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XR6 Through the Roof!

Already we're seeing big power gains with the Ford XR6 Turbo!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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When the BA Ford XR6 Turbo was released to the Australian public it was inevitably going to be BIG in terms of aftermarket go-fast appeal. Just a few months after its debut in October 2002, we're already starting to see a few enhancement packages emerge on the market - the first we've had the opportunity to report on is from Melbourne's Nizpro garage.

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As you may remember from previous articles, Nizpro's Simon Gischus has - since now - specialised in only Nissan and Holden LS1 power-ups, but the potential of the XR6-T was simply too huge to ignore.

"Having owned our development car - a 4-speed auto - for a few months I reckon it's a pretty good thing; it steers well and, although it's not a racecar, it has good performance out of the box," Simon says.

Needless to say, though, the factory serving is not enough to really set an enthusiast's pants on fire...

The Nizpro Path to Power with the Ford XR6 Turbo

According to Simon, the standard XR6's fuel system flow and its sophisticated management system are the areas holding back easy power increases. "It looks like Ford have taken their atmo six and done as little as possible to convert it to a turbocharged motor," Simon says.

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In order to get around the difficulties associated with the standard engine management system, Nizpro are installing a programmable MoTeC M800 as a piggyback to the factory ECU. This approach allows, amongst other things, the factory power steering compensation, idle control and electronic throttle control to be retained. The MoTeC unit takes over control of only the fuel pump, injectors, ignition system, boost pressure and timing of the double overhead camshafts. Note that, at the time of writing, inlet and exhaust camshaft timing can only be altered in tandem - not individually.

Certainly, the 'next leap' in programmable management is being hurried along by the XR6T, with MoTeC about to release their M800 with individual variable cam timing control as well as electronic throttle control. At present, the Ford's standard electronic throttle control must be retained because it is used to maintain the rev limit and to reduce torque when the traction control system is triggered.

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As seen previously on Nizpro's DynoLogic chassis dyno, the factory XR6T management system is way too smart to allow you to bleed out a bit of wastegate hose pressure to increase boost and raise power. With the MoTeC unit, however, boost has been successfully raised to 9 psi to deliver a strong increase in power and mid-range torque. The new boost maps are based on revs and throttle position and only j-u-s-t touch a 9 psi peak.

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Not surprisingly, Ford runs the XR6 Turbo quite rich under high load - about 0.77 Lambda (11.3:1) according to Simon. Performance and fuel economy can therefore be sharpened by leaning the mixtures while still retaining a margin for safety; at the time we spoke to Simon, his development car was running as lean as 0.91 Lambda (13.4:1) at full power, but this is simply because the fuel system cannot provide any more flow at maximum output. He makes the point that he would never let a customer car go out the door like that - full load mixtures of about 0.89 Lambda (13.0:1) would be around the mark in most instances.

At present, the M800 system gives Simon the ability to change the angle of both camshafts in unison, but - as mentioned - MoTeC is currently working to provide the flexibility to adjust inlet and exhaust cam-timing individually; once cracked, this will give the ability to adjust the all-important valve overlap.

For now, though, Simon has set both camshafts at an angle that gives the optimum mid-range torque on the chassis dyno - there was no point concentrating too much on top-end torque since the engine is already at the limit of its fuel flow.

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Ignition timing, too, is altered from factory with Simon plugging in figures to suit the altered AFRs, cam timing and boost level. His development car is set up to run on 98RON Shell Optimax, but we're told it can cope with small RON variations without too much of a problem. A comparison with the standard ignition timing figures cannot be made, but Simon suggests a bit of extra advance would most likely now be used in most areas.

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With the development car in its current guise - with mixtures as lean as 0.91 Lambda, optimised ignition and cam timing plus up to 9 psi boost - power has increased from around 178 - 182kW ATW in the standard car to 223kW ATW. That's a power increase of around 25 percent, which - using the factory quoted output as a guide - equates to between 270 and 280kW at the flywheel!

Note that any more power than this requires an upgrade of the fuel delivery system.

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Simon is quick to point out that the MoTeC approach won't be suited to everyone. The significant cost of purchasing, installing and tuning the MoTeC unit will inevitably be a lot dearer than other methods, such as reprogramming or intercepting the factory ECU signals. The MoTeC approach is, as he says, a good way to go if you plan on chasing more power down the track - like somewhere around 400kW. We'll come to pricing details a little later.

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Development is still very much under way and Nizpro are presently designing an upgrade exhaust system - even though Simon suggests the factory system should get by with engine outputs up to around 300kW. "The factory pipe starts off at around 3-inches diameter near the turbo and runs back to two decent size twin pipes toward the rear, so I'm not convinced its particularly restrictive," says Simon.

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Anther area Nizpro are looking at is the intercooler. Once removed from the vehicle, it's obvious that the factory XR6T intercooler is not particularly large and, according to Simon, there is certainly the potential to further reduce charge-air intake temperatures. "We've seen about 55 or 58 degrees Celsius after the intercooler while running 9 psi boost with an ambient temperature of around 26 degrees," reveals Simon.

We're told that a bigger front-mount intercooler is currently being built, along with a couple of other trick bits - stuff like a replacement intake manifold and a cold air feed to the airbox.

As you may be wondering, though, there is a limit to the power you can achieve while still running the standard engine internals...

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Simon predicts that the factory conrods will be pushed at anything past about 320 - 330kW and, as such, he now has a beefier set ready to go. The valve springs, too, are only built to withstand the occasional big rev so a firmer set of springs may well be required to prevent high rpm valve bounce; Nizpro haven't come up with a replacement quite yet.

At the current state of play, however, Nizpro's MoTeC upgrade - giving more boost, optimised mixtures, ignition timing and (tandem) cam timing - makes the Ford XR6T very much quicker on the road. During a brief test with the car in its 0.91 Lambda tune, the car felt to offer noticeably improved throttle response, low rpm torque, an even more noticeable mid-range whack and a top-end that's, well, monumentally improved. With greater torque maintained at high rpm, there's a natural tendency to wind the car out before pulling the next highest gear and the speedo needle flings around the dial about as quick as it would in, say, a 300kW HSV - and that's saying something! What's equally impressive, though, is this performance gain has been achieved with absolutely no more exhaust or induction noise - it's a perfectly stealth power-up.

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And now - as promised - we arrive at the price...

With the MoTeC M800 unit supplied, fitted and tuned to give you around 220kW ATW you're looking at a charge of about $6000 - the exact price is yet to be finalised, as it depends if electronic throttle control and independently variable cam timing soon becomes available on the MoTeC computer.

And how much are you looking at if you want to be - to the best of our knowledge - the first person in Australia to venture to around 400-odd kilowatts? Well, an engine rebuild with new rods, valve springs, intake manifold and more will likely cost around $18,000 - again, this is not to be taken as a 'concrete' price at this early stage.

One thing is for sure - the XR6T power race is on!

Update!

Recognising the high cost of installing the MoTeC piggyback computer, Simon is currently looking into releasing a cheaper 'entry level' approach to powering-up the XR6 Turbo. An ECU interceptor is about to be put through its paces as we go on-line with this article.

Stay tuned and - if you can't wait - give Nizpro a call!

Contact:

Nizpro
+61 3 9761 1522

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