The Little Engine that Could
Ford Duratec engine, a small 2.5L V6, was arguable one of the best engine Ford has ever made in past two decades, and have paved the way for Ford to survive the serious downturn in the first decade of 21st century, and spawned an entire series of engines sharing similar features. The name is so recognizable, Ford Europe renamed existing engine series under the Duratec name as well.
Here is a short history of the little engine that saved Ford.
Double Overhead Cam (DOHC)
Overhead cam design moved the "cam", the mechanisms that drives the valve and pistons within the cylinder heads, above the combustion chambers, instead of below. While the mechanism is somewhat more complex, it makes the combustion more efficient by injecting more directly, and the overall reciprocating portions of the engine is less and thus less vibration is generated.
Double Overhead Cam uses two separate cams per bank of cylinders, one for intake and one for exhaust.
For more information, see Wikipedia: Overhead Camshaft
The original Duratec 2.5L V6
The original Duratec was a 2.5L V6, now known as Duratec 25. Introduce in 1994 for the 1995 Mondeo, it is a 2544 cc 60 degree V6. For a V6, it is a very small one, esp. for Ford, but it is a very high tech engine for the time. It has double overhead cam (DOHC) and 4 valves per cylinder, generating 160 HP. For a V6, it can go to quite high RPMs: 6750 RPM is the redline.
It was used in the first generation Ford Mondeo (i.e. Ford Contour / Mercury Mystique in the US), and later, Jaguar X-Type (based on Ford Mondeo) and Mercury Cougar (coupe based on Mondeo platform). It was named as Ward's 10 Best Engines of 1995 and 1996.
Later the SVT version of the engine was improved to 200 hp without any sort of forced induction, or boring out the cylinders, or otherwise play with the dimensions. It was only available in the Ford Contour SVT, sometimes touted as "poor man's BMW M3".
Mazda also use the same engine, but slightly smaller displacement (2.49L) in order to avoid the Japanese 2.5L tax.
Variable Valve Timing
Variable Valve Timing, often abbreviated as VVT is a technology that allows the lift, duration, or timing of the valves to be adjusted while the engine is in operation. It could only affect the intake valves, or both intake and exhaust valves. It improves efficiency of combustion.
For more information, see wikipedia: Variable valve timing
The Upsized Duratec 3.0L
The 3.0L version of Duratec is the same engine as the 2.5L version, but have a larger bore, so the displacement is now 2944 cc. It was designed mainly as a replacement of the old "Essex" 3.8L engine used in Taurus / Sable / Windstar (giving the Taurus 3 different V6 engines to choose from: the ancient "Vulcan" 3.0L V6, the "Essex" 3.8L V6, and the Duratec 3.0L V6!)
Regular version produces 201 HP, and was used in Taurus / Sable / Escape. An upscale version for Lincoln LS and Jaguar S-Type produce 232 HP. Mazda's version of the engine is called the AJ and was used in the MVP and the Mazda 6.
In 2004, a slightly modified version of Duratec 3.0L was used in the Five Hundred, which later was revised into the new Ford Taurus.
In 2006, the new Ford Fusion / Mercury Milan / Lincoln Zephyr got a revised version of Duratec 3.0L V6, now with variable valve timing. Latest version of this engine now produces 240 HP.
Two other minor revisions of this engine was produced for European markets. Mondeo Titanium has a 204 hp version of the engine, named Duratec SE, and the Mondeo ST220 has a 226 hp version of the engine, named Duratec ST.
Descendent: The 3.5L and 3.7L "Cyclone" V6
In 2006, Ford introduced a new engine series under codename Cyclone, but marketed as Duratec. It is produced in the Lima, Ohio in the Ford engine plant there. Mazda uses the same engine under MZI name.
The Duratec 3.5 is not yet another bored out 3.0L Duratec, but rather new family of all aluminum 60 degree V6 with DOHC and 4 Valves per cylinder, that shares many design characteristics with the original Duratec 2.5L. It now has variable cam timing on the intake cams, which helps it achieve ULEV-II compliance (low emissions). It generates between 263 and 285 hp depending on exact tuning.
The Duratec 3.5 was named as one of Ward's 10 Best Engines of 2007.
The Duratec 3.7 is the 3.5 but bored out slightly to make it 3721 cc. This results in 273hp output. For 2010, Ford introduced a version of this engine for the Mustang, with Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing (both intake and exhaust) or Ti-VCT, resulting in 305 hp and still achieving 31 mpg highway. The redline is 7000 RPM. The first vehicle to use this was the 2011 Mustang, replacing the ancient "Cologne" V6 (which was produced since the 1960s!) The new Duratec 3.7 virtually matches the V8 engine output of 2010 Mustang. Also, 305 HP was what Mustang Cobra SVT V8 made in 1995, the hottest version of Mustang then available. Now it's the output of the base engine.
The "EcoBoost" engine is a twin-turbo version of Duratec 3.5 engine, used in the new Ford Taurus SHO (see below) and may be available in some top-of-line vehicles.
Both Duratec 35 and Duratec 37 are used in many Ford and Mazda vehicles, from Mazda CX-9 crossover to Ford F-150, as well as Ford Flex, Ford Edge and other vehicles.
Cyclone Cousin: EcoBoost
EcoBoost V6 engine is a twin-turbocharged version of Duratec 35, used in the new Ford Taurus SHO, Lincoln MKS, MKT, and Ford Flex, and new for 2011, Ford F-150 pickup. Originally it was dubbed "TwinForce", in a Lincoln prototype, but the name was later changed to EcoBoost.
The EcoBoost V6 used 2 Garrett T15 turbochargers that generate up to 12 PSI of boost, making it use up to 25% more air than normal, and direct gasoline fuel injection into the cylinder instead of any premixing. As a result, it generates 365 HP with regular unleaded gas, and still delivers 25 mpg highway.
The EcoBoost concept is to provide the power of a much larger engine, such as a 6.0L V8, without consuming more fuel. The concept was successful that the engine received "Ward's Top 10 Engines 2010", and the concept is being pushed out to other Ford Duratec engines as well. EcoBoost I4 has already been demonstrated.
For more information on EcoBoost engines, see wikipedia: Ecoboost.
In an "interference engine" the cylinder head can hit the valves while the valve is "open" because the valves "pop" into the cylinder. In normal operation, this would never happen because the the cams would keep everything synchronized. However, should a catastrophic failure of the chain that keeps the cams synchronized occur, or if the camshaft breaks, the result is destroyed valves and complete engine failure.
Many smaller engines use "interference design" as it is more efficient and achieves higher compression. For more information on interference engines, see Wikipedia: Interference engine
Distant Cousin: Ford SHO V8
The original Ford SHO has a specially built Ford/Yamaha V6 for the power. When Ford decided to make Taurus SHO generation 2, they have a hard time finding the right engine, as the engine bay of a Ford Taurus, being Front-Wheel Drive vehicle, is crowded already. They finally introduced a new 3.4L V8, in cooperation with Cosworth and Yamaha, which is essentially a Duratec 2.5L V6 with one extra pair of cylinders. The cylinders are almost identical to the 2.5L V6, and it also shares the 60 degree angle. Due to vibration issues, a set of counter-rotating balance shafts was added.
Unfortunately, this engine was rushed and turned out to have some design flaws that caused some catastrophic failures. The camshaft was not bonded adequately and a breakage can result in destroyed engine valves, because the SHO V8 is an interference design.
Distant Cousin: Aston Martin V12
The Aston Martin V12 shares many designs with the Duratec 2.5L, but contrary to some reports, it is NOT two Duratec 2.5L engines linked together. However, it is designed by Ford Research, and it does share the 6750 RPM redline with the Duratec 2.5L.
The Aston Martin V12 was used in the Aston Martin Vanquish. It generates 454 HP, very impressive for an engine that required rather minimal development.
The Vanquish S pushed the engine up to 514 HP, a true supercar engine.
Very Distant Cousin: The 4-cylinder engines
In "honor" of the Duratec name, all of Ford's European gasoline engines are now under the Duratec name. Even the older "Zetec" engines and really old OHV "Endura" engines have been renamed as Duratec engines.
In North America, only the 4-cyl and 6-cyl DOHC engines use the Duratec name.
The modern 4-cylinder Duratec's are also good DOHC engines, that they made the Ward's best 10 Best Engines of 2009 and 2010.
The original 2.5L V6 Duratec engine was such a useful engine design that it spawned a series of engines that basically saved Ford from the automotive downturn of early 2000s, and gave it time to develop its descendent such as the Cyclone series of engines. The name is so recognized, even the new Cyclone engines now also under the Duratec name.
Ford was the only Detroit "Big 3" that did not require government bailout or a merger. The little engine that could has quite a bit of contribution to that.
Carl P-71 on May 13, 2019:
It is the best car and so relieable
TERRY on December 20, 2017:
I JUST TRADED MY 2015 ECO-BOOST 3.5 FOR A 2018 5.0....WILL I BE HAPPY ?
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 17, 2015:
Nice hub, KSchang. Voted up for interesting on the camshaft vehicles.
kschang (author) from San Francisco, CA, USA on December 27, 2011:
I used to drive a Contour myself. It was a good car. :)
Willis on December 27, 2011:
I'm the proud owner of my 2nd V6 DOHC contour with mtx 75 manual. I'm proud of my small high revving v6. It enjoys an occasional run up to 100+ Amazing that u can find this engine in one of the cars folks complained about the most. Its just that they were too cheap to pay extra to get the better engine!