Ford Australia is not yet openly committed to updating its Geelong-built six-cylinder engine to the Euro 5 emissions standard, as we reported earlier this month. And the manufacturer may choose some course other than updating the six to meet the upcoming emissions standard, for all we know.
Ford will revise the FG Falcon for leaner running in 2014, but Euro 5 compliance for the six-cylinder variants — if that happens at all — will have to wait two years longer. The EcoBoost Falcon released this week is powered by an engine that already meets the Euro 5 standard in other markets. Over in Europe the same engine transversely drives the front wheels of the Ford Galaxy and S-Max MPVs. And in those applications the engine is already, officially, Euro 5-compliant.
In conversation with Andrew Fraser during the launch of the Falcon EcoBoost earlier this week, motoring.com.au raised the question of Euro 5 compliance for the Galaxy and S-Max, to which Fraser responded with a resounding "Yes." Both cars came to market with the turbocharged and direct-inject four tweaked to pass the emissions test. Fraser is the powertrain calibration engineer who headed the team that originally developed Ford's two-litre EcoBoost engine in Europe.
So how difficult would it be to calibrate the same engine for Euro 5 in the Falcon?
"Should be very straightforward, from my point of view," Fraser replied. "From launch it was Euro 5-compliant in Europe. The calibration engineer here [in Australia] is fairly confident that would be an achievable target."
That paves the way for Falcon to soldier on after 2016 in one form at least. As with anything related to the large car, its prospects are dependent on sales volumes and profitability. And quite simply, 30 per cent of the Falcon's sales, or thereabouts, currently go to private buyers. Those private buyers (and user-chooser novated lease buyers) are probably not the target buyer type for the EcoBoost variants of the Falcon. Not yet, anyway.
One way to bring the private buyers on board the EcoBoost bandwagon would be to offer the engine with more aural appeal than in its current state of tune. It only takes seconds of driving the six-cylinder Falcon, after the EcoBoost, to realise the four-cylinder car is quite refined, quite efficient — and quite lacking the six's gruff charm. Andrew Fraser has a fix though, courtesy of the Focus ST, which is powered by the same engine.
"That's the path that's been taken with the Focus ST that uses this engine, but in a more sporty state of tune. There's 250ps... 360Nm I think, but the same characteristics that have been specifically tuned to give it that nice, crisp, sporty note. There's some specific tuning, particularly on the intake system.
"[There is a] Resonant tube that's linked in at the throttle body so that as you open the throttle up to get more performance you'll get a standing wave in the symposer, which gives it that nice, rich, full-throated sound."
From what Fraser says next, it appears that Ford Australia was content to tune the engine in the Falcon for low NVH properties, to suit drivers who aren't necessarily enthusiasts. That was certainly the case in Europe, for the Galaxy, S-Max and Mondeo.
"The engine was very much developed as a replacement for multi-cylinder — five and six-cylinder — units, so its initial brief was to be quiet and smooth. It has a balancer shaft, so it's virtually the same vibration characteristics as a six-cylinder and the noise was actually deliberately suppressed because it was felt that the segment it was aiming at was the premium, very refined, very quiet segment.
"But as the Focus ST will show very shortly, there's no reason why it can't also be... separately incarnated as a more pure performance [engine] as well."
Fraser is someone who would no doubt understand why Australians might be fond of the Falcon's six, since he himself harbours strong affection for the Volvo-designed five-cylinder that powered the Focus XR5, as we in Australia knew it.
"I wouldn't lie to you, I don't think [the two-litre EcoBoost] sounds quite as 'characterful' as the five-cylinder that the old Focus RS and ST had — that nice sort of slightly offbeat warble."