Four-Cylinder Engines Now Most Popular in US

For years, American motorists showed an overwhelming preference for V8s and V6s. However, according to statistics released from J.D. Power and Associates, that’s significantly changed in recent times; more than 50 percent of new vehicles purchased in the U.S. so far this year have been powered by four-cylinder engines – an increase from 36 percent five years ago.

As for the reasoning, it’s likely due to a combination of different factors. Perhaps the most obvious is the perceived improvements in fuel mileage offered by fewer cylinders and smaller displacement, certainly among consumers. Another is the need for auto manufacturers to meet tougher fuel economy standards in coming years.

However, traditionally going with downsized engines and fewer cylinders meant dispensing with that wonderful torque and acceleration Americans crave. But thanks to advances in forced induction technology, notably turbochargers, combined with more efficient fuel delivery, such as direct injection, means it’s now possible to offer four-cylinder economy with the power of a V6 or V8.

In fact, among domestic automakers, long considered as the last bastion for large displacement engines, hyper aspirated four-cylinders are gaining a foothold in larger vehicles and performance applications. Ford is introducing a turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four in its largest car the Taurus (shown above); a machine that not too long ago relied solely on V6s, while its popular Escape SUV is now exclusively four-cylinder powered.

Even at General Motors, four-cylinders are taking hold, Chevy’s Cruze compact only offers small-displacement four-cylinder engines and even premium offerings like the Buick Verano and Regal are emphasizing four-pot motors, where once it was V6s and even V8s. For some foreign automakers, it’s a similar story; Hyundai’s mid-size Sonata currently offers just four-cylinder engines, in normally aspirated, turbocharged and hybrid forms (the previous generation had V6s).

The question is, will four-cylinders continue on the path to become the engine of choice here, much as they have been in Europe for decades? Or will advances in technology, such as stop/start, cylinder deactivation and electrically driven accessories like A/C and power steering, as well as transmission and gearing improvements mean that the V8 will still have a place in American motoring culture?

Associated Press via Green Car Reports

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  • DownUnder

    Your question: … V8 will still have a place in American motoring culture? All the mentioned features are still applied to 4 engine cars (maybe not the cylender deactivation), so the answer is simple.
    All depends heavily on the price of fuel, IMHO.

  • Van

    Long ago, i.e. Model A Ford, 4 bangers were common. Then in a quest for more power, we got straight 6, straight 8, and of course the fabulous V-8. My 1957 Chevy had a 4 barrel carb and dual exhaust and was claimed to have over 200 horsepower. It got about 16 MPG overall.

    Those old engines started being modified with the awareness that the lead in gasoline was harming our health, and so things were added to supposed my the old design less polluting. My 1978 Chevy would hardly run, it has so much smog equipment stuffed under the hood.

    But then a technology breakthrough, electric fuel injection, allowed engines to run well again without all those blowers and hoses and who knows what. My 1986 Buick Century with a 2.5 liter 4 banger, ran well and got 36 MPG highway with the AC on. But it had only 150 HP, and so seemed to me to be underpowered.

    As we know, the average fuel economy number declined in spite of advances in design so my 93 V6 got 30 Highway, and my 2004 V6 gets just under 30 MPG highway. But it has 210 Hp, so it moves out like the ol 57.

    I drool over the 2012 Camry Hybrid, sporting 200 HP and yet would get almost twice the mileage of my 2004.

    Many non-hybrid 4 bangers with direct injection are rated near 175 HP, and then the turbo versions exceed 200.

    The question that remains is longevity, will the hard working 4 last as long, i.e. 200,000 miles as our V-6 engines? All my old cars, American made, petty much were done after 130,000 miles, but my current Toyota has 167,000 and seems like new, plenty of power (192 hp) and ok mileage (30 highway).

    Modern cars, i.e. with a 3.5 liter V-6, sport 250 to 300 hp, more than needed if we use cars of yesteryear as a benchmark.

  • CharlesF

    @Van, I think all of the engines have gotten a lot better. I saw 174174 miles on my 2004 Ford 4 banger today. When we need to haul more than the 2006 Prius can handle, we take the Focus wagon. So both myself and my SO trust the high mileage Ford. That is a real change for my SO. She was not very happy with me when she saw a Ford in the driveway. Maddest she has ever been with me. Thank god it has been a good to great car. I think our next car will be the C-Max plug in, and she will not be upset with me.

    BTW the 2.3L 4 banger is PZEV and puts out 144 HP. About the same as some of the late 80’s and early 90’s 3L V6s.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    This is one of the effects from the world hitting peak conventional oil back in 2005…..


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