GM reveals new, highly modular Ecotec engine familyWed, 19 Mar 2014 00:00:00 -0700
GM introduced its new modular family of Ecotec engines on Wednesday at its powertrain headquarters in Pontiac, Mich. The new, reduced-in-size three- and four-cylinder mills will replace three of GM's current engine families, eventually making their way into five of the company's brands.
The Ecotec family will eventually spawn 11 engines in total, ranging in displacement from 1.0 liter to 1.5 liters. Some will be port-injected, others direct, some turbocharged, some naturally aspirated -- and, of course, there will be an option for a hybrid system. We suppose that's modularity at its finest. GM says commonality between engines saves on engineering, manufacturing and supply proliferation across the board.
“Transportation solutions vary around the world, and GM is committed to developing engines matched to the needs of the regions where they're sold,” said Steve Kiefer, GM vice president of global powertrain engineering. “The new engine family will make its way into five GM brands and 27 models by the 2017 model year."
The first production application of the new Ecotec will be the 1.0-liter in the Opel Adam, and the 1.4-liter turbo and 1.5-liter naturally aspirated in the 2015 Chevy Cruze for China. That's all GM told us about applications, but we could easily see the fours in our Chevy Cruze, and the three could go in the Sonic or Spark, especially when Ford drops its new three-cylinder into the Fiesta.
GM says that, by 2017, it will build about 2.5 million of the new engines annually, spread out at five plants (Michigan, China, Hungary, Mexico and South Korea). The Flint, Mich., facility will get an investment of $200 million alone. Each plant will produce Ecotec versions for its own market, though the three main variants share a substantial number of parts.
Output in the primary trifecta will range from 75 hp to 165 hp and 70 lb-ft to 184 lb-ft of torque. We expect the lower-output motors will stay in the old country -- even efficiency-minded Americans seem to need at least a round 100. The company says cars equipped with the new Ecotecs will be fun to drive, adding that the 1.4-liter turbo will make 90 percent of max torque from 1,500-5,000 rpm. Transmissions will run the gamut from manual to automatic to dual clutch and continuous.
The new engines will also be more efficient than today's line, though GM wouldn't specify how much for each. The automaker did mention that its three-banger will be more efficient than Ford's comparable motor. It also played us engine noise from its 1.4-liter -- and VW's 1.4-liter -- to show off the extra refinement. The Ecotec was quieter than the VW at idle and at speed; GM says it did this with a stiffened block, two-piece oil pan and low-friction cam chains, among other items.
The engines are currently testing all across the globe. We saw, for example, a clip of one of the motors on a tilt rig, which can simulate 1.2-g turns by leaning the engine side to side. GM also bench-tests them at wide-open throttle, 24 hours per day, seven days a week, for four weeks.
GM ended the event by noting that the new engine family will run on regular unleaded gas, even the turbocharged ones.
By Jake Lingeman