• May 18, 2008
The GMnext blog has a post up that talks about the potential viability of a low-displacement turbocharged motor -- the direct-injected 2.0L Ecotec turbo, specifically -- in upcoming GM cars, including the Camaro. Let's talk about this a little. The breathed-upon Ecotec delivers 260 horses and 260 lb-ft of torque, and if you've driven, say, the Sky or Solstice equipped with it, you know just how ballsy it really is. It's more powerful (but less torquey) than either V8 offered in the '87 IROC-Z that I thought was so cool back during high school. The turbo four might well be a nice solution in a future iteration of the Camaro, but is the fuel economy argument for it as rock solid as it might seem on the surface?

The Pontiac Solstice GXP with the turbo four has an EPA fuel economy rating of 19 city/28 hwy when mated to a 5-speed manual. Not bad at all for the performance it delivers, but that same drivetrain in the bigger, heavier Camaro isn't likely to give you equal returns in terms of fuel consumption. Over at AutoblogGreen, Sam notes that the 2.0 turbo's lighter weight relative to the six- and eight-cylinders the Camaro's going to launch with should help somewhat. He follows by reminding us that GM's next-gen mild hybrid system will work with RWD cars and predicts that we'll see a 2.0T hybrid Camaro by 2011 or so. This would dovetail neatly with the first phase of the new CAFE regs, and we're sure GM would find a way to engineer a hypothetical turbo/hybrid's fuel economy numbers so they'd play nice within Uncle Sam's rules. Great.

The issue with all this talk of four-cylinder turbos and hybrids for a muscle car (along with attempts to redefine the class and reset expectations) is that everyone conveniently overlooks just how good the existing V8 is. In the 2008 Corvette Coupe, the big bad 6.2L LS3 is rated at 16 city/26 hwy. Hardly a guzzler in the traditional sense, the V8's rating isn't that far off from the direct-injected Ecotec turbo. Furthermore, the V8's fuel economy comes with 430 horsepower and 424 lb-ft of torque. Those are numbers befitting a muscle car like a Camaro. Who's to say a direct-injected LS-family V8 with efficiency tech like hybridization and/or cylinder deactivation wouldn't be just as effective at meeting the federal fuel economy requirements that begin taking effect a few years from now? You could potentially satisfy the government-created CAFE gods without giving the customers who want actual, traditional muscle the finger in the process. Yes, the consensus seems to be that smaller engines will be a necessity across the board in the new CAFE era, but let's not summarily ignore the bigger ones just because they're big.


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  • 74 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      Putting small-displacement motors in heavy cars never gives significant real-world MPG improvements. It is only done because they can juggle the numbers (by strategically programming the various on-board computers) JUST ENOUGH to eke out an improvement in the EPA cycle that is used to determine CAFE.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Friend of mine has a new Lexus LS-F. V8 420hp, says he gets just over 20mpg city, if he's easy on it. V8 and economy can be done.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I have to back up damon here. Even though CAFE doesn't give a crap what one person can do, and I have never even heard of an LS-F. I have a co-worker with an new IS-F, and he gets 19.7mpg average on his week of driving to work across the city. Mind you, he only gets 12mpg on the weekends when he is not behaving quite as well.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Your friend is full of crap.

        Yes, big displacement and economy can be done. GM did it.

        But the IS-F with its 16mpg city and 18mpg combined ratings is not going to break 20mpg city. And 20mpg city isn't anything to crow about anyway. A CR-V can do 20mpg city, and it is larger, heavier and has too much wind resistance to say it's any kind of efficient vehicle.
        • 6 Years Ago
        If you want I'll get you his email address, you can correspond with him.

        CR-V doesn't seem like a very likely, or logical comparison.
      • 6 Years Ago
      As the author of the www.gmnext.com post that started this thread, I'm happy to see people fired up about powertrain choices in the U.S. market. A few points stand out in this discussion:

      -- Yes, the Corvette powertrain guys are amazing. That much HP and that kind of MPG is fantastic; but remember that the Corvette is a two-seater, has lots of $$$ in lightweight materials, and, for its power, it's extraordinarily lightweight (hence, it's cost . .. but still an incredible bargain if you want an everyday supercar that achieves a combination of driveability, refinement, performance that is unmatched in the world.
      -- Once turbocharged engines become more mainstream, companies like GM can begin to do things to make them perform differently for different applications . . . .more torque under the curve for heavy, more mainstream apps, peakier, sportier powerbands for lighter, more sporty vehicles . . . all which can be done through simple software swaps (ECU adjustments control everything from peak boost, timing, et al.) This can make the very same engine perform quite differently. In my day (late 1980s I had a '68 Camaro with a '79 L82 motor), this kind of "character shift" in an engine would have meant (ok, it did mean), new lumpier cam (which hurt driveability but jacked peak power), maybe new induction (although if you knew what you were doing with a Quadrajet, you could get a very quick street car), etc. etc.
      -- While the U.S. market is in the middle of a seachange in powertrain due to fuel costs, regulations, etc., the rest of the world, including GM of Europe, has remained boosted even after U.S. manufacturers dropped turbo by the end of the 1980s, more or less.
      -- I've seen extremely interesting data that shows average displacement and power density (hp/liter) in the U.S., Europe and Asia. I'm going to post on this data soon back on our site, check it out, the preview is that our engines in the U.S. are nearly twice as big, but have less power per unit displacement.
      -- As the former President of SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) told me once, "It's not about cylinder count or displacement . . . it's the air, stupid." Turbos deliver more of it . . . in the case of some diesels, 40 pounds above atmospheric!!!
      -- The future for trucks in an era of much higher fuel prices is turbodiesel. Watch.
      -- The future for cars will be, in a bigger way, gasoline turbos. I love diesels, but no one has figured out how to meet the emissions targets in mainstream, non-luxury vehicles (these higher priced vehicles can absorb costs associated with aftertreatment much more manageably).
      -- Gas turbos are still on a steep development curve relative to their variable geometry diesel brethern . . . because gas turbos operate at MUCH higher exhaust gas temps, doing variable geometry gas is a challenge, but once they're developed, even more downsizing and more turbos will take off. Remember, it wasn't until 1995 or so when direct injection hooked up with variable geometry turbos that diesels took off in Europe en masse.
      -- The biggest thing for all of us to keep in mind is that GM needs to balance greatly enhanced efficiency with the need to keep cars affordable . . . GM could be making diesel hybrids today, but then we'd have $50K Malibus
      Chris Terry, GMNext.com

      • 6 Years Ago
      I think part of the appeal of the 4 cylinder turbo, from a corporate standpoint, is cost. GM and Ford are looking for all kinds of ways to reduce costs in order to return to profitability. If they can sell a Camaro with an engine that's cheaper to build, they'll do so. If they can blame it on the EPA and Congress, or market as more environmentally friendly, it just makes the marketing challenge easier.
      I wonder if anyone knows what the corporate cost differential is between, say, a 5 liter V-8 and a blown 2.0 four cylinder
        • 6 Years Ago
        The Small block Chevy V8 is a very inexpensive engine, far cheaper than the turbo GDI ecotec.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Both 2.0T Ecotec and LS3 use Premium fuel no? Doesn't the G8 GT allow regular? The fuel economy numbers may seem similar, but the difference between what customers actually pay at the pump could offset any pros. Then again, I think the G8 GT is rated at 15/24, which is still worse than the LS3, even with regular fuel.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Trevor- I'm still sure GM can work something out. It wouldn't hurt to put the Impala SS Engine inside the Camaro- A 303 HP V8 and 27+ MPG sounds like a great mid level Camaro to me.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The Corvette's fuel economy figures have been trotted out countless times before to champion V8 efficiency, and each time the author has ignored the issue of gearing.

        Even with the shorter Z51 ratios, the Corvette is geared to hit 190 mph. At redline in 1st, it's going 49 mph; in 3rd, it's going 102. Its sixth-gear ratio is 0.57. The effect of this on EPA highway figures is pretty obvious.

        The same V8, in a 4,000 lb Camaro, with gear ratios chosen more for daily drivability than top speed, isn't likely to fare so well.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I have a 6,000 pound Silverado that gets 24mpg highway. I agree that GM could work something out to get a V8 in the camaro.

        A little known fact about GM V8s is that they get better gas mileage when they are broken in. My truck started out with around 19mpg new and that number got significantly better after about 10,000 miles. I think they need to figure out a way to get that mileage up front.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes, but Torrent remember that the Corvette is a LIGHTWIEGHT supercar. The Camaro is much much heavier.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The BMW M3 delivers 25 mpg on real tests, and thats a V8 with 420 bhp. Much nicer.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The GTO was rated for 25hwy w/o using any modern gimmickry, like cylinder deactivation. There is no reason a well motivated coupe can't return high 20's, or even 30mpg. I would think the DI 3.6 would be a natural choice as well.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The Corvette is a supercar?
        • 6 Years Ago
        good point, the ls3 is a much better engine than the bmw v8. not only does it make more hp, but it gets better mileage, weighs less, costs less, and is much simpler to maintain and repair.

        plus, the hp/cam cannot be beat!
        • 6 Years Ago
        All I know is- if the Corvette gets 27 MPG with a 400 HP V8, they can work something out.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @PJ: the Corvettes gearing isn't that far from the gearing that LS1/6sp Camaro's got. With the torque, an LSx can pull that gearing just fine and doesn't have a problem lighting up the tires or pulling a low 0-60 time. The LS1 even had enough torque for the 1-4 skip shift that the factory put in the 6sp Camaros. Sure, some will always want to switch to lower gearing, but that's what the aftermarket is for. I doubt that GM will mess up the stock gearing and turn it into a car that has to rev 3000rpm just to go 70-75mph like many other manuals are set up.
      • 6 Years Ago
      You are exactly right linoth.

      Messing with the Camaro or any other iconic muscle car is akin to messing with the Corvette. These cars stand for something and are expected to be what they are and it really can't be redefined. They also have massive fanbases. You can say that about any car with a cult following, American muscle car, Japanese compact or European super car.

      GM has already done a good job pissing on their fans by killing the car in the first place in order to put the resources towards making more stupid trucks and SUVs. Then when they decided to resurrect it they aren't bringing the Firebird back with it for Pontiac and the Firebird fanbase (a very substantial fanbase and a car that singlehandedly carried Pontiac's rebel performance image even when everything else was crap). Now they're publicly throwing around the idea of tarnshing the Camaro with a four cylinder.

      The reaction to this idea has not been good to put it mildly. The sales of such a model would also be dismal.

      GM, if you're smart leave the four cylinder nonsense out of this car. Refine the 3.6L V6 base model for fuel economy and a low MSRP for the people that worry about stuff like that. Please don't tarnish this car or abuse this famous name any more than you already have.
      Lar7789789
      • 6 Years Ago
      Can someone help me out with this one question I have?

      I am going to figure that the Z-28/SS with the LS - whatever they are gonna call it engine, (camaro with a V8) is going to easily cost over $35,000 and up.

      And with the majority of people who are considering buying this car in their late teens to maybe middle thirties, who may not be able to afford that much on a car, most people would probably just go for the DI V6 with the 300 horsepower (if that is indeed the power it is going to have ) -or then the turbo 4 if it comes out - I am sure they are going to cost under $30,000.

      Wouldn't that hurt sales of the V8? Are that many people going to opt for the 400 horse V8 over the 300 horse V6? especially with the way gas prices are now and may be?
        • 6 Years Ago
        @Lar7789789
        There are tons of people who will go 400hp v8 over 300hp v6, especially if the gas mileage is similar (which it should be).

        430hp LS3 at 26mpg, or 300hp v6 at 28 mpg. People with the money are very likely to go up to the V8 ;)
        • 6 Years Ago
        @Lar7789789
        Plenty of people buy the Mustang GT at 300 horses rather than the V6 at 220.

        But then again, there's tons of V6s around. It's almost as if to say if there isn't a V6 people won't buy it at all, so it's worth it for Ford.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @Lar7789789
        I don't think the LS has 3 valves per cylinder or VVT. I think you're thinking of the Vortec/Atlas 4-5-6s.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_Atlas_engine
        • 6 Years Ago
        @Lar7789789
        "I am going to figure that the Z-28/SS with the LS - whatever they are gonna call it engine, (camaro with a V8) is going to easily cost over $35,000 and up."

        Ya might want to rethink that statement.

        The G8 GT is on the same platform with what is likely to be the same drive train (with the Automatic) but starts at less than $39,995. The 2010 Mustang is likely to have a significant power boost with pricing still managing to hover around $26K. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Camaro (with its base V8) starting somewhere near $27K.

        Now back to the issue at hand....

        People have written off GMs LS series of engines almost on a yearly basis. However GM's engineers keep pulling rabbits out of their hats. Now the LS has Variable Valve Timing, cylinder deactivation, 3 valves per cylinder, etc, etc.. all this with a serious weight and packaging advantage over similarly sized OHC engines. I have little doubt that GM is going to pull another rabbit. Considering the fact that GM successfully built at pushrod engine with VVT, is there much doubt that they will be able to build their V8s with lower displacement and direct injection?

        I also think we're going to see a lot more gears in cars after 2011. 8 speed Autos, like the one in the Lexus LS, are likely to become more common place in the next decade. I think we'll also see a Camaro based on the Alpha platform by 2015 with a goal of giving us a RWD coupe that weight significantly less.

        Oh, and if GM does gets HCCI to market, we've got a new ballgame..
      • 6 Years Ago
      The Corvette engine has its highway ratings merely because of its very high gearing in 6th gear. Sure, the LS series engines are better than average for large V8s, but it must be remembered that the turbo EcoTec requires no such trickery (as far as I know, so feel free to correct me if I am wrong) to achieve its results.
        • 6 Years Ago
        mk:

        http://media.gm.com/us/powertrain/en/product_services/2008/HPT%20Library/Ecotec/2008%20LNF/2008_20L_LNF_HHR%20manual.pdf

        How about that torque curve? Does it not look flat to you?

        As to the idea that a 2.0L doesn't have enough torque, you fail to understand gearing. You make torque with gears. That's why we have gears. You will have to gear the 2.0L down, which means you'll have to rev it up a bit, but then it will produce identical torque at the wheels to a V8.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Light weight and tall gearing isn't trickery. Well, if it is, it's going to be very popular trickery in the next 5 years.

        The 2.0T DI engine in the Solstice GXP gets better highway mileage than the regular Solstice partially because it has tall rear-end gearing (i.e. trickery). GM did the wise thing and realizing the engine had more torque down low, they could make the gearing taller and increase mpg without hurting performance.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The Corvette has tall gearing because it can.

        If you were to transplant a 2.0 Ecotec turbo into that same corvette, just for testing purposes...

        You would catch that engine off boost, and the mechanical dis-advantage would NOT be able to be overcome by the engine off-turbo.

        If you kept it on-boost and on the boil... you could drive it. And by forcing that much air in, you would be getting worse gas mileage than the V8 that needs less RPMs to achieve the same or more results.

        On the other hand, shorter gearing, that a turbo I4 would like better, would work with V8s for blistering acceleration, but you never get low cruising engine speeds, or good mileage from it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have a 2008 Solstic GXP with an automatic. I have averaged 28 mpg+ combined over the past 3000 miles in Seattle stop and go traffic. I drive it pretty hard and believe the engine could work in many other cars, including Camaro.
      • 6 Years Ago
      So. The General kills the Camaro. Fans are outraged and throw enough of a tantrum that they bring it back. Lesson learned? GM Fans like their Camaros very much, and you shouldn't mess with fans for you lose their loyalty.

      So, what thought should cross the minds of Sales when they're tossing around an idea like putting a 2 liter 4 banger in the Camaro? You know, something that would essentially ruin the "muscle" image of the vehicle. After they just brought it back because their customers demanded it. Perhaps... "don't" comes to mind? Perhaps "brand suicide?"

      Seriously, someone already quoted Hammond on the equal of my own opinion. Every time I see a newer Mustang with only two headlights and 16" rims, I shake my head. Or a previous generation with only one tailpipe coming out the back. I'm a car nut, I know what those signs mean. They mean there's a V6 under the hood.

      What is the point of buying an American Muscle Car/Sports Coupe with a V6? Gas? If you're so worried about the cost to fill your tank, why are you looking at a sports car?! Buy a four door or a compact and do it right. Insurance? Again, the same answer. If you're going to spend the money, then go big or go home.

      It's like buying a Big Mac/Triple Stacker with a Diet Coke. You're getting something that you KNOW is wasteful and tossing a sop to your conscience by getting a low calorie drink. It's just plain stupid. Either abuse your health by going whole hog... or don't and get a salad. The same could be said with how the green movement is acting these days. "Oh, I bought all these carbon credits to offset the impact of my private jet." Which doesn't change the fact that you just created more polution in ONE TRIP than the average family does in three years. Be green and eco-friendly, or don't.

      If someone at GM is reading this, let me boil it down for you. This is a stupid idea. I have very little respect for you at the moment over some of your other decisions in your line-up. This will just give me one more reason to never buy a new GM product, ever. Just don't do it. Just don't. "They're going to laugh at you!"
        • 6 Years Ago
        "Seriously, someone already quoted Hammond on the equal of my own opinion. Every time I see a newer Mustang with only two headlights and 16" rims, I shake my head. Or a previous generation with only one tailpipe coming out the back. I'm a car nut, I know what those signs mean. They mean there's a V6 under the hood.

        What is the point of buying an American Muscle Car/Sports Coupe with a V6?"
        -------------
        Because that's what they want. You want more out of such a car, and that's okay. They don't, but that's okay too. Poh-TAY-to, poh-TAT-to.
          • 6 Years Ago
          So they just want the appearance. A V8 is part of what defined the American muscle car, and it seems pointless to buy a muscle car without what gives it the reputation. It doesn't have to be the absolute hottest V8 you can get for the car, but to get it with something less just seems to damage the very image that put the cars where they are today.
        • 6 Years Ago
        If I understood your theory correctly, Mustang buyers should forget the whopper V6 and go for a double whopper V8, right? Then why stop right there? Go for the triple whopper GT500. So basically every Mustang driver should be driving a GT500 or KR... riiiight.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Here's an post of mine from another forum on the same topic:

      The G8 V6 (auto only) gets 17/25--though the Solstice auto probably has sportier gearing, considering its class.

      The G8 V6 weighs 3885 lbs., and while the HHR SS is FWD vs. RWD for the G8, it weighs a slightly closer 3,280 lbs. Its Ratings are 19/28 (4 speed auto), 21/29 (5 speed manual).

      Those are gains of 2-4mpg city and 3-4mpg highway. With RWD and another 500+ lbs (probably much lighter than the V6), improvements probably wouldn't be as much, but with a 5 or 6 speed and a shape more sleek than the HHR brick (23/30 in a lighter, aero Cobalt SS) I would not be surprised to see at least 2mpg more city and highway than the V6. Consider that the V6 only makes +2mpg city and +1mpg highway over the much more powerful V8. This would then be another larger step up in fuel economy with a negligible change in power.

      Speaking of power, don't forget this:
      3.6L V6 = 248 lb-ft of torque at 2100 rpm
      2.0L i4 DI turbo = 260 lb-ft of torque @ 2500–5250 rpm

      -----------

      I am actually in the target demographic for this, in that I drive '98 Trans Am with the 5.7L V8 and fuel economy does matter to me. Unfortunately mine is paired with the 4-speed auto instead of the 6-speed manual, but it still gets a solid 24mpg hwy just like the rating says, and if I drive at 70-73mph on flat road, I have averaged a hair over 26 mpg on multiple trips. Combined mileage for me is usually just over 20-21mpg. It is not unheard of for manuals to get close to or even over 30mpg highway with their tall 6th gears.

      There was a time where I would have gone and said the Camaro would be my next car, but with fuel prices the way they are, I'm not so sure anymore. What happens when fuel gets up to $6/gal? It really takes the fun out of putting your foot down when all you see are the numbers ticking up faster at the pump.

      The market has proven that a 6 cylinder muscle/sports car is quite possible. First it was mostly on base models and lighter imports like British sports cars. But with more powerful 6's, the 350/370Z need make no apologies, nor does the Porsche Boxter or 911. With fuel prices going the way they are and the incredible output of the turbo 4's (probably most evident in the STi and EVO, and more recently in the SS/GXP/RL GM Ecotec turbo, Mopar SRT4, and Audi DI turbo 4), I see no reason why the same output should not be successful with better mileage.

      If the engine can put out 300 horses, it will be nearly as powerful as my V8, and will almost certainly be more efficient. I'm not sure that would sway me quite yet, but it's wearing me down. I'd probably rather have the turbo 4 than the V6 though. The V6 is good, but just doesn't save enough gas to make it worth giving up the V8. At least the 4 would be unique.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Even 4.00 gas is cheap in most of the world!I don't think we need to go directly to turbo 4s.How bout a nice 4.7 v8 with cylinder deactivation,direct injection and 400 h.p.? This would be a good partner to the 300+v6 GM already has.
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