rust on the rear 1/4 panel ! Her old 1994 Caravan 3.8 L V-6 had 340,000 miles on its original engine and tranny,all it needed was a a/c compresser at 240,000 mile's and a transmission around the same miles and routine maint.They use dit to tow their small boat to their cabin at Lake Tahoe ,the awd van never missed a beat.Her Sienna was sold for a new 2013 Chrysler T&C.She had all or few reciepts from the old Caravan I had a faulty tundra my wife a faulty Corolla ! FYI I cant believe Toyota calls timing belts and water pumps routine maint ...Wow..$2000 routine maint is not reliable folks !

By the way,CR is a fraud,as they were run by a guy who used to run Nissan and in those 5 or so years Nissan was never mentioned as having problems,always recommended by CR,he quit cr then went back to his cushy job at Nissan,so that tells you its all fixed/rigged CR is not honest !

All these complaints that turbos add heat, add extra moving parts, and lack power if they are not working. The exact same claim can be made for two extra cylinders! With those two cylinders, come 4 or 8 extra valves. One turbo is only one moving part and much less resistance.

The fact is, if you use the turbo's extra HP, it will cost you more fuel economy than you expect. There's no free lunch there.

Alex,

An Ecoboost has 24 valves. GM and Chrysler V8s have 16 valves, what has more moving parts again?

Turbos DO add heat and complexity. Lack of power can be debated, but one thing is for sure, a smaller turbo engine will never have the "snap" of a larger displacement motor of similar power.

My diesel 6'4 went 250 thousand when I sold it .It has a edge monitor on it from 2000 miles own to 250 thousand with out one problem. It was twin turbo so I see no reason a ecoboost v6 can't do the same thing or better.

The edge unit picked up the mileage by 3 mpg and I pulled a 24 ft enclosed race trailer with it. The man I sold it too is still going strong .A ecoboost should do the same thing mileage wise.It won't be worked as hard as a diesel but that should only help the turbos last longer.

@Mark Williams: Could all future tests of mileage show the on board computer indicated mileage vs. the hand figured (real) mileage? Could the tests in future comparisons indicate what kind of speeds were driven the most? Although in your test with this one it does say.


@Paul810: so you are saying it says nothing in the owners manual saying something like "For Heavy Towing use, premium fuel is suggested". It has been reported, I am not pulling it out my butt.

I do know that the Motor Trend test of the best 6 selling sedans had a Fushion Ecoboost, and it was PREMIUM REQUIRED. OUCH! It also didn't get that great of mileage in their test, and that was with a manual 6 speed! It was a bit off it's city mileage rating, and maybe average in that comparison in December 2012.

Casey's General Store, a gas staion chain in Missouri, Arkansas and other states, have 89 octane as their base fuel, and their prices are not over the other places that sell 87 as base fuel.

You gotta love that soft material they use on the pan/cover under the Ecoboost. That should really last if one goes offroad with it, it is rather delicate. LOL!

Consumer Reports could stand to know more about trucks. For the longest time the Avalanche was their top rated truck. Really? Barely any space, and very few options, stuck with a 5.3, and no crash testing. LOL!

I don't know if I buy into the argument that is it cheaper to build a smaller turbo engine than a larger displacement one.

Turbos, intercoolers, etc., are usually expensive--and they certainly add complexity.

I don't really care what CR has to say about "fun to drive" and other subjective information, but I do reference them for reliability. They are as objective as you are gonna find--much more so than even a site like PUTC.

I too have a funny Sienna/Caravan story:

Several years ago, a guy that works for me was on a trip to Yellowstone with his family in their newish Caravan. It left them stranded and cost a fortune to tow back to Jackson Hole. It was going to need an expensive repair and parts were not available. He traded it in as is on a Sienna (and took a complete bath as Caravans depreciate like a used condon, even when running) and drove it the couple of thousand miles back home.

To this day, his wife still loves the Sienna and it has a ton of miles. It has needed nothing other than oil changes, tires, and brakes, and actually convinced him to sell his Ford and buy a Corolla that too has needed nothing other than oil, brakes, and tires.

Looks like CR called that one dead on... .

@ HEMI V8

The sad thing about what your posting is that in every review and testing, the Ecoboost did better than the 5.7L Hemi in 0-60, 1/4 mile, and towing while returning better fuel mileage. So basically what ever bashing you do on the Ecoboost just means your precious Hemi was reviewed and tested as being right below it. Motor Trends review of the 2012 truck of the year F150 Ecoboost 3.73 ratio did 0-60 in 6.4 and the 1/4 in 15.1 at 91.8 mph. The 2013 truck of the year Ram Hemi 3.92 ratio did 0-60 in 6.9 seconds and the 1/4 in 15.4 at 88.6 mph. The Pickuptruck.com guys did 14.67 at 94.6 mph. Bash away my friend, you are just making yourself look worse.

@TundraHQ

As I have said on your website, you Tundra Headquerter boys sure are scared of this little V6 that you go to any lengths to try and downgrade it. That's okay, stay scared my friends because Toyota is not even a blip on Fords radar in the truck market. Also, how much was that car defect payout that Toyota just payed this passed December. So please spare me your hypocritical babel about being the most reliable and going out of your way to bash others.

Sorry, meant to put "The Pickuptruck.com guys did 14.67 at 94.6 mph in the Ecoboost." in my previous post. Please, don't think you can do 14.67 in the 1/4 mile in a stock 4 door Ram Hemi because you can't.



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