By on September 4, 2011

If you’re eagerly jumping up to shout “yes” to the headline’s rhetorical question, you’d better live in Europe… or be prepared to move there. The chances of VW ever bringing its 1.4 TSI engine to the US seem dim, based on the brand’s new mass-market-oriented, big-n-cheap approach. But starting next year, Autocar reports that

VW [will be] the first manufacturer to implement the fuel-saving technology in a mass-produced TSI engine, a system that shuts off two of the four cylinders under low to medium loads, between 1400 and 4000rpm.

Volkswagen claims that the EU6-compliant unit saves 0.4 litres (0.09 gallons) of fuel per 100km, rising to 0.6 litres (0.13 gallons) per 100km when combined with VW’s stop-start system.

VW also says that the benefits become more obvious when driven smoothly and slowly: “At 50 km/h, in third or fourth gear, savings amount to nearly one litre per 100km.”

If you’re currently looking up those conversions for use in future conversations (about hypothetical engine swaps for your Em Kay Eye Vee), you’re officially a “Mr Euro” (here’s a hint: it’s cooler to use the European measures and make everyone else do the math). If you’re wondering about how reliable these engines are going to be, or what it must be like to cruise the freeway on 700 ccs of displacement you’ve probably come to the right place.


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22 Comments on “Are You Ready For: A Mass-Market, Variable-Displacement Four-Cylinder?...”

  • avatar

    ok, hit me: how reliable will this new technology be? Also, (and I would have asked this question under the burning Porshe artilcle yesterday, but I was asleep when it’s author posted it) what kind of long-term reliability will we get from the slew of future turbo charged cars? will the turbos fail on all of them before any of the rest of the engine dies and will they all catch fire?

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      This is mechanically not all that unlike Honda’s VTEC system. Honda already has a version of VTEC that shuts valves off completely in certain cases. GM and Chrysler have systems designed for pushrod engines, but the concept of operation seems similar. None of those systems have been problematic that I know of. Only thing different here, is doing it on a small-displacement four-banger. I wouldn’t be too concerned about it.

      Turbochargers are a lot more reliable nowadays than they were in the old days – notwithstanding the spectacular failure on that Porsche. We have a few modern turbocharged engines in the family and (knock on wood) have not had any trouble with them. But, we know how to follow the maintenance schedule, and *that* could be a problem in some cases …

    • 0 avatar

      As far as turbos – I have owned numerous turbocharged cars from Saab, Volvo, Peugeot, MB, and VW over the past 25 years. Most with MANY miles on them. The closest I have ever had to an issue is I had one Saab where I needed to adjust the wastegate so it would give the correct amount of boost. And even if a turbo does fail, they are not THAT expensive to replace. That said, as far as I am concerned a turbo is a wear item and will need replacing at some point.

      Every other car on the road has some form of variable valve timing these days, the only difference here is they are actually shutting things off. Not fundamentally different. My BMW doesn’t even have a throttle, ALL engine speed control is by means of the variable valve lift and timing. I doubt there will be any issues from this.

  • avatar

    They probably won’t bring it here because I bet Chrysler patent lawyers would be all over it.

  • avatar

    Audi is bringing this over in their new S6, S7 and S8 models being introduced at Frankfurt this month.

    The technology looks very impressive, but my initial reaction was the same as yours, gmichaelj: yikes, I sure hope they’ve got the bugs worked out of this. It looks complex as all hell.

  • avatar

    “it’s cooler to use the European measures”…

    European? How about World … I had to suffer thru engineering school learning both english-idiotic-arbitray-systemless-system, and the clean and logical metric system…

    I recall my profs telling me that the US and Liberia were the only two countries still embracing the outmoded lunacy of the english system…

    And while we are at it what the heck is up with knots and fathoms??

    Aside, Ford-NAAO’s first “metric” car was the Fairmont (Fox) platform … metric, right down-to the rear-axle with inch-measurements, and IIRC, fasteners (because noody wanted to make the investment to change this…)

    • 0 avatar

      Not to be too anal but as a maritime academy student I must defend my knots! One nautical mile represents one minute of latitude, which on a mercator chart is a very useful unit to have(In addition to the convenience of having your speed being directly correlated to the imaginary coordinates we superimpose on the planet). With just a pair of dividers and a straight edge you can advance your position quickly and accurately. As for fathoms being six feet….not so sure….

    • 0 avatar

      Bah. All an engineer needs is a consistent set of units; USCS and SI both qualify. The blah-blah about “just having to add exponents” breaks down pretty fast when you start dealing with constants that come from nature. And there are *three* countries that primarily use USCS or Imperial units: USA, Liberia, Burma.

      • 0 avatar

        USA, Liberia, Burma.

        Number 1 in that group.USA, USA, USA!!!

        Seriously it’s far too easy to fvck up in feet and inches, with metric your mistakes tend to stand out.

        The company I work for subs out a lot of small machine work, all of the mess ups are products that are spec’d in standard measurements.

    • 0 avatar

      Being european I can of course sometimes have difficulites with non metric measurements. But still here in europe we say HP because nobody has the feeling of kW.

      But the French system is difficult when it comes to fuel consumption. My car takes 26 MPG. But the metric system measure fuel consumtion in square meters!

      l/100km. Liter is bsically m3, one liter being 0,001 m3. And km is m (k=1000).

      m3/m and reduce one m up and down as yu can do in math and you end up with m2= square meters;-)

    • 0 avatar

      Learning two systems keeps your mind limber. A French metre is slightly different that a Russian metre. This become crucial when fabricating docking ports on space stations- this was figgured out by the Americans rather quickly while the exclusivly metric people trained people never conisidered it.

      Besidies, ‘marecian weights have been defined as ratios of SI units in the 1890’s. Lengths in the learly 1920 if I remember correctly.

      All those funny measurements of our pasts have an amazing history if you’re curious – Fathoms are based on the lenght of your outsteatched arms. Rather handy for measuring rope.

      • 0 avatar

        Also, those ‘odd’ units typically directly related to what you are measuring. Fathoms are a great example. Another is an acre happens to be close to what one farmer could plow in a day (before mechanization).

        Units are also chosen so that the magnitude is in a span that is easy to use–that’s why fuel consumption isn’t L/km; it would be a decimal term that no one would get. Conversely, deg F works really well for weather since it is almost always bounded within 0 and 100.

        But our system isn’t so bad as what I saw in Ireland: all the speed limits were in mph, but the distances between towns was in km.

  • avatar

    Don’t know…variable valve timing systems are relatively widely used and mostly problem free nowadays, this maybe is comparable?
    wiki: “VTEC uses two camshaft profiles and electronically selects between the profiles”.
    Well, if one profile would be “zero lift” then this is exactly what VW is proposing, no?

  • avatar

    For US readers: I notice the volume conversions in the AutoCar excerpt are in UK gallons, not US gallons – a 17% difference.

    This technology wouldn’t worry me if it came from one of the Asian mfrs, but the German or US mfrs would scare me. The 10% fuel economy gain it promises seems lofty, and perhaps not worth it given the complexity.

    But I suppose these are the things you try when attempting to squeeze every last mile/km from a gallon/liter of fuel.

  • avatar

    So I guess if you are saving 0.09 gallons for every 100km, then over 100,000kms you save 90 gallons of fuel. Which explains why the US won’t be getting it, with gas prices in the mid-$3 range the savings are going to be just ~$320 for 100,000kms. Very poor ROI from the US consumer’s perspective.

    I can only guess what collateral cost this technology will have, and what the downsides are to reliability and performance, but obviously higher European gas prices gives justification to adding this in European models.

  • avatar

    Eh, Honda have had their version of this on many of their V6 models since something like 2006. My ’11 Pilot has it. It’s pretty much transparent at this point, if you know what you’re looking for, you can sometimes feel the transition between 6,4 and 3 cylinders. Otherwise it Just Works. Proven very reliable so far, worst problem is slightly excessive oil consumption in some engines. They don’t fail, just thirsty. The downside, of course, is that you lose out on VTEC performance goodies, those cams are being used for the VCM.

    That said, I’m not sure how comfortable I would be with the VW system, sliding cam lobes? Really, that doesn’t sound nearly as simple (and proven) as the Honda system.

  • avatar

    Ok, so you have a turbo, a supercharger, all their associated plumbing, direct injection and now cylinder deactivation?

    And people say hybrids are too complex? Geeze…

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe this would give GM a great excuse to shorten the stroke on their awesome LSX engines and offer some super high revving old school low displacement pushrod 8s with cylinder de-activation.

      I know they could be de-stroked debored to a 265.

      But there is probably a minimum bore and stroke needed to make having 8 cylinders practical.

      • 0 avatar

        The original Lexus LS 400 had a 4 liter V8, roughly 240 cubic inches.

        Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, per Wikipedia, seem to have produced a variety of V8s smaller than that.

  • avatar

    With such mechanical complexity, a hybrid looks positively reliable.

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