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
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
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.