By on May 25, 2012

Although Michael briefly touched on this in his review of the 2013 Altima, the 2002 Altima was a watershed vehicle in our market, albeit one that doesn’t get enough credit. Without it, there would never be a Toyota Camry with a sub 6-second 0-60 time.

Two Hundred And Forty Horsepower. Before this magic number, the Altima was an also-ran, too small to be a mid-size car but too large to be a compact, placing it in the weird no-man’s land occupied by cars like the Ford Contour. The 2002 Accord V6 used a 3.0L V6 with 200 horsepower, and the Camry was in similar territory. An Acura TL had a 3.2L V6 with 225 horsepower and cost a few thousand dollars more.

And then came the Altima. The QR25DE powered 4-cylinders weren’t that special, but the prospect of a VQ-engined, 240 horsepower family sedan with a stick shift was a novel concept. The Maxima, formerly the vanguard for the “4DSC” crowd, quickly became obsolete, even though it still lingers on today without a clear identity.

A year later, the Honda Accord debuted with 240 horsepower in their V6 engine. In 2006, the Camry V6 fired back with 268 horsepower. The Altima then upped its V6 to 270 horsepower, while Honda will now sell you an Accord V6 with 271 horsepower. Even brands intent on downsizing and improving fuel economy are getting into it; Hyundai’s 4-cylinder turbocharged Sonata makes 276 horsepower. The horsepower pissing match could arguably be the tipping point for when modern cars evolved to their current state; powerful, heavy, but without any joy behind them. A Camry can handle a WRX in the 1320, but it remains a Pyrrhic victory for one’s soul. Yeah, you beat a sportier car. Would you like to go hunt penned in deer while you’re at it? The Hyundai Genesis is a great example of how horsepower is useless without the appropriate tools. I can’t tell the difference between the original V6 version of the sedan, and the slightly more powerful V6 in the mildly updated 2012 Genesis. But in the coupe, where that power can really be used effectively, really does show you what an improvement the extra 42 horsepower is for that car.

I’m not really sure where things can go from here on out. A 300 horsepower front-drive family sedan just seems asinine, but the manufacturers have effectively backed themselves into a corner. Advertising a car with “30 percent less power!” is going to go over as well as a pork-only buffet at an event for the Muslim Auto Writers Association. The 2012 Fusion appears to be going in the opposite direction, with the 2.0L Ecoboost topping out at a non-insignificant 237 horsepower. The base engines, with 170 horsepower for the 2.5L and 179 horsepower for the 1.6 Ecoboost, are a little behind the current field on paper. Personally, I hope this trend spreads to other manufacturers too.

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75 Comments on “The 2002 Altima And The Mid-Size Horsepower Wars...”


  • avatar
    niky

    300 horsepower is just silly. The 3.5 liter V6 midsizers are certainly entertaining… once in a blue moon… but there’s something disconcerting about driving something with more horsepower than handling… or brakes… or sense.

    I’m sure it’s entertaining driving a rocket-powered barge, too… right up to the point where you run aground at the next bend in the river…

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    1997.5 Buick Regal GS = 240hp, 280lb-ft of torque
    Ditto GTP Grand Prix.

    And I’ll argue that – especially with the Buick – the packaging around the motor was better screwed together and didn’t fall apart as rapidly as the ’02 Altimas did.

    • 0 avatar

      Flybrian, would you say that the Regal and Grand Prix were a size or so larger than the Altima/Accord? I was always under that impression.

      • 0 avatar
        Flybrian

        The Accord is definitely on the smaller end of the midsize scale, but the ’02 Altima was more comparable in size and definitely market segment to the GTP, imo.

      • 0 avatar
        smokingclutch

        Yeah, the GP & Regal were *MAYBE* a half-size bigger, the same way the Accord at the time was a half-size smaller.

        The also-half-size-smaller Mazda6 had 220 hp from its 3.0L V6 back in 2002.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        They’re a bit larger between the bumpers, but the W-Bodies are pretty cramped inside. Compare and contrast, for example, the Impala and Intrepid.

      • 0 avatar
        philadlj

        The 4th-gen Regal was only 3.9″ longer, 2.3″ wider, and actually 1.3″ lower than the ’02 Altima, and was classified as a Midsize sedan by the EPA.

      • 0 avatar

        Those are significant differences in length and width. The lower height reflected the car’s old school packaging.

      • 0 avatar
        jrhmobile

        Slicing that a little thin, aren’t you Michael?

        Less than 4 inches of total length and two inches of width places GM in a whole ‘nother class than an Altima? Please …

    • 0 avatar
      Rental Man

      Still, Was there a 5 speed in the Buick?
      Did it look as good as a 2002 Altima vs. the market at the time?

      • 0 avatar
        Flybrian

        I’d rather the super-smooth and bulletproof 4-speed GM autobox vs the rarely-optioned 5-SPD in the Altima. The Altima automatics – i.e. the majority – are generally average to poor.

        And, IMO, not only did the Regal GS look good in ’02, it STILL looks good today and has suffered less ‘aging’ than the altezza-lamped Altima.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Though the handling was more button downed in my 4-cylinder Altima rental the Grand Am in that day, the mid-turn autmatic down shift had me adjust the course of the car to keep it online.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    I believe we’ll see the 300 HP barrier broken. The 3.7L engines in the modern muscle cars that get 30+ mpg are just begging to be offered as an option in some Dad’s grocery getter. I fully expect there will be youtube videos of those cars walking Porche Boxsters and Caymans.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      A while back, at the gas pumps, I talked with an Avalon owner who was surprised that his car had nearly the HP of my gen1 Cayman S. As Baruth has written, in a classic air-cooled 911, you have a HP deficit to a lot of sedans. But I’d be surprised if you’ll be smoked in a newer one – the S models 991/CayBoxsters – are at or under 5 0-60. And especially true if cornering or braking is also involved…. The only legal fun I can have is speeding up in corners.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I’m really surprised Nissan doesn’t offer the Infinitis’ 3.7L in the Maxima (as standard) or the Altima (as an SE-R trim).

      Ditto Toyota (maybe less so) and the IS350′s tune of the 3.5L in the Camry SE.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        Too expensive.

        The 3.7 Nissan has completely variable valve lift and timing without need of a throttle.

        The IS350 engine from Toyota has the D4S dual port/direct injection system instead of just port as in Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      The 9th gen Accord V6 is supposed to break 300. I sure hope Honda builds some sort of torque steer management in the manual tranny versions!

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    My dad bought a 2004 3.5SE brand new. It’s got good power, decent handling, gets 31-33mpg on the interstate and 23-25mpg in mixed driving around town, and he has never had a problem with it in or out of warranty. The body and interior have held up just fine… the interior was rightly criticized for it’s cheap looking hard plastics but it turns out hard plastics are very durable and they still look just as new(and cheap) as when he bought it. It’s been the best car he has owned so far. He usually doesn’t keep cars long past the 100k mark but he is loathe to sell it.

    • 0 avatar
      Rental Man

      During 2004 when on the sales side I sold my uncle a base 3.5SE demo with 5k. With over 100k and a repair bill of $1000 he traded it in, showing the Buick dealer the repair quote. he got over $4000 for it. As a cash buyer GM fixed priced without anymore dealer trade $ for the car he was impressed both with the Altima and the residual price. The Buick just fit better this time.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    You can already get 300 horsepower in the Chevrolet Impala – standard. Moreover, with huge rebates and discounts, that 300 horsepower will cost you less than a base 4-cylinder Altima (if you go easy on the options). With the Impala, you’ll have to live with the “back to the past” interior, but nothing comes free.

  • avatar
    pilfjd

    It is sad that manufacturers and, by extension, the consumers that are marketed to, are still concerned with HP numbers, 0-60, and 1/4 mile times. It’s one of the reasons why I think the BRZ and FR-S will flop, even though I am rooting for them to be successful. People in general don’t change.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    Interesting, I hadn’t really thought of the Altima as starting the HP “wars.” What amazes me is that the HP climb started about the same time as the climb in oil prices. Also, don’t forget the bloat in mid-sizers has been ongoing for a couple decades now. 250hp in a 2012 model isn’t the same as 250hp in a 1995 model.

    Size of cars aside, I for one agree that it’s silly the amount of HP that is being put in your average FWD McCar these days. Didn’t the original 1989 Taurus SHO have something like 200hp? That was a HUGE deal as I recall.

    My 4cyl Accord has something like 150HP. Sure, it struggles if you put 4 adults in the thing, but for 99% of the driving I do it’s more than adequate. I can push it to the rugs and enter highway traffic at 75mph by the end of most on-ramps if the conditions warrant. Isn’t that where 99.999% of people need the HP that their vehicles have?

    My bias is for better styling, handling and fuel economy. Massive power under to hood is low on my priority list. Then again, I’ve never been a racer and don’t get my kicks from going fast in straight lines, give me the curves.

    • 0 avatar
      smokingclutch

      The SHO had 220 hp, which was about the limit for 3.0L V6s for a long time, aside from the Acura NSX.

      A few others that broke the 200 hp barrier for 3.0L V6s:
      - Alfa 164Q – 230 hp, IIRC
      - Mazda6 V6 – 220 hp

      • 0 avatar
        amancuso

        Model year 2000 BMW 3.0L engine = 225HP

      • 0 avatar
        donkensler

        Yep, the SHO was 220, and was plenty entertaining at the time.

        When I bought my present car (’09 Mazda6 2.5), I drove the 3.7 and found it excessive for my present usage (about 95% suburban puttering around, with very occasional freeway driving). I guess that was the first time in my life I didn’t check the box for the most powerful engine available when selecting a car for myself (my first two family hand-me-downs don’t count). The 2.5 is perfectly adequate for my needs now.

      • 0 avatar
        Rental Man

        +1 Donkensler 2011 Mazda 6 with the 4. From a loaded 2008 6cyl. The near 4cyl. with the 17″ wheels is all we need for 95% of use.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I was thinking of the early SHO, too, which also came with a stickshift, long before the 02 Altima.

      • 0 avatar

        The SHO wasn’t priced to sell in volume.

        The GM supercharged cars weren’t seen as entirely up-to-date due to pushrods and packaging.

        As noted in my review, the Altima didn’t have such an impact due to the engine alone. Styling and interior room also played a role. As did price. The car offered what many people perceived to be an ideal combination of power, style, and interior room at an affordable price.

        The 2002 Altima’s styling might not look all that special now, but I remember my mother calling me up at the time and asking me about this car she had noticed on the road. If my mother notices a car, it’s clearly breaking through the clutter.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I would say where most people really need horsepower is when passing.

      • 0 avatar
        donkensler

        Yeah, if I lived in the sticks and drove on two-lanes where I could pass, I’d want more power. Or, if I still did road trips on said two-lanes, then sure. Driving in the burbs, you pretty much can’t pass (too much oncoming traffic and traffic entering from subdivisions), and driving on freeways or multi-lanes power just isn’t a limiting factor in the ability to pass.

        As long as I’ve got enough power to safely merge onto a freeway I’m fine.

  • avatar
    Patrickj

    Then, there’s the crappy repairability of any front wheel drive car with a V6 or V8.

    It’s good that most of them are reliable, because fixing them when they do break is costly. I’m driving one with over 130K miles on the original plugs. When I ask a mechanic about the cost of replacing them, the answer is always “You don’t want to know”.

    Sounds like they aren’t eager for the task at any price.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I’ve done the spark plug job on two 96/98 Chrysler minivan V6 engines (3.3/3.8).

      It means the commitment of a full evening, removal of the intake plenum, various wires, brackets, hoses, etc. many of which are in blind spots. The ‘cab forward’ design concealed the back half of the engine under the sheetmetal. Consumers wouldn’t want to pay for this service at a garage.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        You don’t have to pull the plenum on those. I have removed the rears from under the car with a swivel socket and bendy ratchet. Before you say I’m an auto tech and have many expensive tools you can’t afford, the ratchet in question was like $12 at Harbor Freight, and the set of four swivel spark plug sockets not much more.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        Slippy, my neighbor has a 96 voyager with the 3.3 with over 230k. About a year or so ago he replaced the plugs on the front side, but he couldn’t get to the back ones because he probably weighs about 300lbs. My 20 year old daughter got to them without much trouble, I think she went up from underneath.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverInfidel

      True, unfortunately. I bought replacement plugs for our malibu maxx ss a good 8 months ago. They are still in the garage. After looking, a couple of them were hard enough to reach I was worried I would never get them done.

      I’m by no means a good mechanic, but they’re just plugs. Shouldn’t be that tough.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “Without it, there would never be a Toyota Camry with a sub 6-second 0-60 time.”

    Horsepower had been steadily increasing across all classes since the end of the OPEC oil crisis in the early 80s.

    The 1983 Camry had 91 hp. By 1991, there was a V6 model with 156 hp. By 2000, there was a TRD supercharged version with 247 hp: http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/toyota-thunder-trd-camry-solara-road-test

    The faster Camry was inevitable. Everything was already leading in that direction. With improving technology, cheap fuel and the end of gas lines, there wasn’t much reason for continued austerity.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I’m still hard-pressed to tell the difference between my mom’s 02 Altima 2.5S and a 2012 Altima; maybe this is part of Nissan’s winning formula, but I prefer to see a faster evolution.

  • avatar
    Petra

    The Altima may have started the horsepower wars. But the real significance of the Altima is that it saved Nissan.

  • avatar
    kenzter

    It worked on me. The 2002 Alitma become my first new Japanese car. 240hp and a stick? I was sold…nothing else like it at the time. Fun car to drive, but I don’t know how it held up long term. I only had it for a couple years, then I decided I wanted a truck.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    People here wonder why the altima v6 “started the midsize hp wars” over the supercharged 3800 powered w-bodies or the taurus SHO. The difference is that those cars were special high-end packages, lower end cars had 2 other engine options (3100 vs 3800 for w body, vulcan or duratech for taurus). With the altima’s v6 it was the ONLY engine option aside from the 4 banger so Honda, Toyota, Mazda, and Mitsubishi all had to respond which they did.

    For years I’ve called these cars v6 muscle sedans. I was tempted to get one not long ago. I test drove a newer maxima, altima, galant,,, they were all fast but because they weren’t tuned for driving fun (or driving crazy) the fast factor felt kinda dumb. It made the drivetrain feel out of balance with the rest of the car.
    The one that WAS fun was a mazda6 wagon. It’s v6 was a 3.0 tuned for 220 hp It was fast but not too fast which added to the fun factor and made it feel balanced with the rest of the car. Didn’t get it though cuz of $$$. I got a grand marquis instead which is fun in it’s own crazy sorta way.

    • 0 avatar
      200k-min

      “The difference is that those cars were special high-end packages..”

      True, but on a pure apples to apples comparison metric the 1990 Taurus SHO has more in common with today’s V6 Camry XLE than the V6 XLE Camry of 1990.

      A whole lot of these mid-sizers are loaded up with luxuries that back in 1990 you could only get in the SHO Taurus or other “tarted up” vehicle. Cars have gone upscale as they have gone up in horsepower.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Agreed, and the tarted up cars of the early 90s had options which at one time were only available on top-of-the-line Cadillacs twenty years earlier.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Having had every variation of Altima as a rental (other than stickshift), all I can say is yawn. Doesn’t matter what the numbers are, NONE of them are particularly fun to drive. Even the 3.5 is way more engine than the car has suspension to back it up. Which I suppose is an American institution. I’ll take the measly 230hp of my 328i, thanks. It enourages you to use every single pony, all the time.

    I’ll still take ANY Altima over ANY Impala as my rental chariot dujour though. Even the 300hp Impalas are just a faster verion of vanilla crap. What a waste of a nice engine.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      You’re comparing an Altima to your BMW; hardly a fair comparison. But compare the Nissan to pretty much any other car just above/below or smack in its intended competition and you will find that other than the previous generation Mazda6, the Altima leads in the fun to drive department. Only the CVT is a bit of a disappointment. An no, a STI or an EVO does not count as competition…

      I think the HP wars have gotten out of hand, but such is the power of marketing. Most drivers never use the potential. I think just the opposite should be an option: a much smaller powerplant that gives 12 second 0 to 60 times in trade for much better mileage. Many people would actually prefer that. So make three engines available. High mileage, average performance, and hi performance.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        No, I get to drive everything in that class, I rent cars 30 weeks a year for work. The Altima is no better to drive than a Camry or an Accord. Soul-suckingly dull to the core. The Mazda6 is a little better to drive, but just so damned hideous to look at, the Optima, Sonata and especially Passat are SEVERAL cuts above. I find the current Fusion to be fairly nasty, and the less said about the Impala, Malibu, and 200 the better.

        Ultimately anyone who thinks any of the mainstream “family sedans” are fun to drive needs to get out and drive some cars that actually ARE fun to drive.

        I do completely agree that the base engines in all of these cars are FAR more than adequate, none of them have the chassis tuning to put the V6s to any use. I do think the Turbo 4 in the Sonata and Optima is a nice compromise though. And the Passat TDi is the pick of all of them.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Best Altima I ever drove was my own ’93 SE 5-speed… the one with the “big” 15″ wheels, ample (for a 4-banger in its day) 150 hp engine, sport-ish suspension, and surprisingly strong 4-wheel disc brakes. A well-balanced car for the money, I enjoyed every mile I drove it.

    Fast forward to my brother’s 2004 Altima 3.5, a fundamentally crappy car that turned sphincter-puckering scary with a poke at the throttle. Who decided that anyone needs a family sedan capable of lighting up the inside front tire on an on-ramp at 50mph, wrenching the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands in the process?

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    02 Altima was a beast. My buddy had a 3.5SE 4AT, and with mild upgrades it was a highway monster. That is the first car that really impressed me w/braking. Back to back 120-60 braking with no fade and confidence inspiring performance.

    A lot of cars were designed to bring driving to the common man, but the Maxima/Altima V6 were among the first + few rare cars to actually succeed.

  • avatar
    patman

    Horsepower for the last decade or so has basically been free with the mass adoption of variable valve timing and intake manifolds. High RPM HP doesn’t mean sacrificing low RPM torque along with drive-ability and gas mileage at normal cruising RPMs anymore and that horsepower is just there for the taking so there’s no reason not to take it for marketing reasons.

    Of course, most people’s tach needle never get anywhere near a rev limiter so a 300 HP sedan wouldn’t be or feel any faster than a 200 HP sedan in practical use (assuming naturally aspirated V6s of similar displacement).

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    This article makes me miss my ’77 Mercedes 240D (67hp) and my ’84 Volvo 245D (82hp).

  • avatar
    18726543

    I actually wrenched for Nissan back when this car hit the showrooms and I always thought adding such a strong V6 option was a horrible idea.

    I actually believe it is because of the V6 option that the Maxima began its slide into reletive forgotten-ness. If you look at the 90′s when Maximas were plentiful (especially the 95-03 body style) it was because the Altima knew its place. It only had the 4 cylinder engine and you really needed to get a special package to get some of the higher up luxaries like sporty wheels and leather. Plus, it was considerably smaller inside than the Max.

    Once the now-larger Altima was offered with the V6 and a truly competitive options package (as compared to the Maxima) there just seemed no reason to pony up the extra dough to jump to an entry level Max. Nissan killed the Maxima with the Altima.

    I also always hated the timing of the Altima release. From what I’ve read (and I don’t know if there is solid truth to this, but it makes sense), the ’02 Altima body style was derived from the current-at-that-time Japanese Maxima. When it showed up here, it seemed exciting and new, as a new model should. The problem (I feel) is that 2 years later the new Maxima showed up and appeared to have been styled after the ’02 Altima. In my opinion it projects poorly on a vehicle line when the flagship follows the subsidiaries in style. I always like when attractive asthetic cues trickle down from the flagship (or halo) to bits and pieces of the smaller cars (a la NSX to early ’00s Accord coupes).

    There…it’s out. After 10 years I can sleep!

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I also always hated the timing of the Altima release…

      I agree with your thesis, The flagship of a nameplate should dictate styling direction to the “subordinate” cars not the other way around.

      • 0 avatar
        Banger

        I’ll say again what I said in the 2013 Altima review thread: If Nissan would bring RWD back to the Maxima, its consequences to the Infiniti G-series be damned, it would be a good thing for the Maxima’s viability. Unless and until that happens, it will continue being a car that’s hard for a lot of people to justify dropping their cash on.

      • 0 avatar
        18726543

        Yes, subordinate…not subsidiary. Thank you Dan, consider me educated.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      Wasn’t that generation of Maxima (95-03) the first notable family sedan to have a V6 yet get 30MPG highway? I remember that caught a lot of people’s attention, despite gas being very cheap at the time.

  • avatar
    Charliej

    Hard to change sparkplugs are nothing new, or only on transverse engines. On Chevy Monza V8 engined cars, the motor mounts must be unbolted to change some of the plugs. A friend had a Sunbeam Tiger, with a Ford 260 V8. To change the right rear plug, the glove box had to be removed and a panel in the firewall opened.

  • avatar
    trobert77

    “The horsepower pissing match could arguably be the tipping point for when modern cars evolved to their current state; powerful, heavy, but without any joy behind them.”

    But we’re talking about the Altima here, or aren’t we? The 02-06 models weighed only about 3,200-3,300 pounds – which is far from heavy – and the 2013 models have been lightened by nearly 100 lbs. My 05 Altima SE weighs about the same as a C6 Corvette! I regularly drive the car fast on the highway and hard in the mountains, and it is both nimble in tight curves and stable on the interstates at 100 mph. Handling is equal to or better than the 2 first-gen SHOs that my brother owned. Speaking as an enthusiast, I think there is a lot of joy to be had in a “sleeper” family car.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    I guess I’m in the minority, but I have use of an ’06 Fusion with the 225 hp 3.0L and it’s a DOG. It’s a nice car that can actually handle worth a damn…. but that V6; not so impressive. On the other hand it’s been reliable, so I guess I can’t complain. I had an ’06 Mustang GT and it was fun, but you could never really use all that power without invoking the wrath of the CHP, even without speeding, the local police would tail me waiting for me to screw up. Really annoying. which is partly the reason why I traded it for a ’12 4Runner with it’s “just enough” for a brick 270 hp V6, it’s no rocket, but does what I require with no complaints what so ever. Plus instead of attracting the wrong attention, I get ignored by the man, which is nice.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Getting ignored by the man is very nice indeed. Sounds like you need a sleeper my friend, something bacon isn’t expecting. Wish i could even think of a good one anymore, maybe the P71 panther?

      • 0 avatar
        supremebrougham

        I had a wonderful sleeper of sorts, my 1995 Mercury Mystique. Yes, the 2.5 V6 “only” made 170hp, but that car had no problem keeping up with, and many times, out running most of the supposedly quick cars around here. No one suspected that that conservative looking little blob could move like it did.

        I still miss that little car…

      • 0 avatar
        luvmyv8

        While a sleeper would be nice, but reality was that I needed something roomier and more comfortable as well as being more practical. I also have a bunch of cameras that I use for my photography hobby, at least 3 camera bodies, myriad lenses, flashes, filters, film…..ect. I love performance cars, but give me a nice comfortable ride any day of the week! Plus eventually I want to get into LeMons so I needed something that could pull that pig around when the time comes…. hence why I went with a body on frame SUV.

  • avatar
    28-cars-later

    The question I always ask myself when I hear about some new whiz bang drivetrain is how are they achieving the horsepower they claim. Superchargers are sweet, but they do require their own maintenance. I’m not too familiar with turbos, but the few I’ve seen seem to have issues at some point in the car’s life. Then there’s the high horsepower OHC’s like Northstar. In order to max out the horsepower, you have to hit 5600 rpm. Really, how often are you going to hit 5 grand let alone almost 6? Heck some cars I’ve seen start to redline at 7. I thought I read in the new 3.6L high value V6 from the General, its 6,000 rpm to max out the 300+ bhp. Picture some ’12 Impalas on your commute running at 6 grand near you, maybe it seems just as ridiculous to you as it does me. Based on what I just read on wikipedia, the Hyundai Theta engine on which the 2.0L GDI is based, too only maxes out at 6000 rpm. Seems they sell the sizzle and not the steak, and no I’m not trying be captain obvious I just wish more people picked up on it.

    Personally I’d prefer something with plenty of low end torque which can hit peak horsepower much sooner than 5500+ rpm, then at least I could fully enjoy my ponies.

    • 0 avatar
      mik101

      The 2.0 turbo in the Sonata will make more torque sooner than the 3.6L high value V6 but doesn’t have to carry as high into the RPM range to make peak power. If Hyundai had chosen a larger turbo it would make more peak power higher in the rpm range but sacrifice more low end torque.

      Horsepower is a mathematical function of torque. Horsepower and torque will always cross at 5252rpm. So you will never hit peak horsepower before this point unless the engine simply can’t rev to this point. With a gasoline ICE this is easy, and if you didn’t rev that high you’d be leaving lots of power on the table without much sacrifice to durability.

      The engine RPM is determined by a multitude of things including the rod/stroke ratio, the overall stroke of the engine, the size of the turbo charger (which also helps determine where torque is going to peak).

      As far as to what RPMs engines rev to regularly, that all depends on the transmission. Honda was selling B16A/18C engines with a 8000/8200rpm fuel cut in the mid 90s. Type-R Integras revved even higher. I personally have a build B-series hybrid that keeps making power over 8000rpm (I shut it down around 8800rpm).

      The GDI 2.0 will also get better fuel milage if you don’t beat the crap out of it.

      Please pick up a book on engine theory and do some reading on various engine design principles because based on what you asked for in your last line, the 2.0GDI would be exactly what you want. An NA V6 like the HV is going to make peak torque over 4000rpm.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    When Fusion came out with “only 220 hp V6″, the internet fan-bois said it would flop. Now, Fusion may overtake Camry, and no v6 for 2013. [Same for Sonota, another car gaining on Camry]

    90% of new mid-size cars have a 4, and eventually Honda and Toyota will drop thier 6′s, and then brag about how ‘green’ they are for doing it.

    And to the ‘well I gotta have a big motor’, look at what’s selling. F-150 ownrs swore they’d never get anything but a V8, and the turbo 6 is selling.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I think the Ecoboost turbo six was just the right thing at the right time for Ford, if it had debuted in 2000, I don’t think the truck community would have embraced it.

      But I think losing a six cylinder option in a mid-size car is going to force me to stick with used forever. I can see the usefulness of a hybrid in deep traffic commutes, and also a 4-cyl if people want to save 10-20% on their city fuel bill per year, but the few ‘modern’ I4′s I’ve driven haven’t impressed me enough overall to say goodbye to a six.

      Case in point I rented a ’10 Malibu in 2010 to drive from Pittsburgh to Columbus, about a 4.5 hour drive. I remember on the way out I was trying to be there by a certain time (for work related stuff) so I drove like a bat out of hell, and I found it to be not fast but very responsive and somewhat agile for what it was. When I had a chance I popped the hood because I could have sworn there was a V6 there, but no it was the 2.4L Ecotec, safe to say I was somewhat impressed (esp since most of the 4-cyl I’ve driven from GM were gutless). But… on the way home I wanted to see how it would compare mileage wise to my then new-to-me 2008 GP, so I reset the trip computer and set it in cruise at 65. I was disappointed to see only 27 mpg at the end of the trip. On a similar trip to Erie PA, my GP averaged 29.4 on the same test over slightly less distance. I think sometimes a four cylinder powerplant just isn’t powerful enough for the size/weight of the car model. Malibu isn’t a big car, but it isn’t small either.

      So to me it seems its a little of pay me now or pay me later, you may get a peppy feel from these new 4 bangers, and you may get slightly better city fuel economy depending on the size of your model, but you may pay for it in other ways. I see the switch you’re talking about as yet another bow to please ever higher (and ever insane) CAFE requirements. Government has its fingers in enough pies, just let the automakers build what they want to build with fuel economy of their choosing. In a connected world, those who do not meet consumer demand will wither away.

    • 0 avatar
      luvmyv8

      Before I got my 4Runner, I was considering the F150, I knew what I wanted; the 5.0 V8. Even Ford’s own website recommended the 3.7 V6…. I scoffed at that…. being that I work next to an Enterprise, I rented a crew cab F150, though it had the 3.7 V6. I expected to hate the engine…. I mean it’s a crew cab fullsize truck and it has the base engine. That engine proceeded to shut me up and make me eat my words. Now granted it wasn’t a muscle car, but it had plenty of usable power whenever you needed it, it never complained and it never felt underpowered. If I was pleased with the 3.7, I could only imagine how I’d feel with the EcoBoost!

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        I’ve toyed with the idea of buying a F-150, but I really don’t need a truck all the time. At some point in the next year I’m going to pick up either a 2013 Fusion Titanium with the 2.0 EcoBoost, a MKZ with the 3.7 V6, or a F-150 with the 3.7. The 3.5 EcoBoost is an incredible engine, and for those that need the tow ratings it makes sense. For what I would need – just to haul around a utility trailer now and again, the 3.7 would be fine, and I’ve always been impressed with it every time I take someone on a test drive on a truck so equipped.

        Saving around $1,800 on the sticker and picking up an extra MPG in town and on the highway vs the EcoBoost 3.5 is just icing on the cake.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I seem to remember some Nissan advertising from this time where they touted the fact Nissans had more standard HP than any of there competitors. A bit like Ford’s “total performance” theme of the 1960s. I rented a 4-cyl version of this car and even its 175 HP was a lot for a four back then. There was also a very nice looking SER version with lower suspension, Recaros, very tasteful spoiler and front splitter and a beautiful set of charcoal painted wheels.

  • avatar
    mr_min

    Not being in America, I can’t comment about who was first etc.
    But I think the horsepower pissing contest is also fed by a segment of lazy auto journalist whose simplistic mantra is bigger = better and more hp = better.
    The whole concept of fit for purpose gets lost in the noise of trying to have a louder voice than your competitor, and the easier way to do that, is more hp. Which is fine for a performance car, but a Camry/ALtima/Accord/Whatever they all look roughly the same.. purlease I fall asleep going around corners in one of these…


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