The General's Rebuttal
GM's current predicament is the product of corporate mismanagement, and hardly reflects upon the competence of its powertrain engineers. For decades, the company has been churning out world-class engines, but it rarely built quality containers to put them in. The 3.6L direct-injection V-6, currently available in the Cadillac CTS and Chevy Camaro, is a prime example of GM's engineering talents. This DOHC, 24-valve six-banger with variable valve timing kicks out 304 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. In the Caddy, it delivers 17 mpg around town, and 26 mpg on the freeway. Likewise, the direct-injected 2.0L turbo four-cylinder offered in the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky-also equipped with a four-valve-per-cylinder head and variable valve timing-produce 260 hp and 260 lb-ft while knocking down 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the freeway.
Arguably the best example of all is GM's already-legendary LS-series small-block V-8. Although there are more than two dozen variants in existence, they all share several things in common: outstanding power, excellent fuel mileage, low mass, and compact external dimensions. To further improve the output and fuel economy of the LS engine platform, they're now available with features such as variable valve timing, and active cylinder deactivation. In the Pontiac G8's 6.0L V-8, it all amounts to 361 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 15 mpg in town and 24 mpg on the interstate. Granted that's a bit off the mark when compared to the Lincoln MKS' EcoBoost V-6, despite the fact that the G8 is nearly 400 pounds lighter, those figures would surely see a nice boost with the integration of a direct-injection fuel system. This begs the question, is the V-8 really a problem, or is it merely suffering from an image problem from a green-happy general public? Hopefully the Feds will let GM's engineers freely go about their business so we'll one day find out. -Stephen Kim
Cafe Con Leche?
Don't worry, the staff here at PHR has no intention of transforming into wienies who care more about camshaft and valve count than the actual power an engine puts out. In fact, we constantly have to talk ourselves out of putting a big-block into every project car we build. That said, we very much embrace fuel-efficient, small-displacement engines for one simple reason: CAFE standards. Corporate Average Fuel Economy is merely the average fuel economy of an automakers' entire fleet of car models. The exact figure a manufacturer's fleet must meet is determined by the Feds. Once the 35.5-mpg CAFE standard kicks in come 2016, a car that achieves less than the required corporate average can be offset by a car that gets more than the corporate average. In other words, a manufacturer that builds a large number of cars that deliver greater than 35.5 mpg has the flexibility to produce performance cars that get less than 35.5 mpg. With the 35.5 CAFE target in mind for 2016, new car makers can now set a long-term game plan of how to offer a diverse mix of fuel-efficient vehicles and performance machines. Like we said, if boosting the mpg of the average commuter cars improves the odds of performance cars sticking around, we're all for fuel-efficient, small-displacement engines. -Stephen Kim