2011 Buick Regal

2011 Hyundai Sonata
New report from the Detroit News suggests that the V6 engine could be on a downward spiral

With all of this talk about eco-friendliness and fuel efficiency, it seems as though many manufacturers are starting to listen to their customers when it comes to their tastes in new vehicles. It wasn't long ago when 90's era Ford Crown Victorias used 4.6-liter V8 engines to pump out a "measly" 210 hp. Nowadays, your typical 3.5-liter V6 Camry, Accord, or Altima can pump out 260+ hp without breaking a sweat.

However, even with all of that power available, it looks as though many Americans have come to the realization that they don't really need close to 300 hp to shuttle Jr. to school or to soccer practice. As we come upon an age of reduced earnings and keeping a closer eye on cash flow, many consumers (and auto manufacturers) are looking to more economical powertrain options for new vehicles.

Detroit News has taken a look at this trend and how even the venerable V6 engine is giving way to smaller naturally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinder engines for mainstream passenger cars. It's no secret that compact vehicles have long used four-cylinder engines as their choice of motivation. Even larger mid-sized vehicles use them for base engines, but typically offer a more powerful V6 option for those that crave a little more "go" when they mash on the pedal.

However, the tide may be slowly turning to phase out V6 engines for volume sellers. It has been a common convention among mid-sized vehicles for the four-cylinder models to greatly outsell its V6 counterparts. As recently as 2007, 81.5% of Toyota's passenger cars featured 4-cylinder engines; Honda wasn't far behind with 78.2%.

As technologies like direct injection and turbocharging give four-cylinder engines more power and greater fuel economy, the need for V6 engines is waning. Detroit News points to the example of the Ford Fusion which saw a 2006 take rate of 43% for the four-cylinder model. In 2009, it was up to 73%.

In the case of the new Buick Regal which will be coming our way soon, it will only be available with a naturally aspirated or turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This also happens to be the case for the all-new 2011 Hyundai Sonata which will drop the V6 option that previous generations of the vehicle have carried for quite some time.

The use of four-cylinder engines also might have a lot to do with upcoming CAFE regulations which will require automakers to achieve a fleetwide average of 35.5 mpg. Hyundai, with its previously mentioned 2011 Sonata, is looking at fuel economy ratings of 23 mpg city / 35 mpg highway from its 198 hp direct injection four-cylinder engine.

In the end, something must be done to get passenger cars up to 39 mpg (a goal that has been targeted for 2016) and it looks as though an increasing reliance on four-bangers is just one way to achieve that goal.

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