When you think V8, you think American car, and when you think American Car, you generally think V8. But things are starting to change. Radically. To the point where it’s starting to look like beginning of the end for the venerable 8-cylinder V engine that, for decades, has made the American automobile famous.
Some will think I’m nuts or maybe just a doomsayer, but let’s take a look at the facts.
The arrival of electronics has breathed new life into the internal combustion engine. The progress made in terms of reliability, power and pollution reduction in the past 20 years has been significant. Take Volkswagen’s 2-litre, direct injection turbo engine, for instance: it now produces 200 hp, 100 hp per liter of displacement, while a few years ago we only managed to wring out 50 hp per litre. Another telling example is Ford’s EcoBoost family of engines, four-cylinder and V6 mills with direct injection, turbochargers and variable valve timing. In its 4-cylinder, 2-litre incarnation, the EcoBoost produces 230 hp (115 hp / L) and 240 ft-lb of torque. When you consider that the 4.6-litre V8 engine of a 2000 Mustang generated 260 hp (56.5 hp / L), it’s obvious that things have evolved quite a bit in just 10 years.
And it’s not over, as the next engine revolution will be coming from Italy in the shape of Fiat and its ingenious MultiAir system
, which will be featured in the new lineup of Chrysler models. On the 1.4-litre Alfa Romeo MiTo
, MultiAir enables a 170-hp output. That’s over 120 hp / L. If we extrapolate these numbers to the new 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, we get a theoretical engine output of 432 hp.
Will the V8 become obsolete? “Yes,” says Professor Rinaldo Rinolfi, inventor of MultiAir. “No one really needs more than 400 hp in a family car. The V8 is doomed to extinction.”
And if I told you that I tried the prototype of a Fiat 500
powered by a 900-cc (0.9-litre), 2-cylinder MultiAir and that it handled like a great 1.6-litre four-banger, would you believe me?