Honda has always been proud of the word “Motor” in its name. It’s the world’s largest producer of internal combustion engines (all those lawnmowers), and has a long history of engine technology leadership. From the CVCC to VTEC and the recent i-VTEC, Honda was a consistent leader, especially in high-efficiency and high-output four cylinder engines. No more. The Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) revolution is on in full force, and most major manufacturers have released or announced state-of-the-art DI engine programs. And none more convincingly than Hyundai, with its new 200 hp 2.4 liter Theta II GDI. Where’s Honda’s? While we’re waiting, let’s take a closer look at Hyundai’s:
Gasoline Direct injection has been around some fifteen years, when Mitsubishi introduced its GDI engine in Japan and Europe. But the Mitsubishi approach, which was imitated by many manufacturers, involved the tricky stratified charge ignition of a super-lean mixture, which takes place under low-load operation. The technical challenges of managing that approach and resultant emission problems have increasingly made that a sideline, especially in the more stringent emission limits of the US market. Honda and most other manufacturers have versions of that technology in their domestic markets.
Meanwhile, the technology of super-high pressure injection systems for diesel engines have been adapted to gas engines without the stratified charge ultra-lean mode. GM jumped on the bandwagon back in 2004, and its latest 2.4 L four in the Buick La Crosse, Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain have class-leading EPA numbers. And Ford has committed to GDI across its line, beginning with its Eco-Boost engines. Hyundai has also announce a wholesale adoption of GDI, and their new four has class-leading specifications.
As this chart shows, Hyundai’s GDI will deliver the goods with not only improved horsepower and torque numbers compared to the non GDI Honda, Ford and Toyota, as well as its claim of a 10% mileage improvement. With 200 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque, Hyundai has wisely decided to kill the V6 option in the 2011 Sonata.For a detailed press release of the Theta II GDI, click here:
This chart also shows an anomaly with GM’s GDI four that isn’t readily explainable. GM’s EPA estimates for the 2011 Regal (20/30) are strangely low, considering that the same engine/transmission combo achieves a 22/32 rating in the heavier and much less aerodynamic Equinox/Terrain CUVs. It’s not like GM to trumpet low mileage estimates.
Undoubtedly, Honda (and Toyota) will have current-technology GDI coming, but their reputation for leadership has clearly taken a hit. Not only have the Hyundai/Kia combination surpassed Honda in global vehicle sales, but now also in engine technology.