The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine movement

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A cutaway photograph of Nissan M9R 2.0L Straight-4 DOHC Common rail Diesel Engine installed in 2nd genaration Nissan X-trail.

Now that's a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that anyone can admire. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Hatsukari715/Wikipedia)

The move toward smaller engines across the automotive industry has hit high gear, reports the Detroit Free Press. Yet these 2.0-liter marvels don’t necessarily sacrifice power. These four-cylinder engines have broken through the economy car barrier and found a place in high-powered sport sedans, roadsters and even crossover SUVs.

Tuning up for 2.0

Tom Murphy, executive editor of Wards AutoWorld, noted that the automotive industry’s move toward 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engines is a significant shift away from the huge, power-laden monstrosities of years past. General Motors and Ford built mediocre four-cylinders for years, and now they’re reportedly at the forefront of smaller engine production. The U.S. automakers’ engine displacement technology now rivals that of Audi, BMW and Volkswagen, who have traditionally been masters in the field, as well as Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia.

No sacrifice

Industry forecaster IHS Automotive predicts that the use of four-cylinder, 2.0-liter engines in North America will increase by 74 percent over the next 10 years, from 6.9 million today to 12.2 million by 2022. A natural by-product of this shift is that V6 and V8 engine use in North America will fall by about 17 percent over the same period, said IHS.

Consumers used to the power of V6 and V8 engines won’t miss the power when shifting to four-cylinder, according to the Free Press. That’s because the latest engine technology not only hits the same power marks thanks to turbocharging, high-pressure fuel injection straight to the cylinders, new electronic controls and souped-up transmissions. The new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines also use less fuel and produce less waste.

“Americans are willing to accept smaller engines as long as there’s power,” said IHS analyst Aaron Bragman. “This is where the industry is headed.”

Muscle car power that is ‘off the charts’

In reference to the 2.0-liter, direct-injection, four-cylinder turbocharged engine in the most recent incarnation of the Buick Regal GS, Murphy did not mince words over the 270 horsepower, 27 mpg marvel.

“The power is off the chart. GM has polished that engine to a fine sheen,” Murphy said. “The trend to 2.0-liter engines is a phenomenon. Certain brands have decided they don’t even need to offer a V6 in their midsize sedans. The new four-cylinder engines can power the vast majority of passenger cars and crossovers. This is the next generation of muscle cars.”

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The limits of 2.0

While the sky may seem to be the limit with the latest 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, there are limitations. In Ford’s 3,998-pound Edge crossover, reports have been good. However, reports on performance in the 4,500-pound Explorer are less enthusiastic. Critics note that once carbon fiber construction becomes more cost effective, even larger vehicles will perform well with a 2.0-liter.

Three-dimensional engine displacement illustration


Detroit Free Press

Engine displacement Wiki

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