Why Four Cylinder Car Engines are Best for America

By Joel Arellano | February 17, 2012
Motor Trend's Ed Sanchez takes on the growing trend by automakers to utilize four-cylinders across the model lineup of their respective brands. Two main reasons are driving the paradigm shift. The first is car buyers' acceptance of four cylinder engines. Sanchez interviewed various automaker representatives who all agree that the average car owner is focused on the "overall driving experience" than cylinder count. "The number of cylinders and displacement is not what most people are looking at anymore. It's the torque and performance, and increasingly, fuel economy," said Rainer Michel, vice president of product marketing for Volkswagen North America. Greg Johnson, manager at Ford Powertrain Engineering, agrees, and adds that refinement of the four-cylinder engine has blurred the line between it and its six-cylinder cousins. Technologies such as direct injection and turbochargers, as well as hybrid motors, allow four-cylinders to match the power of a V-6 yet maintain their famous fuel economy figures. Government regulation ("Big Brother") is the second contributor to the rise of four-cylinder motors; specifically, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE. This is the target mpg automakers must average with most of their vehicles or face stiff and very costly penalties. The federal government first implemented CAFE in reaction to the 1970 gas crisis and continues to refine the figures as a tool to reduce U.S. vulnerability to changing oil supplies, especially from the Middle East. Said Bruce Belzowski, an associate director and assistant research scientist at the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan, "The manufacturers are driven in this case by CAFE regulations. I think they understand why the government is doing what they're doing, to reduce the dependency on foreign oil. The U.S. economy is so tied to oil—not just vehicles, but the entire economy." Note the automakers are not suddenly rushing out and ripping the V-6 out of all their models and replacing them with inline-fours. Far from it, in fact. Audi, for examples, believes most buyers of its A6 will continue to buy the V-6 model while Toyota will continue to offer sixes while it continues to increase its hybrid and, possibly, pure electric motor offerings. Automotive.com's take: Sanchez offers a compelling case for the once "econo" four banger, and much of his—and the executives interviewed—fitting everything we're seeing in the automotive world. How do you feel about four-cylinder engines? Are they right for you and your lifestyle? Or are the more powerful and less fuel efficient V-6 and V-8 engines more your style? As always, share your comments below. Source: Motor Trend
 
2 comments
Dave Said
Dave Said

It does me no good to get the four cylinder if I have to rev to the moon to get the car to go anywhere, or to get out of trouble. If they make the cars lighter, the four banger might do okay. Heavier cars need a turbo. I drove my friend's MINI Clubman, and that car was revving at 3500+ RPMs at 70 mph. Here in Atlanta, 70 mph is nothing. The MINI also felt always felt like it had insufficient torque. That can't be good for the reliability and longevity of the engine. Contrast the MINI with the turbo 4 banger Audi A3. The A3 never really felt underpowered.

Dan Tole
Dan Tole

It really depends on what a consumer wants out of their vehicle. To many, the V6 is still attractive. It's hard to get out of the mindset that a V6 means more power.

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