• Feb 2, 2011
Back in 2008, soaring gas prices sent car buyers in search of efficient four-cylinder vehicles and, as the numbers show, sales of V6 and V8 engines dropped from 63.9 percent to 57.1 percent when gas prices spiked. Though elevated fuel costs may have triggered the increased demand for four-cylinder power a few years ago, the numbers show that the four-banger's rise to dominance continues.

According to data posted by Ward's Auto, the V8 engine powered a mere 20.8 percent of the total North American light-vehicle output in 2010, down from the 22.8 percent in 2009. In contrast, the four-cylinder engine powered 64.5 percent of all cars built in 2010, an increase from the 61.9 percent in 2009. Ward's chalks up the rising popularity of the once-lowly four-banger to technical improvements, such as direct injection, turbocharging and variable valve timing systems, that have transformed some four-cylinder engines into potent mills that consume significantly less fuel than many V6 and V8 engines.

[Source: Ward's Auto – sub. req.]


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  • 38 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      With Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen all up in fire it is only a matter of time until Saudi Arabia erupts. At that point 95% of all cars will be with 4 cylinders.
        • 3 Years Ago
        If you have to ask, you can't afford it. They'll pry my V8 from my cold, dead fingers.
        • 3 Years Ago
        First, it won't go that far in the middle east.

        Second, OEMs don't react that fast. At best, the mix might move to 80% of cars with 4-bangers.

        Third, if it ever gets the point at which people can really choose their cars and engines for absolute maximum fuel economy, we'll see the return of the 3-cylinder, along with 2-banger V-twins and boxers.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Ladies and Gents despite the administration shutting down Anwar and the coasts of the US, I think you may find this interesting, and the projected demise of the V-8 may be too early--

        http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1911

      • 3 Years Ago
      Then 30% of the cars are V8s lurking all round the US. *joke*
      • 3 Years Ago
      Yes i understand the point of saving gas and smaller engines.....but it saddens me to think that the rumble of a HEMI(or any other nice V8) could one day be gone and replaced with the common microwave sounding 4 bangers
      • 3 Years Ago
      A high displacement 4-banger has the power a V6 had not too long ago.
        • 3 Years Ago
        OTOH, a low-displacement, long-stroke I-6 or H-6 will make smoother power more efficiently.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Am I the only one that thinks this is a good thing? As stringent as the new CAFE standards are, what it's done is push new ways to improve upon engine tech, which hasn't changed all that much since it was introduced more than a century ago.

      The 2.0T from the Sonata makes 274hp and gets 34MPG. A 10 year old Toyota Camry made half that and barely cracked 30MPG when driven frugally.
        • 3 Years Ago
        More power using less fuel while sometimes even weighing less is definately a good thing. When considering engine performance, I just care the power curve and weight. I don't really care how many cylinders it needs to get the job done. Maintenance wise, I love 4 bangers, especially on front wheel drive cars. I have decided that I will never again buy a car that has spark plugs against the fire wall and an engine that I can't get my arms around. I hope that "V" engines become extinct on front wheel drive cars. I do fear a bit, however, the complication of controls that come with direct injected turbo. Trucks and rear wheel drive sports cars can much more naturally accomodate a V-6 or V-8, but even in this case, I'd gradly trade for lower displacement given the same power as long as durability is not compromised.
        • 3 Years Ago
        No you are not the only one that sees this as a very good thing.

        I see almost no reason to need anything bigger than a V6 (even for truck duties), and a 4-banger is perfectly fine for most "regular" car applications. Turbocharge the sucker and you'll have more power than V6s and V8s had a few years ago.

        The lazy engineering that we have had in the US for the past ~30 years is proof positive that unless companies are prodded to increase efficiency, they simply won't... MPG ratings for cars barely moved in about 3 decades (and actually went DOWN if you factor in people moving to SUVs) because CAFE standards haven't gone up since the early 80s. Now all of a sudden you are getting 4-cylinder cars with MORE power and better fuel economy than 6-cylinder cars were capable of producing just a few years ago.

        As the saying goes:
        Necessity is the mother of invention, and the car industry is better for it.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I was surprised the % was so low, but then i realized that "light vehicle" includes pick-ups 1 ton and under. If the statistic were truly limited to "Cars" i am sure it would be much higher.

      The increase in purchase price of the larger engines is also an issue.
      rjander03
      • 3 Years Ago
      How much power do you think is left in these turboed 4's before you start seriously threatening engine life? I've never owned an OEM turbo car but I like the idea of upgrading an engine that was designed from the ground up for forced induction. I've seen stock internal Honda engines make double the crankshaft power at the wheels for years with no problems whatsoever on a good tune and short of a couple hiccups that you'd expect from an amateur wrench learning the curve and my first ghettocharging experiment on a shoestring budget I've never had a mechanical failure with an FI Honda. What would the ceiling be on a ground up turbo engine?
        rjander03
        • 3 Years Ago
        @rjander03
        I'm well versed in FI builds for Hondas. My question was about OEM turbo cars and, being designed from the ground up for FI, how much power was left in them before the integrity of the engine was threatened. I'm not an engineer but I would assume everything about the construction of an OEM is more robust than a comparable NA engine. If a stock NA Honda engine can safely and reliably make double the crank hp at the wheels with the addition of a turbo, what's the ceiling for an engine designed from the ground up for FI? 3X? 4X?
        • 3 Years Ago
        @rjander03
        "What would the ceiling be on a ground up turbo engine?"

        15 years ago, the BMW M12 turbo 4 made 1300 hp on 1.5 liters.

        Other engines of the same vintage were making up to 1500 hp from the same displacement.

        Of course, that was way back when Formula 1 really was the pinnacle of motorsport, rather than just another spec series.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @rjander03
        there is not much difference between the normal NA and turbo engine.
        you create create turbo engine from a NA engine, by machining 1mm or around that from the pistons or a add a fatter gaskit, but i would choose from the modified pistons or a buy a set purpose build pistons.
        but in case they are not avaiable, you CAN remove some material from the pistons.
        there is usaully enough meat on the pistons, so something can be removed safely.

        i own a book intented for mechanics and covers all engines from 82 to 92 and i studied it long time ago(i own this book since 93).
        the NA engine is mostly 11.x:1 compression, the turbo version of the same engine is 9.x:1.

        some math regarding the octane(compression) and boost you wish to use.
        you need to find a fuel injector with bigger capacity, intercooler and some plumming, maybe some ecu tweak.

        it can be done for less than 3000us$.

        p.s. i have seen people machining a fat gaskit from copper.
      • 3 Years Ago
      And if you use that increased 4-cyl power very often, you won't keep the mileage improvement of the 4-cyl. In fact, you could end up being worse off than that 6 cyl.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I still own my F-250 6.0 but ended up getting a little 2.0 liter TDI Golf. Apples and oranges, but the little 4 cylinder is fun to drive and gets great fuel mileage.
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Ecoboost 4 is a good example.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't think I'm going to be selling my F250 Powerstroke anytime soon but I did add a 4cyl. 2011 Equinox that gets 32 mpg and is quite comfortable. It gets the job done when I'm not pulling or hauling.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Still, a four cylinder is not efficient enough. A four cylinder DIESEL is way more efficient.
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