Inside Extreme Scale Tech|Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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2013: Rise of the Four-Cylinder 

It’s been years since auto-enthusiasts successfully predicted the decline and eventual demise of the V8 engine. British TV personality Jeremy Clarkson even dedicated a feature to re-purposing a Corvette engine to create a V8-powered blender, and later a V8-powered rocking chair in an effort to find a home for the abandoned technology. But few could have predicted that the V6 would suffer the same fate.

The warning signs emerged in 2010, when Korean car makers Hyundai and Kia released their popular mid-size sedans – the Sonata and Kia, respectively – without even a V6 option. At the time, the move seemed foolish at best, with auto giants such as Honda, Ford, Toyota and GM easily delivering 200 horsepower to their mid-size competitors.

But when the Optima and Sonata jumped to the top of the totem pole for fuel-economy and power, it was clear that the V6 was on its way out. Bumping the sedans’ four-cylinders into a competitive position was direct injection and turbocharging. When combined with the lower weight (thanks to ditching the bulkier, heavier V6) and the superior fuel-economy inherent in four-cylinders, an advantage was solidified.

Now the V6 dominates only the markets for performance vehicles and big SUVs. With Hyundai and Kia blazing the trail, many vehicles offering V6 engines in the past, such as the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and Mazda 6 have removed this option for 2013 models.

Even the thirstiest of these three, the 2013 Ford Fusion, offers clear improvements after its transition. The 2013 model puts out 240 hp and 270 lbs-ft of torque with its 2.0L four-cylinder engine, pumping out the same power, 47 more lb-ft of torque and offers at least 5 mpg more than the 3.0L V6 model Ford used to offer.

According to Devin Lindsay, powertrain analyst at IHS, this transition to more fuel-efficient vehicles is partially of the result of knowing the market. While SUVs may be advertized hauling a 6-horse gooseneck trailer, most users won’t ever haul more than a jetski, whereas sedan owners are most often driving their families around town – applications for which a turbocharged four-cylinder is more than sufficient.

As for the V6, the future looks bleak. Ford has already transitioned a turbo-4 engine into the full-size Taurus sedan, and there are rumors that even the performance-focused Mustang see the turbocharged four-cylinder in its future.

Full story at AutoGuide

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