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2013 Ford Fusion with a 2.0L EcoBoost engine (Ford)
2013 Ford Fusion with a 2.0L EcoBoost engine (Ford)

Driving It Home

Turbocharged cars don’t ‘sip’ gas in the real world Add to ...

The fuel-economy firestorm continues to rage, with Consumer Reports among the latest to add to an inferno of angry consumers who see no relationship between the figures posted on window stickers and real-world performance.

“The latest example of underperforming small turbocharged engines is the collection of 2013 Ford Fusions with EcoBoost engines – small, turbocharged four-cylinders with direct injection,” notes CR in a recent report which found Ford’s 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo (173 horsepower) turned in slower acceleration times than “competitive family sedans” while also delivering fuel economy “among the worst of the crop of recently-redesigned family sedans.”

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So much for claims about fuel-sipping small turbo engines pumping out power equivalent to larger engines, V-6 ones in particular. CR also notes that the Hyundai Sonata Turbo, Kia Sportage Turbo, and Ford Escape 2.0T are examples of cars with turbocharged four-bangers that are less fuel efficient than V-6 models in the same class.

Auto makers in North America plan to offer three million gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles with turbocharged engines in 2013, notes The Detroit News. Turbos increase power output by pushing more air into the combustion chamber on demand, which in turn calls for more fuel to maintain the air/fuel ratio. Some see the rush to turbos as a way to skirt tougher fuel economy rules. That is, in an overall fuel economy testing cycle, a timidly driven turbo driven in laboratory conditions will usually deliver attractive fuel numbers that are unlikely to be matched by real-world drivers.

Here’s the problem: if you regularly take advantage of a turbo’s available power, you’ll burn up the fuel economy possibilities.

Ford’s top product development boss, Raj Nair, told The News that temperature, driver behaviour and decisions about how to balance fuel economy and performance can and do have an impact on real-world fuel economy. We know that.

But common sense suggests that car companies and regulators must surely be able to conjure up a testing procedure that puts real and relevant fuel economy numbers into the hands of consumers. We need to see some action on this, and fast.

globedrive@globeandmail.com

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