By on May 21, 2013

Turboside2.0. Photo courtesy wikipedia.org

With 4-cylinder engines increasing their market share from 40 percent to 53 market share in just 5 years, Ford is forecasting even more growth for these engines in the years to come. The Blue Oval is betting that by 2020, 66 percent of cars will come with a 4-banger.

If Ford’s numbers sound on the high side, that’s because they are.  Four-cylinders have become more prevalent in recent years, making their way from compact cars to vehicles as large as the BMW 528i and the Ford Taurus. But for the forseeable future, they won’t be making their way into full-size trucks, which still account for 13 percent of all auto sales, will be sticking with V6 and V8 engines. Larger crossovers and body-on frame SUVs have also retained their V6 and V8 engines, as well as minivans.

Having invested so heavily in 4-cylinder engines, it’s natural that Ford would be so bullish on their future. But the engine downsizing trend also looks here to stay, and with so many boosted 4-cylinder engines replacing V6s in various products, their numbers may not be so unreasonable.

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111 Comments on “Ford Bets Big On Four Cylinder Mills...”


  • avatar

    Why not? They have been used in most Countries other than in North America, Gasoline or Petrol is very expensive outside of the USA so good 4 cyl engines do well for most of us.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      “most Countries other than in North America”

      North Americans have been taught that we should donate to poorer countries, not emulate them.

      Boomers need a fun euthanasia drug, something with maybe a nice psilocybin front end and a time release propofol finisher.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      How much of that expense is artificial though?

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    You will be able to have your Ford-Lincoln with any motor you wish so long as it has 4 or fewer cylinders.

    Black paint may or may not an extra cost option.

  • avatar

    The article says automakers don’t sell 3 cylinder engines, but I thought the Smart car had/has a 3?

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Robstar…

      I thought BMW was moving to 3-cylinders (500 cc per cylinder = 1.5 liters), because they could be made to run more smoothly (reduced vibration). It’s almost like cutting their silky smooth in-line 6 in half. I hope Ford does not get left hanging in the wind by not doing its homework properly……

      —————-

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        I looked that up a couple weeks ago and a 3 isn’t a smooth as you might hope, although I think it’s not worse than a 4.

        I wonder if a horizontally-opposed twin would be inherently smooth and/or easily smoothed out with balance weights.

        • 0 avatar
          lon888

          The inherent problems with horizontally opposed motors is oil foaming and cooling. Why do you think only 2 car manufacturers (Porsche and Subaru) have them. Porsche had to go liquid cooling for their boxer motors. Ferrari once made them for their road cars and had the same issues.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          Inline 3s are rougher than a 4, which is why the smart car almost sounds like a diesel at idle. Offsetting the crankshaft does help to limit that vibratioin, which is why Ford did it on the Ecoboost 3 and Honda did it on the original Insight.

          A flat-2 would work as a 2-cycle, but a 4-cycle would have the engine trying to kick itself sideways on each power stroke.

          • 0 avatar
            TR4

            A flat twin works quite well with a four stroke e.g. the older BMW motorcycles. When one piston is on the power stroke the other is on the intake stroke, so the piston motions “cancel” and it is fairly well balanced.
            Not so great for a two stroke. If the piston motions cancel, they both have to fire at the same time so the power pulses are 360 degrees apart. An inline is better for a two stroke twin as you can have the piston motions cancelling and 180 degree power pulses.

          • 0 avatar
            bk_moto

            As TR4 mentioned, 4-stroke flat twins work great, as BMW has been proving for the past 90 years of motorcycle manufacture. They are quite well-balanced naturally due to the way that the piston motions tend to cancel each other out.

            Interestingly BMW has this year found itself where Porsche was back in the ’90s in terms of having to move to liquid cooling on their boxer engines to clean up emissions. This year’s R1200GS was the first version of the BMW boxer motorcycle to use a partial water cooling system.

          • 0 avatar
            vrtowc

            Alfa Romeo also had a boxer engine (with various versions) in production cars from seventies to nineties.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Oops, got them backwards. Thanks.

          • 0 avatar
            skor

            Yes, the I3 is not naturally balanced the way a straight 6 is….neither is a V-6. Back in the day vibration and roughness was an issue with early V-6 engines.

            The I6 is naturally balanced, as is the V-12. The I6 is also capable of butt-loads of torque at low revs which makes it very drivable in traffic and yet an I6 can be very good on gas if you keep your foot out of it. A very nice engine, unfortunately they don’t fit sideways.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            The problem early V6s were 90 degree Vs. 60 degree banked V6s have always been reasonably smooth, although they can’t be as balanced as a good I6. 90 degree V6s have been developed to be tolerable through the use of offset cranks and balance shafts.

          • 0 avatar
            TW4

            Ford made the 1.0L Ecoboost smoother by counterbalancing the flywheel, which helped them avoid balance shafts.

            http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=35237

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            Volvo fits Inline 6s sideways. BMW fits them sideways across a motorbike frames. Where there’s will….. (and money)

      • 0 avatar
        bk_moto

        Some motorcycle manufacturers use inline 3-cylinder engines. Triumph is probably the most notable/mainstream of these in that they have a range of DOHC triples to include sizes of 675cc, 800cc, 1050cc, 1215cc, and 2300cc(!).

        The Triumph engines are generally praised for their smoothness but of course that’s relative to the motorcycle world where big V-twins give off lots of vibration.

        I have a lot of seat time with both the 1050cc and 800cc versions and they’re great engines. They sound kind of uneven at idle but that may be partly an effect of cam timing choices rather than any inherent roughness. They are all counterbalanced and run quite smoothly at speed as a result (with glorious sounds as the tach swings above 6000 rpm).

        I have no doubt that with counterbalancing a 3 can be engineered to be as smooth as a 4 (many of which also use counterbalancing these days) but it’s not quite as simple as just taking an inline 6 and cutting it in half (an inline 6 is a naturally balanced engine configuration which is why they run so smoothly).

        I suspect there are several reasons why automakers are not doing more with triples:
        1) A lot of investment for not a lot of fuel savings. Is a triple really going to be that much better on gas than a 4 – better enough to justify the R&D investment to create a new line of engines?
        2) Institutional inertia. Auto manufacturers have lots of experience over the years with 4s. When you’re designing for mass market reliability it’s easier (safer) to just go with what you know rather than trying something untested.
        3) Market acceptance. I suspect that consumers in the U.S. who remember the last 3-cylinder cars sold here do not remember them particularly fondly. Perhaps GM did not do as much damage to the reputation/idea of the 3-cylinder car as they did to the reputation of the diesel in the ’80s but they certainly didn’t do it any favors. I would guess that the average American consumer, if asked about a 3-cylinder engine, would think about slow, tiny, econo penalty boxes whereas the same consumer would take a 4-cylinder engine without a second thought.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        BMW’s marketing guys say an incredible amount of weird stuff, that is often believed simply because BMW’s engineers are so good at doing less weird stuff. I6s are smooth. Even in comparatively crude truck engines with monster strokes, massive cranks and enormous reciprocating masses. It’s often the engine layout of choice anywhere space, up front cost and maximum power from high revs are not primary concerns. 3s don’t have any of those properties. They need just as much fancy balancing as 4s to run smooth.

        The “magic” of 500ccs per cylinder that I have heard some BMW guys plapper about has got to fall in the same category. It might make sense in the specific context of BMKWs targeted combination of low end torque and fuel efficiency vs high rpm extension, but I6s are no less ideal with ~1100CC cylinders (Cummins 6.7) or even larger (in medium duty trucks) than in 3L BMWs.

        But try to tell the marketing team behind 50/50 weight distribution that….:)

  • avatar
    jmo

    For full size trucks it would seem that a Mercedes like 2.2L diesel with 200bhp and 360lb/ft would be a good fit – at least for fleet users.

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      I think because of long held stigmas (don’t know if that is the right word or not) regarding full size trucks and what engines are required (along with general disdain of diesel in US), while having to still make it work in the world of future CAFE requirements where trucks no longer get a pass, I imagine we’ll see a 3.# and/or 4.0 liter EB V-8 from Ford to replace the 5.0 and 6.2 in the F series, optional at first and standard eventually. The automakers aren’t going to have a choice but If people want the big, big engines, they’ll still be able to get them, just with a hefty factory added CAFE fee tacked on (which would be a great way to do it, as it isn’t taxing the living crap out of gas for the average person, but allows those who want and can afford to have what they want as well).

      • 0 avatar
        ToxicSludge

        (along with the general disdain of diesel in the US)….The only disdain of diesel here in the US is the LACK of diesels available in the US,and the few that are available are generally priced too high..way too high.An affordable diesel option would make great strides here.Look at the diesel option cost on the Jeep grand Cherokee @ $4500.00.That is beyond ridiculous.AND,in jeeps thinking,they will ‘judge’ the take rate on that diesel option for the GC to see if they should even bother offering a diesel on other products.

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          “The only disdain of diesel here in the US is the LACK of diesels available in the US”

          I disagree. The US has a lot more people than those who post on car websites. I think the more common perception of diesel in the US is that they are dirty, smelly, slow, and undesirable unless you have a big rig truck that needs to haul a lot.

          It doesn’t matter that those perceptions disagree with reality. That’s how they feel, and until they gain enough experience with modern diesels, those feelings aren’t likely to change.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            How ’bout diesel costing more, too?

            You’re certainly right about TTAC not being the forum to show concern for this.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Part of the problem with diesel is that although it give higher mileage from a tank of fuel, it costs notably more. I never ran the numbers but around these parts I suspect that the high per gallon cost pretty much negates that better MPG. Not to mention the higher buy in for the diesel engine itself. I guess that part is pretty much the dilemma for hybrids as well. The hybrid can make a case for those who want to reduce oil use even if the business case has a long payback, something the diesel can’t as the yield per barrel of crude for diesel is less than that for gasoline. Either one has the ability to last for 200K, though in the end the diesel probably wins that one. Still, I think any new car buyer ought to drive a modern diesel; they’d likely be quite surprised. I sure was.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Golden, that depends, One can easily get at or over 25mpg on a slightly tuned mid-late 90′s Dodge with the cummins, compared to the gas getting 8-10

            With the new emmisions crap, diesels are getting maybe 1-2mpg better then the gas engines, and they lose their mpg argument

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            I don’t disagree. It’s just that for mass marketing purposes anything more expensive than gas is doomed in America.

            Haven’t you met legions of people who actually don’t know if their vehicle has a 4 or 6 cylinder engine? I’ve encountered two more in the past week. One is a woman with an Equinox and the other a man, a retired Air Force Master Sergeant no less, who wasn’t sure what powers his new Camry.

            Most people insist on certain options and take whichever engine comes with them. With this lack of technical curiosity added to the stinky-diesel folklore, what hope do diesels have of mass acceptance when the fuel also costs more at the pump? No amount of relatively subtle advantages in the diesel driving experience is going to outweigh that.

          • 0 avatar

            Diesel is currently $3.89 near me. Regular is $4.09, and premium is $4.39.

            Wishing I had more diesel options for an econobox than VW….this is not uncommon as well.

            The new WTF is many stations here are charging + $0.50/g for premium…

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            @Robstar

            If diesel drops and stays below gas nationwide, everything I said will work in reverse. I think people will placidly drive up to a diesel pump if it’s the same or cheaper than gas.

            And they’ll ignore the salesperson telling them a diesel comes with their cherished options just like they ignore engine details already. All will be good if there’s no additional bite at the pump.

        • 0 avatar
          Onus

          4500 is a steal. The diesel option is like $7000+ in 3/4 ton trucks. The majority sold are diesel.

          To put that in perspective my 3/4 has a diesel and it was a $2000 option in 1990.

          I have a feel the diesel ram 1500 is going to be a hit. Pickup truck drivers love diesels. Even the half ton guys just no one has offered one to them yet.

  • avatar
    BigOlds

    Gee, I didn’t know that Ford had 53% market share. When did that happen?

    I think you mean Ford has seen the market share held by 4-cylinder engines go from 40 to 53 percent…

    As others have mentioned, the site could use a little more attention to editing.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I have no problem with this, but until larger American cars lose weight, I wouldn’t buy one with a four, the new Impala included.

    As far as I’m concerned, Honda and Toyota and perhaps Nissan make the best 4 cyl. engines in the world, and a Camry, Accord, Altima and maybe a Malibu and Fusion are the largest cars I would buy with a four-banger.

    I’m surprised the wholesale switch to 4 cylinder engines has taken so long in light of increasing fuel costs. My 300 hp. beast costs me dearly – at least much more than I want to pay, but I’m stuck with it unless I get a job closer to home – which, at my age, isn’t going to happen this close to retirement – if I’m able to.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      We’ve got some kind of arms race going in vehicle size and power. Wants have overcome needs and easy credit makes it possible to satisfy the wants.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “I have no problem with this, but until larger American cars lose weight, I wouldn’t buy one with a four, the new Impala included.”

      What does that have to do with anything? Do you mean you’d rather have a 268bhp 248lb/ft @ 4700 rpm V-6 than a 274bhp 269lb/ft @ 1750 rmp 2.0L 4-cyl?

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “What does that have to do with anything? Do you mean you’d rather have a 268bhp 248lb/ft @ 4700 rpm V-6 than a 274bhp 269lb/ft @ 1750 rmp 2.0L 4-cyl?”

        Perhaps I’m well behind the curve, but right now, until I’m convinced otherwise, physics tell me that a four-cylinder has to work much harder than a V-6 to move the same amount of weight.

        Of course, I’m not an expert on the subject, just my perception, which can change.

        I guess I’ll have to actually drive a big, heavy car like a new Impala or a LaCrosse with both to get a feel for whether my conviction changes.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          “a four-cylinder has to work much harder”

          What do you mean by harder? An engine with 269 lb/ft at 1750 rpm is going to be spinning much slower for a given load than a V-6 which can only manage 248lb/ft at more than double the RPM.

          • 0 avatar
            TR4

            248 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm is 222 hp. 269 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm is 90 hp. Which do you think would go faster or pull a heavy load up a hill faster?

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “248 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm is 222 hp. 269 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm is 90 hp.”

            You’re using the wrong metric – compare both engines at 1750 rpm and you’ll find the more powerful 2.0 liter is generating more horsepower and torque.

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            So, my Prius, that makes peak torque of 295lb-ft at 0RPM, is clearly faster than both. /troll

            Torque alone is not a metric of performance. You have to look at gearing, throttle position, rpm, etc. etc. etc. to determine performance of an engine in various conditions. How does one define “works harder”, anyway? Running at higher RPM? Ability to accelerate without downshifting?

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          It seems everyone is missing the most important metric: the number of cylinders isn’t what matters.

          Ignoring boost, that means displacement is key. A 3.6L V6 has more power than a 2.5L I4 not because it has more cylinders, but because it has more displacement.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            +1 to redav

            A 2.5l four and a 2.5l six would make roughly the same amount of power, all else being equal. Without balance shafts, the four would probably be a bit rougher, but it would also have less internal friction due to having fewer moving parts. And probably be cheaper to make, and physically smaller. With balance shafts, it would likely make a bit less power, as it takes power to spin the shafts.

            The number of cylinders potentially affects how much vibration the engine makes, and how much internal friction there is, but that is really about it. Number of cylinders has nearly nothing at all to do with how much power an engine makes. Some of the most powerful F1 engines ever made were 4s, back in the early turbo era. Boost is very much a replacement for displacement, in that to a large extent, it’s all about how much air and fuel you can get into the cylinders. Sucking it into bigger or more cylinders is no different than forcing it into fewer or smaller cylinders.

    • 0 avatar
      morbo

      You’ll pry my HEMI from my cold, dead, hands.

      I truly hope MOPAR makes another generation of LX cars. The real Impala died in ’96. The Town Car’s body is still warm, but it ain’t coming back. I love my ‘Murican boats, but I fear they are an endangered species.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Zackman, the excessive bloat of cars is certainly not limited to American ones. All vehicles have simply gotten too heavy. Even Honda, while doing OK on the new Accord, has gotten pretty chubby. And they were always better than most.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I can see this. We have 4 cars; 1 V6 and the rest are Fours. We haven’t owned a V8 since 1981 and that was a 12 year old used car we’d bought for a few hundred bucks in 1979. Most of the sedans on the block are Fours.

    A more interesting question is, how much market share will hybrids and PHEVs get? A hybrid or PHEV system with 40-50KW of power could pair with a pretty wimpy Four for decent performance and very good fuel economy.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I’m not sure a 4 cylinder without some serious turbo boost can move the larger sedans on the market with authority…

    Ford’s 2.0 EcoBoost is already somewhat underpowered compared to a GM engine from a few years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      It’s about space mostly. A 4 cylinder can be made plenty powerful just by increasing the volume of the cylinders, but that increases the size & length of the engine, and that becomes very hard to fit in most sedans. However, you might be able to do it in trucks/SUVs.

      After all, half an LS7 is a 3.5L I4 that possibly could generate 250 hp & 230 ft-lb torque.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Ford making the top EcoBoost 4 a 2.0 instead of a 2.4/2.5 doesn’t help. More displacement means more torque, and more torque means a car that gets moving easier. The good old Nissan 2.5 4 was plenty torquey enough to move the Altima and Sentra around without feeling pokey, and that was naturally aspirated. Turbos naturally add even more torque, so a 2.5 turbo can easily move something the size of a Fusion.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      @NoGoYo

      If you’re referring to the Cobalt SS engine, you’re right. But Ford doesn’t seem to be tuning the EcoBoost for max power.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        They don’t seem to be tuning it well PERIOD, if the 0-60 numbers and fuel economy reports are anything to go by.

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          I haven’t found a solid number but I know the ecoboost engines are low boost engines (around 6 psi I believe) compared to the Cobalt which I think could spit out near 20 psi when conditions were right with about 1/2 a point lower compression. (9.6 for the LNF and 10.0 for the ecoboost).

          I wonder how many real world MPG and power claims are made with craptacular gas in the tank instead of running premium? Like any modern engine the ecoboost engines can retard timing to stave off knock but the downside obviously is lower power and increased fuel consumption because of that lower power.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Well it kind of kills the idea of efficiency if the cars needs premium gas to not be a dog.

            A properly efficient car should be able to run on 87 octane without being a slug and getting terrible gas mileage.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Small engines work fine in small cars. To get the power to move bigger vehicles with a 4cyl, of course, you need forced induction. If you’re always running into high-pressure (“boost”) to move that vehicle; that can’t be good for an engine, at least not compared with a larger engine amazingly accelerating along.

    A forced-induction vehicle should be able to run normally without achieving high boost numbers. I have one turbo vehicle, a Jeep in fact. You don’t hear the turbo spool accelerating normally, or at a constant speed on the highway. Climb a mountain, need to go a little faster, the Turbo spools and gives that extra oomph, often without having to downshift.

    When I attach my 3,400lb trailer to the back of it, I’m pretty much always building boost to move. It moves along fine, but mileage almost halves.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      “When I attach my 3,400lb trailer to the back of it, I’m pretty much always building boost to move. It moves along fine, but mileage almost halves.”

      Well, if you nearly double the weight of a vehicle, you certainly should expect it’s mileage to drop precipitously.

      But your example is exactly why smaller engines with boost can work well. You aren’t always hauling 3400 lb (I’d guess you do it pretty rarely), and you only have to pay the price for it when you really need it.

      But the recent crop of little turbo’d engines in big cars seem to always need the boost, which is why they don’t meet mpg expectations. I certainly prefer a larger engine in a larger car instead of boosting a smaller one–it works out about the same at the end of the day but with less complexity.

      • 0 avatar
        AMC_CJ

        Yep, that was my point.

        As is, my Jeep does fine. Saddle on that extra weight, it still does alright, but now sucking down fuel.

        That Ecoboost might work fine in a small Focus, but saddle it with the extra weight of that Explorer…..

  • avatar
    7402

    We have 4 cars, the minivan has a 3.5 liter V6, the rest are all 4-bangers that have either adequate power or considerably more than enough to have fun.

    The last V8 cars I owned or used on a regular basis were manufactured in the 1960s.

    As a serious car guy from before I could drive, I came of age during the “energy crisis” of the early 1970s. Seeing as I had to buy my own cars and gasoline, it was easy to choose between either the German/British/Japanese import scene or the American muscle car scene.

    It’s even more obvious now.

  • avatar

    Using 4-liter engines with turbochargers in cars that weigh more than 4000 pounds (with passengers) is SENSELESS. All you’re doing is putting more stress on the smaller engine – which must work to full performance more often – INSTEAD OF SIMPLY PUTTING IN A V6 which could handle the load better – providing more early torque and more horsepower in the high end.

    Ford should be putting the 279 HP V6 3.7-L from the Lincoln MKS into their top trim cars and Lincoln should have the Twin Turbo V6 in their top trim cars.

    Unfortunately, the Lincoln’s won’t be able to compete with the Germans until they have something better like Audi’s Supercharged 3-Liters.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      I’m going to argue this one.

      New cars have way more horsepower than they need anyway. Most people i know who drive never use half the engine power anyway.

      I don’t think the engine is getting stressed. These ecoboost 4s are very solidly built. Things like cross bolted and 4 bolt mains, forged cranks. These are going to live for a longtime.

      I can get the epa rating I’m positive. Just waiting for someone to give me a car.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    We have 3 cars with a total of 10 cylinders. Discuss.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Any guesses as to how much longer Ford will hold off before they break down and offer a diesel engine in a passenger car? Seems to me it’s gotta happen in the next few years to meet the upcoming fuel requirements.

    The C-Max isn’t doing too badly on Fuelly in terms of overall economy, but I can’t see how the small Ecoboost engines are going to fare long term in large vehicles. Maybe they’ll just be like Toyota and hybridize everything. It’ll be interesting to watch.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Ford uses PSA units in their European cars, and they have a nifty new inline-five diesel (3.2, just under 200 hp, but waffleloads of torque) in the Ranger platform.

      It’s entirely possible for them to sell their entire range with diesels in the US, if they thought there was a market for it. Should be around $2,500 in mark-up over comparable non-turbo gasoline units, probably down to a $2,000 mark-up over the GDI engines.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        You forgot to factor in meeting US emissions standards and certification costs. With as low volume as the diesels will sell that would mean that they are going to have to charge a much higher premium for that diesel engine.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’d be interested in trying a Fusion with the most powerful engine but then I’d be thinking while driving it… “Wonder what the MKZ is like with the V6?”

  • avatar
    wumpus

    “Four-cylinder engines, especially when turbocharged, are often more powerful and always more fuel-efficient than even the best V-6s available on the market just a few short years ago,” he said.”

    best V-6s maybe, but consider the subby STI engine vs. the corvette. Same mileage vs. a heavier, wildly more powerful car. Low-boost 4s vs. small V6s, maybe.

    “the turbocharged engines featuring advanced tech like direct injection likely aren’t that much more affordable than a traditional six- or eight-cylinder engine,”

    Certainly true, but at least the direct injection ought to be cheaper on the 4 than having at least two separate systems on each cylinder bank for a direct injection V6 or V8 (I’m assuming they use a rail instead of one injector per cylinder). Also for US buyers, a “traditional V8″ means pushrods, which will easily be cheaper than a turbo 4.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      The STI and the Corvette have nearly exactly the same curb weight, and the Corvette has less frontal area and better aerodynamics. The STI has incredibly high drivetrain losses due to the AWD system and shorter gearing than the Corvette, as well. Beyond that, the outgoing STI doesn’t have direct injection or variable geometry turbocharging, which help increase low-end response and economy in more modern turbocharged engines.

      • 0 avatar

        Subaru is way overdue to revamp the STi. I don’t think there is much engine difference between my 05 & a new one.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          Yeah its pretty much the same drivetrain, a big complaint of the enthusiasts. The 300HP STi was a revolution in 04, but a bit plebian in 2013.

          Not sure where this “incredibly high drivetrain loss” comes from, sounds like someone has been reading too many idiots on Internet message boards. AWD does not equate to “incredible” drivetrain loss, especially compared to RWD which has the same loss through rear drive components as an AWD. I am also not aware of any measurement having been done on the Subaru AWD drivetrain loss. I love how people can just make stuff up on the Internets and pretend it is true.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            The drivetrain loss comes from having an extra set of axles, driveshafts, and differentials to spin around, since you don’t get locking hubs or a clutched transfer case on a Subie anymore.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            Indeed, the penalty for having an AWD version of the same vehicle can be as little as 3 or 4%.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Having been to a number of dyno-tuning sessions on Subies (none yet on a Vette, but a few on smaller rear-drive cars), on a modern load-dyno (not an inertial), and losses are about 10% (ballpark) higher than for 2WD cars. The non-turbo Imprezas, in particular, are absolute dogs despite the class-competitive power output of the boxer. If Subaru wanted to make a front-drive variant of the Impreza, I wouldn’t complain, much.

            Having driven a number of Subarus, both turbo and not, my observation is that fuel economy is correspondingly lower, as well, compared to cars that don’t have AWD or don’t have full-time AWD. Yes, AWD losses can be lower, and, indeed, on-demand systems like those in the CR-V and the Korean twins (which are FWD until slippage occurs) don’t seem to exert as much of a penalty in terms of roll-on power and fuel economy as compared to Subaru’s system.

            Again, an STI is really not a good case for comparing the fuel economy of a turbocharged engine to a non-turbocharged engine. Especially not compared to a low, relatively lightweight (for its size and displacement), two-wheel drive, aerodynamic sports-car.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      >>“Four-cylinder engines, especially when turbocharged, are often more powerful and always more fuel-efficient than even the best V-6s available on the market just a few short years ago,” he said.”<<

      I guess he forgot about how the Ford Ecoboosts somehow manage to be slower and less fuel efficient that comparable sixes and fours.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Depends on what camp your in, GM and Chrysler certainly, but traditional for FoMoCo V8 buyers has OHC for the past 22 years.

  • avatar
    Power6

    I feel like this is the 80s all over again, a little mini fuel crisis has people spooked about $5+ gas, CAFE clamping down a bit, turbos and 4 cylinders hailed as the solution.

    Maybe the little US oil boom will bring gas prices down, the mfrs will get the product mix right to meet their CAFE numbers easily, and we’ll be letting the good times roll again with V6/V8 engines like the 90s…or not.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      As long as Gas stays below $15 a gallon, I’ll never worry, that is my threshold, although at such point the economy will be all but well and the price of gas will be the last of my concerns anyhow.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      If gas rises to $5 a gallon and beyond, the U.S. Economy is going to get pummeled just as it was in 2008 (arguably, more so, since the economic foundation is full of stress fractures, and gasoline at the present price is a massive tax on a beleaguered consumer as is).

      At $6 or more, we will have a massive crash. People who argue otherwise are either not honest, or lack a basic understanding as to how fundamentally more important the price of oil and all that’s derived from it is to the U.S. Economy compared to many other developed nations.

      What should strike the fear into the heart of any sensible person is that the price of oil is as high as it is given that we’re literally drowning in a sea of it. Oil was $9 a barrel in 1999, just prior to passage of the toxic Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    If you can believe the Consumer Reports reports, so far, Ford’s 4s are underwhelming in terms of both fuel economy and performance.

    And there’s is Honda’s switch from a blown 4 to a normally aspirated V-6 in the Acura RDX, producing both better fuel economy and better performance.

    There appears to be an art to forced induction as a combination fuel saver and power generator that not everyone “gets.” The 2.3 liter 250 hp 4 in my old Saab, without variable valve timing or direct injection but with a big turbo gets EPA rated 31 mpg on the highway. The new Audi A4 AllRoad with a 210 hp 2 liter engines, gets 28. And, in my experience, the 31 on the highway is a real number, unlike some of Ford’s recent highway numbers which no one but the EPA test seem to be able to duplicate.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    So far Ford’s 4-cylinder Ecoboost engines are underwhelming. According to most tests, Fusion with 1.6 Ecoboost accelerates and gets worse real world fuel economy than the Honda Accord with 2.4L engine. According to most owners, the EPA estimates for Fusion are off from real world figures by some 3mpg, while Honda Accord owners routinely match and beat the EPA estimated fuel economy. This sounds like a big flop to me. After all this work, Ford’s turbo engine can’t match Honda’s NA 2.4L in any category except for EPA’s synthetic fuel economy tests. They should have just improved the 2.5L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder Duratec engine.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    Until Honda and Toyota start selling boosted 4 cylinder engines in North America, I refuse to believe the turbocharger is needed… they know how to construct 4 and 6 cylinder engines and they are not about to risk their reputations to needlessly plump up the torque curves of their engine offerings…

    The latest 2.4 Earth Dreams 4 cylinder from Honda is far superior to the Korean Theta 2.4 or the lauded 2.0 GDI.

    I can’t speak to the truth of whether or not the Sonata 2.4 actually makes 200hp (I doubt it) but I think Honda is being a bit conservative with their 185hp rating on the Accord 2.4 ED….

    in my opinion, a Turbo charger is an engineering SHORTCUT, not an engineering feat to be celebrated…

  • avatar
    wmba

    Interesting article. This is a subject I think of a lot, because I’m not at all convinced that small turbocharged engines are the way to go, even though I’ve owned four cars thus equipped. They were all sporty, so mileage be damned.

    The big deal being promoted these days is the famous torque plateau of the turbo engine, beginning at as low as 1250rpm as in the new turbo BMW N20. That engine is the only one that actually combines power and economy. Test after road test shows that it is both more powerful and gets about 5mpg more than the old six. It isn’t, however, particularly quiet or tuneful. Dyno tests show it actually has more power at the wheels than the newest GM turbo Ecotec 2.0 in the Cadillac ATS, despite being rated 32hp less, and gets the 3er accelerating faster as well.

    There are resources on the web (BMW forums) that go into immense detail about the design of this engine. It is fairly heroic, and certainly not inexpensive to make. The Ford and GM 2l turbos look cheap by comparison, and probably are. VW’s latest 2.0t is probably second best, if they’ve managed to overcome the old coking problems. It’ll hurl an Audi A4 to 60mph as quick as the BMW 3er despite being rated at only 211bhp. In the GTI, it accelerates as fast as the Focus ST with 252 bhp and gets better mileage.

    The 2.0t in the Sonata, Optima, Santa Fe, etc., is a derivation of the World Engine project, so underneath it’s a cheapy version of the EVO X engine. If it actually has 274 hp, I’d be surprised, and it’s not really up to their old V6 in terms of economy.

    The trouble with average turbo engines is the air fuel ratio at full throttle, usually way rich to preclude detonation, so if you hoon the thing, mileage is dreadful compared to a naturally aspirated engine. BMW seems to have gotten around this, VW also and Ford, GM and Hyundai, well, not so much. And the EPA test does not measure this profligacy. At all.

    The huge torque at low revs that turbos are supposed to have? Missing in action. It takes a while to spool up a turbo, fancy vanes and nozzles notwithstanding. All these engines use revs to disguise this inconvenient fact. The nearest to the ideal was the the old Subaru 2.5 turbo in Intelligent mode, and they didn’t even tout it.

    Forget all this, and examine the new Earth Dreams Honda 2.35 liter K series derivative in the new Accord, noisy beast that it is. There are dyno tests on vtec.net that show it really does have a flat torque profile from less than 2000rpm, and that torque is instantly available at the prod of the accelerator. Just a fabulous design! Who knew a naturally aspirated engine could have a flat torque profile like this? It drags the boat-like Accord around with no apparent effort at all.

    To add to that, the updated Honda V6 ED engine has a similar flat torque profile, despite being only port injected. It takes an Accord to a wobbly 120 mph in less than 20 seconds, if you like scaring yourself. Not only that, anecdotal evidence so far suggests that it gets better mileage at 75 mph and higher than the I4. A design triumph in my book, even if early examples seem to have porous blocks that leak oil.

    Both these engines should be studied by the rest of the industry to see how Honda got flat torque out of NA engines, because they, along with the Mazda Skyactiv principle, and the old Nissan 2.5l,
    are significantly more economical than these half-assed new turbo engines.

    The new Honda I4 makes the engine in the FR-S and BRZ seem like an amateur attempt, sad to say. Not all new NA engines are good ones.

    The trouble these days with the new mileage regulations getting closer and closer and the EC decreeing that cars emit less CO2 than a pet dog, is that this new small displacement turbo paradigm is really only suitable for gaming mileage tests. And for nothing else whatsoever. Will common sense prevail at the bureaucratic level? Has it ever before? Are we adding more cheap LPG powered engines rather than expensively produced corn based ethanol to gasoline? Is there any hope for rationality when bureaucracies push electric vehicles?

    I despair at the state of things. Also, just like LJK Setright, I think the diesel engine in cars is the work of the devil, so have not examined them other than to note that the Diesel Particulate Filter and soot burnoff cycle is a string and cardboard construct to meet emissions, because a real solution would cost so much that the manufacturers would rather wink at each other and hope for the best.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Your post is a good read, although I’ll nitpick a couple points.

      The Hyundai 2.0T regularly gets excellent reviews for its immediate throttle response, but I haven’t driven one. I’m not sure what you mean by “cheapy version of the EVO X engine”, but I’ve read about the substantial engineering that went in to producing its acclaimed throttle response. The VW turbo has great response, as does Chevy’s 1.4T used in the Cruze. The Dart 1.4T is terrible; Fiat’s not kidding anybody.

      I agree that turbos are a part of the CAFE game, but one really can achieve good economy with them if driven prudently. The EPA can’t footnote hoonery in its ratings.

      As for diesels, you have to consider that they power half of the cars sold in Europe. They are refined machines in a highly-regulated market. The US diesel car market was killed by GM in the 80s.

      As for bureacracies – that part is hopeless.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    We live in an age when ‘base’ stripper Civics are 3,000 lbs and base Taurus’ are 4,000 lbs. ¿Who are we fooling???

    No, we need Civics, and the like, with normally aspirated, no drama V6s. And regular V8s, not tuned for 400+ HP in Taurus’ and the like. And not with 3.73, drag strip gears either.

    Guaranteed their MPG would go up substantially. Not to mention their longevity.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Consumers and regulators don’t want to part with:

      10 airbags
      powered full-area moonroofs
      20″ wheels
      5-star crash ratings
      0-60 in 6.0 seconds
      super-low emissions
      electronic gadgetry
      quiet interiors
      comfortable seats
      5- to 10-year warranties

      This is how you get fat, expensive cars. You couldn’t sell a 50-mpg 1980 Civic in today’s market.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Yep. All correct, but you’re confusing one argument with another. Most of us want all those things in place and a therefor 3,000+ lbs ‘base’ compact cars are the norm. That’s not in question.

        A 3,000+ lbs compact would be better off with a normal V6 instead of an I4 that’s always under pressure. There’s no FREE lunch as Ecoboost F-150 owner are finding out. And the jury’s still out, on their longevity.

        The size and weight of these ‘compacts’ slowly crept up and so did the size of the engines. 1.5 to 1.8 liters were the norm in the ’80s and now 4 cylinders are normally 2.4s. How about a no drama, no boost, 5.0 liter 4 cylinder so everyone’s happy?

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        You could sell a 1994 Civic EX all day long today. I owned one, and it was superior in nearly every way to the POS that now wears its namesake.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Adjusted for 2008 EPA standards, that car would be rated 25 city/32 highway MPG. It also wouldn’t pass emissions or safety standards, and it would be as cramped as a new Focus. Maybe you still want one, but it wouldn’t be a remotely competitive entry in the class today.

          http://www.edmunds.com/honda/civic/1994/features-specs.html?style=4124

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Whereas the modern equivalent (in terms of size and specs), the Mitsubishi Mirage, gets 40… combined.

            Of course, having driven both, the Mirage is nowhere near as nice to drive, but that’s because it’s not a Civic.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            It’s not just a nostalgic & optimistic romantic notion that I managed – eeeeaaasily WELL over 35ish mpg combined in my 1994 Civic EX 5 speed, driving it like I stole it, I might add.

            That rev happy 140 horsepower motor in that weight class, that tight steering, that rifle bolt manual shifter, that interior – it was the closest thing to a front wheel drive Japanese BMW 318 ever made.

            I distinctly remember getting incredible fuel economy in that car, and being amazed at how far I could drive it before I had to refill its relatively diminutive tank.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    The country was literally built and fed off 4cyl. gas & diesel engines in cars, trucks, stationary power plants, boats, tractors, construction & industrial machinery, oh yes, some airplanes. .in an era when a six was a big engine. No reason we shouldn’t return to our roots. Sorta like new math. 1, 2, 3, 4……

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Sure, but when people tasted 6s and 8s, 4s became less popular. So for the last 3 decades, mfrs have tried to simulate the performance of a 6 or 8 by boosting a 4, with uneven results.

      In today’s ‘gotta have’ culture, a boosted 4 will always face tough competition from smooth, conventional 6s and 8s.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Why do people feel that bolting a turbo onto a motor makes it into a complex beast? They have been around a long time and are used in some applications where durability and reliability are paramount (18 wheelers). Perhaps the ecoboost motors are not an optimal implementation but there are plenty of good turbos of legendary reliability out there (not just the diesels either) just as there are plenty of V8′s that are best utilized in marine applications…as an anchor. I wonder if supercharging may see a comeback? I ran a supercharger on my 1.6 Miata and it was a very different experience from the turbo Miatas I drove.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      As far as Gas engines are concerned, I’d much rather have a bigger engine then have another expensive affair attached to my engine, even if it reliable.
      If it was the cost of an alternator and didn’t have the possibility of detonating in the engine destroying the engine with its shrapnel, it would be one thing.
      But as it stands now, give me a bigger engine, or give me a bigger engine.
      (Yes I wrote that twice)

      Also thinking into the past many see a Turbo as a vestigial(per say) item, and when it fails it’s definately something to write home about because your neighbors car doesn’t have such sorcery and is all of a sudden 10x better.

      But with that said, don’t get me wrong I’ll rock a turbo all day.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        I knew a guy with a twin turbo LT-1 in a 4th gen Camaro. Have your cake and eat it too! You have to get the tuning right. I had a Mazdaspeed Miata with a factory turbo and it wasn’t near as good as some of the well sorted aftermarket set ups. The turbos themselves arent really all that expensive nowadays if they are not something crazy exotic but yes, they are certainly capable of failing in a manner that can cause some expensive collateral damage. Course this is Ford…who brought us the Catalytic convertor that can fail and destroy your motor in a similar manner back on the SHO. I am a Ford guy, but I’ll probably not buy one of these first gen ecoboost models unless I just have to have a full-size truck.

  • avatar
    TW4

    Except for the vaunted American small-block V8, which is an enduring engineering marvel, I’m not particularly concerned with the number of cylinders. To me, engines are all about the visceral attributes, like sound and feel, and I’m not particularly troubled if a manufacturer wishes to reduce costs and complexity by reducing the cylinder count.

    I-3s are similar in sound and feel (if properly balanced) to their I-6 cousins. V4 mini-blocks (see: Motus motorcycles) are similar to their small-block V8 cousins. And so on and so forth. At least 1 major manufacturers produces an I-2 for production. Three or four manufacturers build triples, and several still produce I-5s.

    As long as customers have diverse engine options, all will be well. Once upon a time, the manufacturers had enough pride to develop a vehicle concept, including engine layout, and stick with it b/c they believed it was best. If all manufacturers adopt I-4 toasters, what does that say about the car industry?


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