Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Jim asks: Had a dream about a Jaguar E-type that I rode in long ago. Was shocked by how much its burly DOHC inline six rumbled like a V8 muscle car. But in the desirable golden era from the early 1990s to early 2000s, there aren’t many non-exotic inline six sports cars to choose from. The Lexus SC300 comes to mind, though it was made only in a coupe. Nissan’s Skyline, with its legendary RB26 inline six, wasn’t offered in the US, though some individually imported, right-hand-drive models sell in the $30,000 to $60,000 range. BMW’s Z3, sold in the US from 1997 to 2002 with inline sixes ranging from 2.3 to 3.2 liters, seems like the most accessible choice. Roadsters (sans the high-end M-package, but with convertible tops) can be found in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Am I missing any great six-cylinder sports cars from this era?
My reply: You’ve already named most of them, unfortunately. In-line sixes have become scarce – and expensive – for the same reason that V8s have become scarce and expensive. I bet you already know the answer . . .
Specifically, government regulations pertaining to miles–per-gallon minimums and “emissions” (chiefly, of carbon dioxide) maximums. The larger the engine, the more fuel it uses and the more “greenhouse” gasses it produces. Leaving aside the legitimacy of government having anything to do with stipulating the mileage any car must deliver – and the bogusness of carbon dioxide “emissions” – the fact remains these two items exert a powerful incentive to not manufacturer engines larger than about 2.0 liters, which pretty much means four cylinder engines – the power lost by the reduction in size made up for by an increase in boost (i.e., turbocharging).
But they don’t have the same charm, eh? An inline six has a particularly excellent sound – as does a V8. But these sounds are a memory of that better, vanished time Rush wrote the song about.
Luckily we can still get those sounds – just not in something new and inexpensive!
. . .
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