By on January 8, 2010

For bonus points, figure out what the hell is going on in this picture (courtesy:drivingenthusiast.net)

Detroit’s auto critics are a funny bunch. For decades they’ve been mocking the idea that Americans could ever love Europe’s small, underpowered, overpriced cars, as Detroit gorged itself on SUV profits. Now that Ford and GM have announced they’re bringing small cars like the Fiesta and Spark to the US, you’re starting to see the pendulum swing twice as hard in the opposite direction. “Yes, there will be a couple of mega-powerful V-8 asphalt eaters at the Detroit show, including the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe and the 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0,” writes Scott Burgess in a Detroit News piece entitled “V-6 engines begin long fade into history.”  “But, it turns out, destiny has determined that the meek four-banger will inherit the earth.” Burgess’s theory follows Ford’s Ecoboost playbook fairly closely: thanks to direct injection and turbocharging, smaller engines can produce more power. And when you consider that electric hybrids can restore some of the lost poke of a large-displacement engine, the prediction seems all the more likely. Eventually. But just because the new Sonata and Regal aren’t being offered with a V6, doesn’t mean the six-banger is ready for automotive Valhalla just yet. Even Burgess admits that “it may take 10 years or even more.” When do you, TTAC’s Best and Brightest, reckon the six-cylinder option on cars like the Camry, Altima or Impala will fall by the wayside? When will we see the death of the six-cylinder popular sportscar alá the Nissan Z?

Oh, and Burgess? Can we please stop calling all six-cylinder engines “V-6″ now? It confuses the civilians, and everyone’s sick of correcting people when they say their car has a “V-4″ even though it’s clearly not a classic Ford Taunus (etc).

Thanks, The Management

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104 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Whither The Six Cylinder?...”


  • avatar

    SHO motor in an MGB?

  • avatar
    gsnfan

    Maybe for volume cars like the Camry, but not in cars like the Z.

  • avatar
    dwford

    In some cars, yes the 6 cylinder will go by the wayside. But the V6! does have a place in some vehicles like the crossovers. The 2010 Santa Fe GLS AWD with the 2.4L 4 cylinder is rated at 21/27, while the Santa Fe SE AWD with the new 3.5L V6 is rated at 20/26. Which would you rather have: 175hp or 276hp for essentially the same fuel economy? Will the $3000 price difference change your mind?
     
    Since most midsize cars are sold with 4 cylinders (75% or more across brands), I could see ditching the V6 in those cars. But the small 4 cylinders with or without turbos in larger vehicles I remain skeptical about (I am looking at you 2011 Explorer with a 2.0L Ecoboost motor!).

  • avatar
    moawdtsi

    4 cylinder cars are just too harsh and buzzy.  I have had (5) 4 cylinder cars (some with balance shafts) and (2) V6 cars and there is just no comparison.  Two of the 4 cylinder cars were turbo cars and that presents reliability issues with the higher heat in the engine compartment, head gaskets, turbo seals, boost leaks, additional complexity etc..  I wonder how the ecoboost cars will hold up after 100k miles vs. a V6 car?

    • 0 avatar
      Disaster

      Inherently the V6 is NOT as well balanced as the inline 6.  The inline 4 isn’t much worse than the V6.  We should be talking less about design and more about horsepower.  Horsepowers have grown almost twofold in last the few decades.  This has p_ssed away all the efficiency gains.  With the emphasis on reducing gas consumption do we really need 130 horsepower in an econobox?
       
      I’m all for having the option of more powerful vehicles but the auto press has a tendency to slaughter the lower power vehicles.  People, in general, have grown to expect power…and lots of it, but if we are really going to reach 35mpg average corporate fuel economy engines are going to have to get smaller and less powerful.

  • avatar
    chris724

    I think the V6 engine is a reasonable compromise for power vs. economy. But the V6 exhaust note always irritated me. These engines need to be heavily muffled – like the one in my minivan. Some of the worst sounding engines are in Japanese V6 sports cars. Almost anything else sounds better.

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

       But the V6 exhaust note always irritated me. These engines need to be heavily muffled

      The original Alfa Romeo 60 degree V6designed by Giuseppe Busso in the late 1970s has generally been regarded by automtive journalists and gear heads has having one of the best exhausts notes ever.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfa_Romeo_V6_engine

      For that matter much the same is said for the Ferrari Dino 65-degree V6 designed by Vittorio Jano.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    For cars larger than the Malibu, Camry, Accord I really don’t see the 6 cyl disappearing anytime soon.  Now the V6 in the Impala is not state of the art but the EPA rating almost kisses 30, my girlfriends 2005 Vibe with the 5speed and tiny 1.8 ltr 4 cyl doesn’t do that much better for the size difference.  The V6 will be around a good long while.

    • 0 avatar

      I rented a 08 Malibu (I4) and a 08 Impala (3.5L V6) on two separate occasions.  I ended up with 34 and 32 mpg hwy, respectively.  City mileage was another story (25 and 19 mpg).

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      And it does all depend on what the majority of your driving is.  If my commute is on LAs gridlocked highways and takes hours, I ought to get a 4 cyl, at least most of those designs (unless the V6 has start stop tech) is going to use less fuel.  If my commute is 1hour each way in the morning and consists of largely interstate that can move at highway speeds on, then it’s a no brainer.  Take the V6 and enjoy the power!

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Now that nearly everyone has ditched the 90-degree V6 in favor of 60-degrees with some NHV engineering, people have warmed up considerably to owning one.
     
    I will dance with a turbo at the party but I will not bring one home. Cost and reliability issues are prohibitive for what I look for in a vehicle.  I will, however, go for a supercharger if the cost is low and it comes with a total warranty.

    I believe this is called a Miller cycle engine instead of the traditional Otto/Atkinson cycle engine.

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      Unfortunately, the Millenia S was not such a great seller (Amati anyone?).  Actually, the engine is great – it’s the rest of the car (save the styling, which is still sharp – my MIL’s ’99 still looks great) that has issues.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Great debatable point. V-6′s are an inherently unbalanced design and continuing them with pushrods (I.E. GM’s 3.5 & 3.9 litre engine) is a peculiar strategy.  Additionally, most V-6′s are a maintenance & repair nightmare in a FWDriver due to lack of access to the back of the engine (unlike an I-4). Continuing this line of reasoning is the new (nascent?) Buick Regal.

    As four cylinder’s continue to me more & more powerful and efficient, I can see them obviating a V-6 completely before long. Some of the timetable depends on when $4.00+ per gallon fuel returns, which inevitably, I believe, will. As for I-6′s, fuggetaboutit. The balance and smoothness is excellent but size efficency is hardly their forte’.

    As for V-8′s, I agree with the assessment that there will continue to be a limited but profitable segment for them in expensive luxury cars, utility trucks and performance models. I excluded SUV’s specifically because I believe traditional body on frame, V8 powered SUV’s are going the way of the T-Rex very soon.

    Next up, Saab style V-4 anyone?

    • 0 avatar
      thestig2284

      This is what the flat six that Porsche and Subaru build is for.  Sound great, balance and a small package.

    • 0 avatar
      Juniper

      Changing plugs every 80k is a nightmare?
      Both of you, do some homework on engine design.
      The inline 6 has balance primary and secondary plus good firing order.
      The 90 deg V8 has good primary and firing order.
      The 90 deg V6 has good primary and bad firing order
      The 60 deg V6 has bad balance and good firing order
      and on and on. inline 6 & *8 good engine bad package
      the engine world is full of compromise..

    • 0 avatar
      Garrick Jannene

      SLANT-6! SLANT-6! SLANT-6!
      Why Chrysler has never tried a modern interpretation of its 2nd greatest engine is still beyond me.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      On a pushrod or SOHC sparkplugs can be difficult regardless of engine mounting. Since must Modern V’s are DOHC now changing plugs is easy providing the intake manifold isn’t in the way.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    It’s the V8 that is near extinction in moderately priced cars because it’s been replaced by the current generation of powerful V6′s. I don’t see the V6 fading away anytime soon.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      What is the difference between a gas guzzling V6 that puts out V8 power and a V8 that puts out V8 power?  Fuel economy?  Nope…  Reliability?  No…the V8 will have that as it’s not nearly worked as hard.  Packaging?  Nope…seeing as GM is actually capable of making a small (physical size) V8, packaging is not a problem.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      I completely agree with you on the Ecoboost engine. Why use a highly tuned V6 to deliver the same power and mpg a lower output V8 produces? Especially considering the longterm reliability is a question mark and the cost of repair has got to be much higher than the NA V8. I don’t see any benefit to this engine.

    • 0 avatar
      05gt

      you will like it until you decide that they “ruined” the design with the wrong foglights. as much as I would also want them to bring over the Falcon to NA, I dont think it would be that profitable for them, atleast if they import it. GM has 2 strikes already for trying that with the GTO and G8, so I guess Ford is just learning from GM’s mistakes. Maybe they will build them here?

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    That SHO engine was the best engine ever be put in a modern Ford…figures it was built by Yamaha…Ford would have screwed the engine up.  And the new “eco”boost pales in compairson…sure it makes more power…but it looks terrible and reliability;ity will be an issue.  A high-strung, overworked ngine like that won’t last long.

    • 0 avatar
      Juniper

      Are you a Ford hater?

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      Juniper, where have you been?  Z71/P71 hates anything and everything that wears a Blue Oval.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      Not at all Juniper.  If Ford sold the Falcon here like they should (rather than a bloated, 10-year old Swedish sedan with the handling of a bread truck), I would buy one in a heartbeat.
       
      And the rumors are really beginning to pile up that Lincoln will see a falcon based sedan.  It will probably look terrible like all of the new Lincoln’s…but it will be Falcon based and will have proper RWD.

    • 0 avatar
      05gt

      you will like it until you decide that they “ruined” the design with the wrong foglights. as much as I would also want them to bring over the Falcon to NA, I dont think it would be that profitable for them, atleast if they import it. GM has 2 strikes already for trying that with the GTO and G8, so I guess Ford is just learning from GM’s mistakes. Maybe they will build them here?

  • avatar

    The V6 isn’t going away anytime soon, and neither will V8s.  Both may end up marginalized to some degree — V8s may end up being the sole province of full-size pickups, high-end luxury cars and performance/sport cars a la Mustang and Corvette.  As for V6s, those might end up being pushed out of the lower-end midsize models in favor of bigger I4s occasionally linked to turbos, superchargers, or even hybrid drivetrains.
     

  • avatar
    Spitfire

    Just to play around here…whats wrong with more cylinders at equal overall displacement? Just to illustrate the point, and I know its for a racing application but this is the concept:  http://thekneeslider.com/archives/2007/07/05/hayabusa-v8-grows-up-28-liter-455bhp/ would be very cool in a Z even with the lack of torque at low rpms and horrendous gas mileage.
    Sure the more parts the more expensive but how much more expensive is it to create a small displacement V6 to replace an I4? I cannot image its a straight 50% more. or even 30% really. Then again car companies amaze me at the amount of money that can be thrown at R&D.
    Cheers

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      More cylinders increases the parts count ($). In a V arrangement, it increases the number of machining operations compared to an inline-4 ($$). In an overhead-cam arrangement – which is pretty much necessary if you want to properly implement variable valve timing, and *that* is pretty much necessary if you want top-notch  efficiency – it doubles the number of camshafts, tensioners, cam phasing mechanisms, and cam drive mechanisms ($$$).
      And even if you set all that aside, having more but smaller cylinders increases the amount of surface area for heat loss and increases the total area swept by the piston rings, which increases friction and thus makes fuel consumption higher. That’s not the direction things are headed these days.
      I’ve never owned a vehicle with more than four cylinders and don’t intend to. Don’t need it.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      More cylinders means more parts for more cost, plus a bunch of things which result in lower efficiency. You start with poor surface to volume ratios in the cylinders and move on to higher rotating mass and greater friction.  Efficiency wise, the fewer the cylinders it takes to get the job done, the better.

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    Good riddance…
     
    Maybe they will start throwing two extra cylinders on the 4 bangers for their RWD sedans and sports cars and we’ll have a proper 6 cylinder engine again without needing to be seen in a BMW.  The front drive cars can stick with the I4′s for all I care, no one is going to miss V6′s.
     
    The V8 will stick around but needs a serious diet, the GM small block has gotten out of hand and the OHC crossplane crank V8′s Ford is fond of need to go away.  Smaller displacement flat crank V8′s will be continue to be built as long as there is gasoline to put in them (though never in something that isn’t a sports car).

    • 0 avatar
      MusicMachine

      Ever heard of GM’s Vortec 4200 inline six-cylinder engine, Vortec 3500 inline five-cylinder and Vortec 2800 inline four-cylinder engines?  Now if they just put one in a car!

    • 0 avatar
      mistrernee

      “Ever heard of GM’s Vortec 4200 inline six-cylinder engine, Vortec 3500 inline five-cylinder and Vortec 2800 inline four-cylinder engines?”
       
      Yep
       
       
      “Now if they just put one in a car!”
       
      They stopped making the straight 6 :(

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      Ever heard of GM’s Vortec 4200 inline six-cylinder engine,
       
      Yep, thats the engine that got only ONE MPG better (combined) in a Buick Rainier than the 5.3L V8…and by 2006, they got the SAME MPG city, highway, and combined.
       
       
       
       

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    That would be FORD V4, not Saab. Saab never built a single V4 engine, they bought every one of them from Ford. And they are a rough beast – I have one in my ’69 Saab Sonett. Makes 110hp (well breathed on) though, which should be all kinds of fun in a 1600lb plastic bubble. If I ever finish the thing and get it back on the road.

    But I simply don’t see the point of a v6 in a mid-sized car. My Saab 9-3 has a 2.0l turbo 4 which is quiet, smooth, more than powerful enough, and delivers 32mpg highway. I have owned MANY turbocharged cars (gas Saabs, diesel VWs and Peugeots) , and I have never had a single turbo-related issue over many hundreds of thousands of miles. Not saying it can’t happen, but we are not living in the 80′s anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      mistrernee

      Every time someone has designed a V4 for a car they can’t resist making its bank angle less than 90 degrees.  They are supposed to run smoother than a similar displacement I4 but definitive information about that is hard to come by short of parking your butt on a Honda VFR.
      Fact is that a V4 is much more expensive to build than an I4 unless you put the cam in the block and the 90 degree engine isn’t as narrow as a 60 degree V6.  Filling a narrow bank angle V4 with balance shafts to smooth it out makes it even more expensive.
       
      Subaru gets by with the flat 4 which has a similar cost issue as a V4 and until the need for twin over head cams that made it cost prohibitive the flat 4 engine was quite common.
       
      A modern V4 would be right at home in something like an MR2 or Miata and they sound pretty nifty.

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      Every time someone has designed a V4 for a car they can’t resist making its bank angle less than 90 degrees.

      1963 to 1976 Lancia Fulvia V4 designed by Zaccone Mina: 13 degree angle spacing, single head, displacements from 1.1 to 1.6 L.  Smooth and compact.  Won many rallies as well.  Later copied by VW for their VR6.

    • 0 avatar
      mistrernee

      @morea
       
      If it’s like the VR6 each piston ran on it’s own crank throw, which makes the Lancia V4  it much like an I4.    The VR6 is more of an I6 with staggered pistons than a V6 and runs almost as smooth as an I6 while being shorter.   They are really neat engines.
       
      I know SFA about the Lancia engine though.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      I owned an ’83 Honda Interceptor <url> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Honda_VF750F.JPG </url> and is was a 90-degree engine, but the cylinders were rotated back from the Honda Magnas from the same year – this allowed the tank (and the overall height of the bike) to be lower, but the seat height higher than the “crusier” Magna. It was a strong puller at low RPM, but was not quite as smooth as the inline fours at low RPM, possibly because the rear cylinders were right under the family jewels, which you could immediately feel when you cracked the throttle – and what a good feeling it was  :-)

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      Lancia V4: separate throws like an I4.

  • avatar
    V6

    it’ll be sad day when i have to purchase a car with an awful 4 cylinder engine. sound awful, feel awful… please bring back small capacity 6 cylinders instead of these oversized 2.5l 4 cylinders

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Then don’t buy a car with an “awful” 4-cylinder engine. Buy one with a *good” 4-cylinder engine and you won’t have any awfulness to deal with!
      There are plenty of good 4-bangers out there.

    • 0 avatar
      Prado

      +1   The NVH characteristics of even highly regarded  4 cylinder engines leave a lot to be desired.  I recently test drove both a 4 cyclinder TSX and A5, and both transmitted more drivetrain vibration at idle than my 6 cyclinder with over 100K on it.  Also the low end torque of the turbo A5 left alot to be desired. That car felt very sloooow off the line.

    • 0 avatar
      V6

      @Brian P – sorry, i’ve never experienced a good 4 cylinder. the V6 in my 89 Maxima sounds better and has better NVH than the 4 cylinder Camry/Euro Focus rentals i’ve had recently. even if the NVH is brilliant, a 4 cylinder will still sound bland and dull

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      Agreed – my Duratec 2.5l V-6 with 130k+ still averages 26MPG with regular trips to redline and lots of idling in traffic.  And the engine note can’t be beat by anything anywhere close to its size (although  it has been slightly enhanced from the factory).  Low curb weight doesn’t hurt either – but it doesn’t have 8 million airbags and televisions and other waste weighing it down like current models do.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    As our driving patterns become more and more urban, you’ll see the bigger engines go away.  The old adage about sixes and eights being less stressed and getting better mileage does not apply when you’re grinding through gridlock.
     
    For example: the Impala, which is an interstate queen par excellence, can easily net 11mpg in stop-and-go.  The Honda Fit, which is derided for it’s poor highway showing, would be pressed to drop below 20.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      That’s all well and good, but if I can’t buy a car with a big engine and hood scoops, how will people know how cool I am?

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      “That’s all well and good, but if I can’t buy a car with a big engine and hood scoops, how will people know how cool I am?”
      By your choice of cell phone/camera/media player :).

    • 0 avatar
      B-Rad

      If I can’t buy a car with a big engine and cave-like scoops, how will I know how cool I am?
      In all seriousness, though, I a) do not see six-cylinder engines disappearing very soon and b) will cry the day they do.  Besides, won’t the larger engines (like V-8s) start disappearing first, at least in volume vehicles?

    • 0 avatar

      Which Impala?  The old RWD big body Caprice variant or the current W-body FWD?  The 3.5L version wouldn’t dip below 17-18 mpg in stop and go.  My 5.0L Town Car (1990 vintage), on the other hand, is more than willing to hit single digits in the same conditions.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    That’s all well and good, but if I can’t buy a car with a big engine and hood scoops, how will people know how cool I am?
     
    Bliiiiiiiiiiiing.

  • avatar
    Mikein08

    I own a 2005 accord 3.0 v6.  It gets 22+ mpg in average city driving (serious stop and
    go will reduce that to 19-20), and 32+ mpg highway.  35 mph highway is not unusual.
    It’s not clear to me that honda’s I4 will do much if any better than this.

    I also own a 2009 Nissan Xterra, with a 4.0 v6.  City driving yields 14-15 mpg,
    highway yields 20-22 mpg.  I’m ecstatic with the highway mileage, and find the
    city mileage acceptable for such a vehicle.  This car has only 3500 miles, so I’m
    sure things will improve.

    There’s little fuel consumption  penalty, in my experience, to be paid wit a v6.

    MK

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    People used to care about the piston count in their cars, an I4 meant you were poor.  That’s not the case anymore.  As long as the car isn’t painfully slow people don’t care what’s powering it. 

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I am reminded of the old owners’ reports in Popular Mechanics from the 60′s and 70′s, in which the difference in reported fuel mileage between the 6 and the V8 was seldom more than 1 mpg. My own feelings about sixes in older American cars is probably best expressed by the fact that I owned six different A-body Mopars, none of which was a slant six.
    That doesn’t mean I don’t like fours though…all of my Honda Accords have been fours. They’re smooth enough, flexible enough, and they get the job done. I’ve never even driven a V6 Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      I should add that I enjoyed the Mercedes 220S sedan and 230SL that I had. They had the greatest-looking factory headers, all smooth curves and no sharp corners; ditto for the intake manifolds. When you have all the cylinders in a row there’s more room to do that.

  • avatar
    James2

    I don’t need a V6 but after living with two V6-powered cars for the last 14 years (a Ford Probe GT and now a Mazda 6) I ain’t going back. Sorry. I loved my four-banger Mazda 323, but for reasons other than its acceleration.
     
    And what’s this “bad balance” people talk about re: 60-degree V6?

  • avatar
    don1967

    It seems obvious that sixes will slowly disappear from most front-wheel drive applications, as four cylinders provide all the performance and refinement the average FWDer can use.    Who the hell cares whether their Sonata has 200 horsepower or 260?    It wasn’t so long ago that a 150 hp Altima was class-leading, and a 190 hp Maxima was every second family guy’s fantasy.
     
    Sixes, meanwhile, have crossed the 300 hp barrier and are already doing the job of V8s in an increasing number of sports cars, trucks and SUVs.   They are also smooth and silent enough for any $80,000 luxury car.    It’s hard to understand why this trend wouldn’t continue, except in heavy work applications where sheer displacement and torque are necessary and diesel is not desirable.
     
    In all cases, however, cutting the number of cylinders has more to do with production cost than fuel economy.   As dwford points out with the 2010 Santa Fe, cutting cylinders does little for fuel economy beyond some  incremental weight reduction.
     
    As for turbos…. meh.    Give it some time for the $3,000 “Ecoboost” meltdowns to start making front-page news, and nobody will want them.   We’ve been here before.

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      I agree with you about the very questionable longterm Ecoboost reliability. I wouldn’t buy one if I intended high mileage/longterm use until there was an established track record. The Ecoboost has got to be very expensive to repair. I question the benefit of that engine as it really doesn’t get much better mpg than a comparable output V8 and the V8 wouldn’t be in nearly the high state of tune the Ecoboost is.

    • 0 avatar
      sitting@home

      Long term unreliability is a win-win for the automakers. If all cars lasted 20-30 years then they’d never get replaced and the makers would go out of business. If a car is expected to only last 10 years, then the original owner (who usually keeps it for 4-5 years) will be a happy customer and the problems are pushed to the 2nd or 3rd owner who has to buy expensive parts from the original maker. A 10 year expected life span also won’t affect initial resale much because it’s way down on the depreciation curve.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      sitting@home, if there was some assurance that these Ford turbochargers would last ten years, I’d say fine.   But my inner skeptic tells me that 3-5 years will be more like it.  Am I being too cynical?

    • 0 avatar
      mistrernee

      I don’t know if I would want to drive a 4,000 pound car with a 2.4L I4, no matter how many turbos they put on it and how much HP it has.
       
      Well, unless it’s a old Hi-Lux 4×4 in which case being the most gutless thing on the road is part of the charm.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Volvo has a lot of experience with modern turbocharged engines, and the engines are rarely a big problem. Electrical gremlins are more likely to give a person fits on a Volvo than are engine or turbo charger troubles. Hopefully Ford picked Volvo’s brains on how to do it right.
       

  • avatar
    findude

    I’ve had cars with 4 cylinders (inline and boxer/flat), 5 cylinders (Volvo gas and Mercedes diesel), 6 cylinders (inline and V) and 8 cylinders (V). For a sedan the size of a Honda Accord, Volvo 850, or mid-size Mercedes (W123, W124 or W210), a 5-cylinder engine is an excellent choice. Once an inline 4 gets over about 2.4 liters it doesn’t make as much sense as just putting one or two more cylinders in. That said, an inline 4 with a turbocharger (Volvo 740 Turbo anyone?) or a supercharger (MINI Cooper S) is an awesome engine. I predict that the “ecoboost” philosophy will gain traction, though there will be some bumps along the road. A small turbocharged 4 (say 1.4-2.0 liters) will yield good fuel economy in stop and go traffic as well as on the highway, and it will give a great boost of power for the few seconds at a time that you really need it.

  • avatar
    pkor

    I feel Six cyl. engines will sweep back into pick up truck dominance. They reduce fleet costs, reduce gas consumption, and make plenty of power to get work done. Of course I also think 2 speed rear axles should come back to maximize mpg for loaded truck gearing, and unloaded truck gearing.
    I also think micro inline sixes will have a place.(see the new BMW motorcycle prototype) Luxury/grandpa cars could be smooth, quiet and get good MPG.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

                      Agree. Excepting perhaps such niches as towing and plowing snow, even work trucks spend most of their life at fraction of max output. And with the smoothness and reliability of modern engines at higher rpm, downshifting for that fraction is less of an issue than it used to be. So, 8 -> 6, 6 -> 4, and some enterprising soul is bound to try making the 4 a 2, perhaps aided by an electric motor.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      I agree on the return of four and six cylinder engines to trucks, but I doubt we will see dual speed rear axles. Modern six speed automatic transmissions cover the gearing range very nicely. No need to have the extra complexity of a two speed rear end.
       
       

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Take a Corvette pushrod V-8 and shrink it down to 2.4 L . What a sweet engine that would be! Never mind the parts count.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

                      I doubt you’d buy it. As spectacularly wonderful as the small block is, OHV’s only make sense in high displacement pr cylinder engines, where there is some balance between the rpm limitations of the valve train and the pistons themselves.
       
                      Seeing how enamored some seem to be about the power characteristics of low revving diesels, going the other way, and building something like a 4L OHV I4, would almost seem to make more sense. Dirt cheap to build and fix, low revving with a diesel like, strong bottom, power curve, and the ability to be filled up at “normal” pumps. And light weight and compact  as well.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      But you’re not so likely to get the light weight with a diesel. They have to be built more heavily than gasoline engines to withstand the 20:1 compression ratio it takes to detonate diesel fuel.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

                      Which is even more reason for the large displacement OHV 4 :)
       
                      As a bit of a recovering Honda Fanboi (ITR, S2000, Si), I never really understood the fascination some seem to have with slow responding diesel engines running out of oomph at 4000rpm. But the theory seems to be that most people drive even high revving gas cars in about as high a gear as they can, and prefer not having to downshift to accelerate.
       
                      At least some of diesel’s fuel efficiency comes from them having much lower peak power than gas engines, while at the same time feeling sufficiently powerful in the rev range most people seem to like driving in; hence spending more time closer to the sweet spot for which they are optimized.
       
                      For illustration, I just got back from Europe, where I drove a Land Cruiser (The smaller 4runner / GX one) with a 173HP diesel 4. And the owner marveled at the power, claiming it was better than with the available 4L gas 6 us environmentally unenlightened Americans were stuck with, and that is an option in Europe for those wanting maximum off road ability. Which it may well be, up to about the 3000rpm he seemed to consider a reasonable shift point when merging onto freeways. But man…., that gas Toyota 4L 6 is beautifully smooth all the way to redline, much more so than any 4cyl diesel will ever be, even at idle. And the lack of a turbo, and lighter internals, also makes it so much less herky jerky at low speeds as well, which is rather noticeable in a vehicle as prone to pitch and roll as a Land Cruiser.
       
                      Anyway, the point I was trying to make was that if people really are so enamored with low revving diesel power characteristics, a dirt cheap and US friendly alternative may well be an overgrown OHV gas 4. Same low end torque, same lack of top end power, same slight roughness, and, geared high like a Corvette, good mileage to boot. It’s main shortcoming would seem to be lack of Euro envy snob appeal, but in exchange one would save thousands of dollars in purchase and repairs, and not have to deal with sticky diesel pumps and soot spewing trucks during fill ups.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      The poor surface to volume ratio of the resulting mini-pistons would kill power and fuel efficiency.
       

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    In the late 1950′s experts worried that 1 out of every 10 American boys would have to be auto mechanics because we were buying so many cars but then the Japanese came along with cars that didn’t break every month. Better reliability meant that a lot of U.S. boys could pursue other types of jobs.
     
    Will 6 cylinders disappear in 10 years? Who knows. We could all be so poor from fighting wars to protect our oil supplies that we will all be walking. Or maybe if we are lucky we will all be commuting in balloons kept aloft with peanut oil.
     
    I wish I had kept track of all the predictions made over the years but I think that at least 90% of them have not come true.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Who needs oil? I’m waiting for that nuclear reactor-powered vehicle that Popular Science promised we’d all be driving!

      Can’t wait to see how the tuner boyz glow – literally – as they show off their latest power-enhancing mods. 

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    I had the chance to test drive a Mark VI GTI over Christmas and although it was very smooth and quiet (except for the annoying exh boom on hard accel), it doesn’t come close to my Mark IV VR6 for silky smoothness, aural delight, and throttle response.  So sad that we will never see 6 cylinders in a C-segment car again but they were never the volume sellers/moneymakers.

  • avatar
    AJ

    My daily driver is a 4-banger for the mpg, but when it comes to a nice ride for everything else, the next new vehicle will be a V8 SUV as the V6 I have in the current SUV is too under powered. I really want one or the other, but no more V6s.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Looks count too. I want cars to be powered by engines that look like Jaguar’s gorgeous old DOHC six.  If that requires longer hoods and RWD, then so be it.

  • avatar
    stuki

                    A point arguing for diminished V6 prevalence in mainstream passenger cars, is that building a given transverse mounted FWD car with an engine bay large enough to accommodate both an I4 and a V6, will rob a good amount of rear seat legroom for a given length car, compared to making it I4 only. A short snout I4 only “Camry”, could be quite limo like, without growing in overall length. As I4 power keeps rising, reasonable length vehicles with 3 useful seat rows become easier to attain.
     
                    Another issue is, V6 power is now so high, that routing it to the front wheels only, at anything resembling legal speeds, is far down the road towards diminishing returns. And once you go to 4wd, you might as well mount the engine longitudinally, and drive the rears. In which case the V6 is great, and will likely encroach on V8 territory in trucks, SUV’s and larger luxury cars.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    For a Camry or Accord-size car (or a Fusion, for that matter) I’ve never understood why a gearhead WOULDN’T go for the V6.  With modern 5 and 6 speed transaxles, the 6s deliver the same freeway gas mileage as the 4 bangers. The slight extra initial cost and potentially more expensive tune-ups seem like a small price to pay for the velvety power and smoothness of the modern V6.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I suspect that with the improvements in 4s, more and more cars in the “popular” price range will go to 4s.  Once you hit a certain price point, however, this will not fly, so the 6 will be with us for awhile.  Same with the V8.  I have long believed that this has been the primary reason that Acura’s top car never gained the traction that the big Lexus or Indiniti had.  Pay that kind of money for a car, so why would you want to listen to your friends at the club give you that condescending “Oh” when they learn that your car has a V6.  “I think that my Aunt Frieda had one of thse in a Celebrity once.” 
    We must remember that Americans do not drive horsepower, but torque.  I have driven some relatively smooth 4s, but none of them has been much of a torquemaker at the low end.
    I have owned all manner of 4s, V6s, Inline 6s and V8s.  For smooth torque, the V8s and inline 6s cannot be beat. 
    I think the more interesting question was raised somewhere above – with the increasing prevalence of all wheel drive, is the transverse mounting going to survive in any application but small sedans.  Get rid of the transverse mount, and you get rid of the V6 (unless a stubby hood is really important to the design) and all of its inherant compromises that make it inferior to the inline 6 in every respect except block length.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

                      Rear seat leg room is a big deal to a lot of people. As  are 3 seat rows to others. Meaning block length matters. Crumple zones are also easier to arrange when the bumper to firewall distance is longer than the block itself. And all that unused space next to a longitudinal inline 6 is as aesthetically off putting to engineers raised on space efficiency, as is single occupant commuting in a Suburban. Back when engines needed repairs, this work room was more appreciated.
       
                      V6′s are now for practical purposes as smooth as their inline brethren. The I6 may well run out of rev room due to crank and block flex before the V6 does so due to imbalances and roughness. Part of the popular perception of the “superiority” of I6′s is also due to sampling error, as the only modern one most people have experience with, BMW’s,  is designed and built with much fewer cost and space compromises than most competing engines. Not saying it isn’t about the nicest passenger car engine ever built, just that it’s design doesn’t easily translate to more mainstream cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Spike_in_Irvine

      The simple and cheap I6 in a Ford Falcon is a better example of the I6 smoothness than the expensive but spectacular BMWs. With a turbo it is as powerful and much lighter than the equivalent V8 Falcons. There are car designs where the length is not a big issue.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    The six-cylinder isn’t going anywhere. Big naturally aspirated 4s are reaching the 200hp mark (without needing 8,000rpm to get there) and they will continue to be the mainstream choice for the average family vehicle. This isn’t new. Where the 4 has always fallen down is refinement, and this is no different with turbocharging and direct injection. Look at the A4 2.0T. Its engine is nowhere near as refined as the BMW 328i’s, and there’s basically zero payoff in terms of fuel economy for going with a gruff turbo four over a silky I6.
     
    The six will remain the engine of choice for entry and mid-level luxury cars for many years to come, and I think we’ll start seeing a lot more of it in supercharged or turbocharged form at the top. An A8 3.0T or BMW 740i could definitely work in the US. They’ve done sixes before. The V8 will be sticking around too. V10s and V12s will most likely be exclusive to supercars. No more M5s or S6s with V10s.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Juniper:
    “Both of you, do some homework on engine design.”

    Thought that’s what I did, without being snarky about it.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    I have a couple of old car magazines from the late 50s where the author questioned whether, in the future, the 6 cylinder was going to be extinct as an engine choice as well.  Everyone knows how that came out.

    Same with manual transmissions. My take: I doubt it.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      The manual transmission is for all intents and purposes extinct in the US. Fewer than one in ten models even offer the option, and for those which do it is almost impossible to find one.
       

  • avatar
    Bergwerk

    Deja vu all over again.  How many times have the critics predicted the death of this or that power-train.  In the late 70′s it was the V8, in the early 80′s it was the 6 (inline and V).  It did seem for a while that soon all cars would be 4cyl.  I remember Thunderbird turbo coupes (4cyl) and SVO Mustangs.   Chrysler even dropped a turbo 4cyl in their minivans and New Yorkers.  But alas, the death of V6′s and V8′s did not come to pass.  Americans need larger cars than European’s owing to larger familys and longer distances traveled.  Larger cars need more cylinders for efficient low end torque.  Additionally, with large wagons CAFE’d out of existence, Americans increasingly turned to: first, larger and larger mini-vans and second, the SUV.   The net result was that the better low end torque of naturally aspirated V6′s and V8′s, combined with new technologies that improved their fuel economy, actually increased their share of market through the last decade.
    Now we are back around to predicting the demise of the V6.  While it’s true that new technologies, like direct injection, variable valve lift, and sequential turbos will surely increase 4cyl share of the car market,  anything larger than a compact sedan or crossover will still need more cylinders.  From around 250 hp to the 350-400 range will be the realm of a new generation of V6′s.  These engines will still power large sedans, trucks, mini-vans and SUV’s  The only “doomed” engine I can see is the sub 5.0 liter V8.  And even that prediction has to have exceptions for high revving super cars and new technologies…what if Chrysler fitted Fiat multiair to the 4.7?…hmm.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I prefer I6s to anything else.   Balanced, easy to maintain.  They only fit in RWD cars.  :)

  • avatar
    George B

    I predict that the 60 degree V6 will live on in the larger sedan and near luxury markets.  Smooth enough in a relatively small package.  However, I drove a 4 cylinder rental Camry for more than 3000 mostly highway miles.  Four cylinders were adequate when paired with a 5 speed automatic and a Camry doesn’t aspire to be anything beyond adequate.  Throw in direct injection, 6 or more transmission gear ratios, a reverse in the the size/weight bloat trend, and less power required for electric power steering and the cost of a V6 doesn’t make sense for mainstream sedans.
     
    I predict that the internal combustion engine will outlast gasoline.  In a world where coal and natural gas are much less expensive than oil, what happens to engine design if the relatively inexpensive fuel is methanol or compressed natural gas instead of gasoline?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shale_gas
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methane_hydrates

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      “Throw in direct injection, 6 or more transmission gear ratios, a reverse in the the size/weight bloat trend, and less power required for electric power steering and the cost of a V6 doesn’t make sense for mainstream sedans.”
       
      Thus, the 2010 Hyundai Sonata…   :-)

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    A few years ago (~2002) at the Detroit autoshow, one of the big 3 had a display in the basement at Cobo. On a stand in an ignored by crowd area, was a V6 with a turbo nestled at the top rear of it’s valley. That engine was everything I’d ever seen in a show piece. The design was clean, robust, balanced and proportional. It set a new benchmark for engine design in my mind. I wish I could remember whose it was. It was really beautiful, but I’ve never seen it since.

  • avatar
    AccAzda

    Alright…
    Honda dealt out without 6cycls.. for the majority of its lifetime. They only have to when the heavy and luxo shit is involved.

    If weight was kept down to under 3400lbs.. theyd never need a 6cycl.

    Now..
    GM could never be bothered to put anything smaller than a 6 in the majority of its Impala sized (midsized) cars even going back 10yrs. (But Honda and Toyot have been doing it for coming 20yrs.)

    The difficult part is…
    Getting people to BUY cars with a 4cycl.. with enough power to move the BLOAT that is the current midsizer. NTM, contenting the vehicle with enough to match that of the larger car.. so.. you dont need the larger car based on concept alone.

    THAT.. is going to be the hard part.

  • avatar
    Aqua225

    I noticed several posts that seem to indicate we shouldn’t care about how the power is generated but just how much power is output, ie., that a 4 cylinder should be the miracle future engine.
    I don’t buy this. I think the real reason people don’t desire a V8 in a car, is because many people have never driven one, as the 4 and the 6 long ago dominated the “cost of manufacture” wars, placing these two types into anything that wasn’t worth the cost to have a V8. While the I-6 is inherently a better balanced design, the v8 still has a beautiful song, that neither a I-6 or a I-4 can duplicate. I theorize that if more people knew what a high output V8 sounded like, either cruising (almost not there) or under duress (music), the 4-cyl and the 6-cyl markets would experience a great falling away again. That, however, is not likely to happen. People hear “v8″ and something in their brain echos automatically “bad gas mileage”, though that is not so obvious nowadays. Multiple generations in families have grown up with both this misconception about v8 engines, and with a small 4-cyl in the family car.
    I am not sure of several poster’s surety about the inherent problems of making small displacement V8 engines. One argument was surface to volume ratio. I think there are more factors that come into play: many of the motors considered to be the top of the bin, have been low displacement, high revving, short stroke V8 and V12 designs from Europe. Additionally, increasing the displacement of a 4-cyl engine will also increase rotating mass, greatly increase the material cost of things like rods and crankshafts, and will greatly expand the amount of ring touching cylinder wall. And add on to that, it will still sound terrible. I have driven and ridden in top-bin 4 cylinder engined cars, and they all just lack anything I would call passion. They still sound like 4 cylinders — TSX, Accord, Camry, BMW 4 bangers, all of them just sound plain to me — no better than a Chrysler 2.2L from the 80′s — just less overall vibration. At least an I-6, even if it lacks passion, doesn’t sound like it is going to come through the firewall and beat me up for my request to haul mass. The TSX and Civics specifically, when wound out, make me cringe and expect either loud bangs or small clicking sounds of springs being emitted from areas which they sound like they should not be :)
    Finally, if the car makers really intend to bring us all to 4-cyl goodness, well then, bring on the electrics. It won’t be worth keeping the piston engine around without the song of the V8.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    Turbocharged D.F.I V6s are the New V8s… but a Turbo+Supercharged I4 with DFI, VVT, should be what all manufacturers aim at in the near internal combustive future.

  • avatar
    Bruce from DC

    Having owned a 250-hp turbo’ed 4 (in a Saab) for 8 years, I can certainly say that, in transverse-mounted FWD applications, a 4 will get the job done for any reasonably-sized car.  And the auto tranny in the Saab coupled with the engine management software means that about 85% of the time, you don’t catch the turbo napping.  In fact, when we shopped that car in ’02, we test-drove the light-pressure turbo 200 hp 3-liter V-6, which drove inferior to the base model 185 hp turbo 4.  That said, the Saab engine (which has a balance shaft) is pretty rough and gruff over 5,000 rpm.  The fact is, however, that you never spend any time in that rpm range with that engine, and even at supra-legal (but sane) US highway cruising speeds, engine rpms are less than 2500, and abundant torque is available very quickly.
    I was fortunate enough to own for 10 years a car with the best V-6 ever, the 3 liter Yamaha SHO engine.   The SHO was rated at less output than the Saab 4 and loved (needed) to rev.  To be sure, it was smoother than the Saab 4, but the need to spool up to hit the power and torque, somewhat negated that advantage.
    In a RWD car, I don’t see much of an argument for a V-6.  The 3-liter BMW I-6 (which I now own in a Z3) is leagues ahead of either engine in smoothness and power delivery.  Obviously, a transverse-mounted 3 liter I-6 has packaging problems.
    I think FWD (and AWD) has been greatly oversold, for mid-size and larger cars.  And, as others have pointed out (and the Saab demonstrates vigorously, the SHO less so) torque steer is a significant issue with high power FWD applications (which is why Audi developed the “Quattro” AWD system in the first place.  With traction and stability control systems being ubiquitous, the “advantages” of FWD in low-traction situations fade.
    So, I could imagine a future with 4-cylinder engines for FWD applications (with some sort of forced induction) and I-6 engines for RWD applications, with or without forced induction.  As BWM’s 300 hp, 3 liter twin-turbo’ed 6 demonstrates, it seems to me that the big V-8 is more questionable, except in supercars.
    In the historical curiousity department, recall that Porsche developed a 3-liter 4 cylinder engine for the RWD 944 car, later adding a multivalve head and ultimately a turbo, IIRC.  That engine had a balance shaft.  Never drove that car, but don’t recall complaints about significant roughness, etc.


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