I remember when I was a kid, the size of an engine was everything. In Australia, it was all about the V8. If your Dad had one in his Holden or Ford, that was cool. Manufacturers later took this to a whole new level. Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Ferrari, Chevrolet and even Dodge started putting huge V8’s, V10’s and V12’s in their high performance cars. Boy how times have changed. This last decade has seen a massive swing against these giant displacement engines. Smaller engine sizes with very efficient turbocharging are not only delivering equal or superior power, performance and driveability but in many cases they are reducing the fuel economy by more than half.
Take a 2008 model BMW M5 for example. This 5 liter V10, 373 kw fire breathing engine could offer no better than 22.7 liters per 100 kms from urban driving. Now lets compare that with Audi’s latest RS6, BMW’s M5 competitor. It has a 4 liter, twin turbocharged V8 producing an interplanetary 412kw and will return just 13.9 liters per 100 kms from urban driving. That is in an entirely different stratosphere.
The same can be said for many of the smaller engines on the marketplace today. I do however want to point out a major difference here between many European & Asian manufacturers. While car makers like Toyota and Mazda have been sitting on their hands producing old technology engines that offer very little in performance or fuel economy, the Europeans are killing them in comparison.
A good example is the 2013 Toyota Corolla. One of Australia’s best selling cars. They offer a 1.8 liter 4 cylinder engine that produces only 100 kw and an urban cycle fuel economy of 9.7 liters per 100 kms. Now compare that to the latest entry level Golf from VW. It has a 1.4 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 103 kw and offers a Corolla smashing urban just 6.3 liters per 100 kms. Not only does VW’s engine outperform Toyota’s in every way but it is also substantially greener with much lower emissions. I've often wondered why they sell so many Corollas here in comparison to Europe. I can only put it down to how informed the Australian motoring public really is. This is slowly changing though. I note that the VW Golf has just received the Wheels Car Of The Year Award.
I have side tracked a little from where this thread started. Large engine displacement is a thing of the past. New technologies are being introduced (mostly by the Europeans I might add) at a fast rate. Formula 1 and Sportscar (LeMans racers) technology is just around the corner. It won't be long before production cars have energy regeneration devices like KERS (kinetic energy regeneration system) which harness the energy from braking and uses this energy to power the motor saving on fuel and offering more performance.
With ever stricter emission regulations and environmental lobbyists breathing down the neck of the manufacturers, it is amazing how far the manufacturers have come. I cant wait to see what is coming next.