Four Bangers in $50k Cars

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You get a lot less under the hood for your money than you used to; ever wonder why?

Now you know!

. . .

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25 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Eric, Always wonder, given todays advances in every field of technology, if it weren’t for regulation – what types of cars would we be able to buy today?? ( I suspect thats an article in itself)

    • Hi Nasir,

      Well, we’d certainly have more choices! I suspect there would be a broader spectrum, too – including very basic cars priced around $8,000 or even less that would be marketed at teens/first-time buyers or the frugal of all ages. These would be inexpensive because they could be made without air bags and the structure necessary to “comply” with government impact-resistance fatwas. There would also be extremely efficient cars – because it would be feasible to build extremely light cars. Imagine what a 50 MPG-capable diesel engine in a 3,400 car could deliver in a car that weighed 1,000 lbs. less. There would also be less homogeneity. Designers would be able to run free and try weird and strange and beautiful designs – as they once did but no longer can.

      • Really think there will me more something for everyone. There will on one end be super lights, and strangely I think there will be MORE electric cars, as in something like a Tata nano with an electric motor for city runs makes a lot more sense than say a full sized American sedan/SUV with runs on batteries. Also if that was around the 8k mark I suspect it will be more affordable for a second car for people to do the school / town run, especially in big cities.

        On the other end, I suspect 1000 HP wont be a big deal (for those who prefer) – given FCA cars can, in about $80K get an 800 HP engine today with all the regulation and compliance cost and restrictions…

        And yes for those who want safety over all – im sure Volvo will still be (profitably) making ultra boring cars with all sorts of bells, whistles, safety features, crash prevention, dozens of airbags…. etc etc….

    • Eric, also with these 4 bangers that are either turbo or supercharged or in the case of Volvo, both, I love the fact, as you have repeatedly pointed out, lack of longevity.

      Take a nice hot summer day, 95 degrees outside, under the hood, how much? 120 deg? Now roll up to a stoplight, with ASS, (auto start-stop) the engine turns off, guess what, no oil flowing through the bearings on the turbo or supercharger, and as you have pointed out, the electrical system that has to be beefed up to handle ASS.. hey.. good times, not. Doubt those new $85k CX90 Volvos will see 100,000 miles before a major service, but hey, in 2021, (I think, Volvo CEO gunna limit top speed to 102 as I recall, he knows best)

      my fav quote right now: If there were just an additional tax I could pay, to make climate change go away.

  2. That “3-5 MPG” difference is only really on paper. If ya drive the 4-banger turbo to take advantage of the turbo (which is the whole point- to make it comparable to driving a car with a bigger engine) it’ll get no better mileage than the bigger non-turbo engine- in fact, it’ll often get worse- as people are starting to find out with these stoopit 4cyl. full-sized pick’em-up trucks.

    So really, all that’s being achieved is having a vehicle whose engine will wear-out a lot sooner….and these engines are too complex/expensive to make replacement worthwhile….so the car is scrapped- thus depriving us of yet another used car…and requiring that yet more “resources” be used to manufacture new cars sooner than would have been necessary had the government not made it it’s business to “save the planet”.

    • The idea isn’t to save fuel in the real world, the idea is to save fuel on the government test. Politics loves scams and illusions and fuel economy standards are not immune to this. Engineering to the standard while pleasing the customer can often be difficult and there are many ways to achieve it but they can often come at some drawback or temporary hassle for the customer.

      As to wearing out prematurely the vehicles all need to pass the same internal corporate standards and those are worse than real world floggings. Even the lower stressed bigger engine vehicles don’t survive in the real world much beyond what they are tested to because most people don’t take care of them. So the real difference, if there is any, will be in the cared for vehicles where something expensive breaks and keeping it becomes debatable. My guess is that the non-engine stuff will result in more premature mortality. The expensive touch screen that is used to control everything for instance. Few people will look to the aftermarket to fix this stuff cheaply. The dealer will tell them it’s $2500 and they’ll scrap the car or trade it in. Maybe in the later it will be saved because the dealer could find a way to do it cheaply.

      • Simply not true. Most port injected naturally aspirated engines of the 90s and 2000s have no trouble making it to 300,000 miles even with less than ideal maintenance. Usually the rest of the car falls apart before the engine has issues. The overstressed turbo engines of today will under no circumstance do the same. Most modern dealerships have plenty of old engines in a corner. This was not the case before.

        • Hi Mattacks,

          I can offer some anecdotal evidence in support of what you’ve written. Two of my friends are professional mechanics, have their own shops. Both regularly replace turbos on cars – all makes – with relatively low mileage (-150k) on them.

          Several with under 100k on them.

    • I had a hemi 300 as a rental about a year ago and I was genuinely impressed. This is from someone who puts Chrysler on the bottom of any manufacturing hierarchy.

  3. I think the biggest issue is the longevity. They have figured out how to balance these pretty good and they run a lot of boost for good power. The problem is that the reliability of these engines isn’t the same as the old naturally aspirated sixes and eights. I have seen plenty of these go boom on dealer maintained cars about 6-8 years old and between 60-100 thousand miles. Most also require premium fuel.

  4. Eric,

    Thanks for the video. What I don’t understand though is why BMW, Mercedes, et al feel COMPELLED to comply with mileage mandates, i.e. CAFE. What’s the worst that’ll happen? Their cars get hit with a “gas guzzler” tax. If someone is spending $50K or more on the car, aren’t they buying it for other reasons besides fuel economy? Can’t they easily spend the extra on a gas guzzler tax? If someone is spending over $50K on a car, what’s another few grand-especially if they get a V8 or V12 in the bargain?

    I can see why Ford, Toyota, GM, etc. are worried about meeting CAFE standards; their buyers simply can’t afford to pay an extra few grand for a car. Ergo, they go out of their way to meet the CAFE standards. People buying luxury cars don’t have the same financial constraints; if the Lexus sells for $55K instead of 50K, the buyer will still be able to afford it. So WHY are the luxury car makers worried about CAFE? Why do they care? I don’t get it…

    • Don’t forget that because all car makers want a piece of that sweet, sweet Chinese market, they use the 2.0 Turbo engine to comply with Chinese engine-displacement taxes.

      That’s the main driver of this 2.0 Turbos For Everybody business.

      • Again, my main point applies: someone who can AFFORD that kind of car won’t balk at having to spend a few grand more to get the exclusivity and cachet that comes with having something that few others can afford. If having a sweet, silky smooth, and powerful V8 or V12 is important to someone, then spending extra money won’t stop them from buying the car.

        • Then let me suggest another possibility.

          I don’t think that people who can afford a formerly-V12-equipped car REALLY care about it having a V12. What they care about is showing off their ability to afford something expensive and prestigious.

          So if you, the car company, can convince your buyers that the V12 isn’t necessary for them to be seen as rich, they won’t insist on the V12 and you just increased the amount of profit relative to the car’s MSRP.

          • I don’t know. If I were well heeled enough to buy a car like that, I sure as hell wouldn’t want a FOUR BANGER in it! Four bangers are associated with economy cars, especially with those of us who have been around for a while. If I’m paying for exclusivity, cachet, etc., then I want ALL the trappings thereof.

            There’s also the SOUND; nothing will sound like a V12! No four banger will ever sound like that.

            I could see what you say applying to the Chinese market, since the general population didn’t have automobiles until recent years. You think of Beijing, you think of the Beijing bicycle. Since they don’t have a car tradition like we do, then it won’t matter to the Chinese; the V12 won’t matter to them, since they never had it. OTOH, the Europeans and Americans have a long term love affair with the car, so those extra things will matter to them-ESPECIALLY if they’re buying a high priced luxury car…

            • It’s worked before.

              Hatchbacks were once universally regarded as lame penalty boxes until The Marketing Department convinced people that they were actually practical, easy-to-park, miniature luxury vehicles.

      • The 2.0 liter displacement is also the max size before European taxes hit hard. In essence, we get what the world gets, not the other way around.

        Having driven a 2.0 turbo as a loaner, I can vouch that they do the sprints but feel markedly different in their delivery. No doubt a naturally aspirated six is still going to sound and feel more normal. If you drive the turbo four hard, it also pisses away more gas than the unboosted six. There is actually no upside to the consumer with those turbo fours, and I think Eric hit the nail on the head with regard to the pride in going with the six or even something else larger.

    • BMW et al were paying CAFE penalties each year, likely still are. However the fedgov increased them. Basically none of the automakers have the old school guts to fight any more. Also note that Germany has severe displacement taxes and most cars people buy there are 1.6L as a result. So they already have the small engines.

  5. And in other news, there were spontaneous demonstrations all over Oceania praising Big Brother for increasing the cylinder ration to four per car…

    • Like the Soviet-era hard-currency stores that catered to the nomenklatura (and still do in Cuba), automotive marques offering the heady luxury of six, eight and (so it is rumored) even twelve cylinder engines mostly cater to a privileged elite.

      Proles must content themselves with the standard-issue 2-liter four. Like the bread ration, the workhorse 2-liter four sustains basic transport in a tattered empire where the naive consumer dreams of the 1960s have become distant, discordant fantasies.

      Fortunately no one visits libraries anymore, where in dusty archives they might encountering disturbing images of insolent middle-class entitlement (and climate-murdering V8 engines) such as this one:

      http://www.carstyling.ru/resources/classic/large/1955_Ford_Thunderbird_ads_01.jpg

      Might want to archive such automotive Entartete Kunst before Google disappears it.

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