The future lies with small, 4 cylinder engines

Once upon a time, people adored engine that had more than 6 cylinders, and practically worshipped the monstrous V12s. Make no mistake, they are still the gods in the auto industry, but it seems that the ecological awakening has thinned some of their supporters. An important contribution to that is the technological advance that allows small engines to have outputs comparable to V6 or even V8 engines.

USA Today says that the miniaturization process will continue well into the future. IHS Automotive, industry analyst, believes that soon all major manufacturers will fit small engines on their cars. Even more, companies like Mercedes-Benz will soon forsake the larger engines in favor of just 4 cylinders.

Already you can see signs of this process. You know something is brewing when not only the outright economic cars, barley able to fit a driver and a passenger, have a 4 cylinder engine, but some mid-sized cars too.

Another clue might be the relative success of those cars. Of course, that tendency is not the merit of an ecological conscience, but the rising prices of fuels too. Perhaps the latter aspect has an even heavier weight than we would like to admit in the decision making process, but the fact remains that cars with small capacity engines are becoming common sight.

IHS Automotive even has a prediction saying that in 2012 more than 12 million cars powered by small engines will be seen on the road. That is a substantial increase from the present 6.9 million units. “Americans are willing to accept smaller engines as long as there’s power,” IHS analyst Aaron Bragman stated for USA Today. This shows that the old mindset in which only something big equaled performance is on its way out.

As already mentioned, small 4 cylinder engines today can stand proud face to face with their larger cousins. Turbocharging, cylinder deactivation, direct injection, and start-stop systems, all join the collective effort of making a small engine develop as much power as a V8 would, but without the latter’s thirst or emission level.

On a worldwide level, European cars, as well as Japanese cars, already have an appetite for small engines that perform exemplary. In the years to come, we can expect Americans to follow suit. Already Ford and General Motors are investing heavily in developing powerful engines, engines that will have low emission levels and know what temperance means. The efforts of the two automakers have been recognized by their inclusion in Ward’s 10 Best Engine list for 2012.

Note, however, that the transition to 4 cylinders will be a slow one. The same techs that give it is edge can be fitted on a V6 and V8, boosting their performance level to unprecedented heights. And when faced with that option, you would have to have a shaky financial position to say no to a V8. It is something that you cannot pass on if you have the means to afford a car with 6 or 8 cylinders. So, enjoy the large engines while you can.

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