In contrast, inline four cylinder engines are inherently unbalanced. Because of the geometry of the crankshaft and rods within the engine, fours shake in both the horizontal and vertical planes. There’s only one way to mitigate the effect: add unbalanced shafts to create counter-vibrations. This “fix” adds weight, complexity and cost. Even so, the inherent vibrations from a four cylinder engine wreak havoc on accessories and require extra mass in all the mounting brackets and related parts. In fact, by the time a four cylinder engine is tamed, it weighs and costs almost as much as a V8. And the customer still suffers the noise and vibration penalties that come from skimping on cylinders.
V6’s also have inherent imbalances, though not nearly as severe as a four. Depending on the block angle, V6 engine operation creates vertical or horizontal forces. The most sophisticated V6 engines also have balance shafts, again adding to complexity, cost and weight. Fives, threes and twos have even worse vibrations, some beyond simple analysis. V10’s add the vibrations of two five cylinder engines together, which is better at some speeds, worse at others. Turbocharging or supercharging four or six cylinder engines to get to V8 power levels simply adds more complexity and weight to an already challenged engine design, and sacrifices the low end torque of a naturally aspirated powerplant. (Just ask Mercedes’ AMG division, who’ve recently switched from supercharged eights and sixes normally aspirated 6.3-liter V8's.)
Odd numbers of cylinders, like three or five, are inevitably the result of cost-cutting. Sometimes there’s no time or money to tool for a smaller engine, so a few cylinders are lopped off an existing engine. That’s why GM’s lackluster small pickup trucks and the Hummer H3 sport a five cylinder engine. Ten cylinder engines, currently deployed in Vipers and some Dodge and Ford trucks, are another cost-cutting move. Engine not powerful enough? Add two more similar cylinders and call it good.
The provision of V12 engines in luxury cars is even more perverse. V12’s are no smoother than a V8 and add (you guessed it) weight, complication and cost. While that may be the manufacturer’s intent, it still makes little engineering sense. Jaguar gave up on V12’s a while ago. Aston Martin passed on their V12 to offer a V8 in their latest car. In fact, thanks to the V8’s relatively light weight, good power output and compact packaging, the engine configuration is, belatedly, making gains in the European market. BMW, Mercedes, Volvo and Audi all offer Euro-spec V8 passenger cars.
Once you’ve committed to a V8, there are a lot of reasons for making it a pushrod. A single camshaft simplifies a lot of things, and the narrow heads associated with pushrod engines allow greater flexibility in vehicle packaging. Thus smaller cars can enjoy a V8 engine. Before the outraged techno-comments start dropping at the feet of this post, it should be noted that the most powerful racing engines in the world are pushrod V8s, with two valve heads to boot. Some of the fastest cars you can buy in America have pushrod, two valve V8’s. The Chevrolet Corvette is only the most prominent example.
So why don’t all cars have V8’s? The answer lies in marketing, rather than engineering. Marketing has declared that V8 engines are best suited to high-end, high performance cars, while the masses should get by with “economical” fours and sixes. The public now believes that V8 means bad mileage. The opposite is true– at least potentially. Mileage depends on two factors: the weight of the car and how fast you go. Engine size and cylinder count have little to do with it. Of course, bigger engines encourage people to accelerate and drive faster, but that’s not the engine’s fault. And new technology is mooting the V8 as gas-guzzler argument. Multi-displacement systems (a fancy way of saying that four cylinders go on vacation when not needed) have the potential to dramatically increase V8 mileage under light load conditions.
In short, for pistonheads at least, the five saddest words in the English language are still “I could’ve had a V8”.
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- Lou_BC I realized it wasn't EV's burning by the absence of the usual suspects.
- Kwik_Shift A manual bug eye WRX wagon (2001-03) would interest me more.
- El scotto Ferrari develops a way to put a virtual car in real time traffic? Will it be multiple virtual players in a possible infinite number of real drivers in real time situations?This will be one of the greatest things ever or a niche video game.
- El scotto It's said that many military regulations are written in blood. Every ship's wheel or aircraft joystick has a human hand on it at all times when a ship or aircraft are under power. Tanks, APC's and other ground vehicles probably operate under the same rules. Even with those regulations accidents still happen. There is no such thing as an unmanned autopilot, ever. Someone has to be on the stick at all times.I do not think MB understands what a sue-happy nation the USA is. The 1st leased MB in a wreck while this Type 3 "Semi-Autonomous" driving, or whatever it is called, will result in an automatic lawsuit. Expect a class action lawsuit after the 1st personal lawsuit is filed. Yes, new MB owners can afford and ever are lawyers.Mercedes Benz; "The best wrecks or nothing!" Oh and has anyone noticed that Toyota/Lexus and Honda/Acura, the gray suit with white shirt and striped tie, automobile companies have stayed away from any autonomous driving nonsense?
- Merc190 Very streamlined but not distinctive enough for a Mercedes. And besides, the streetcar of the early 20th century seems a far more efficient and effective method of people moving in essentially an autonomous manner. A motor car is meant to be driven with proper attention to what's important in every situation. To design it otherwise is idiotic and contradictory.