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Volkswagen has just unveiled cylinder deactivation technology for its 1.4-liter, four-cylinder TSI engine. This represents a world first for cylinder shutoff tech adapted for use on a four-cylinder engine.

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Four cylinder engines have replaced sixes as the engine of choice for U.S. consumers, powering 43 percent of light vehicles sold in the first six months of 2011, according to IHS Automotive.

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It matters not whether you want to chalk it up to rising fuel prices or a gradual change in vehicle buying preferences, the reality is that the American public keeps snatching up fuel-efficient vehicles powered by four-cylinder engines. Of course, soaring demand for four-cylinder-engined vehicles means that automakers must pump up output of the once-lowly four-bangers. General Motors is doing exactly that.

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Back in 2007, models equipped with four-cylinder engines represented just 23 percent of Chevrolet's retail sales in the U.S. Back then, both V6- and V8-powered Chevy models outsold the four banger, but now we're well into 2011, and the tide has turned.

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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.

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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.

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Hyundai made some news last fall when it launched the all-new 2011 Sonata with a four-cylinder-only engine lineup. It now looks like General Motors might be following suit for its mid-sizers. By leaving out larger V6 engines as a possibility, Hyundai was able to design a lighter structure while still meeting new safety requirements and maintaining passenger volume. GM has already opted for four-cylinder engines in the new Buick Regal even though it didn't get any structural weight advantage sinc

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Mini Cooper four-cylinder engine - Click above for high-res image

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Turning the past completely upside down, four cylinder engines marched up ten percent to further solidify the market dominance of lower cylinder count powertrains. According to Ward's Automotive, nearly 62 percent of cars produced in 2009 carried four bangers, up ten percent in just a year from 2008's 51.7 percent. Despite the V8 engine's precipitous fall from a high of being fitted to 88 percent of all cars sold in 1969, there's a sweet spot for the smaller powerplants, too.

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2010 Buick LaCrosse - Click above for high-res image gallery

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