Wave goodbye to V-8 engines

Closeup of car engine

We’re seeing a major shift in the types of engines powering new cars, according to a recent story in the industry trade publication Automotive News.

Four-cylinder engines have replaced six-cylinder engines as the most popular engine choice in light vehicles -- that's cars and trucks such as pickups and sport-utility vehicles.

In 2005, according to the story, 43% of all light vehicles sold in the United States had six-cylinder engines.

During the first six months of 2011, 43% had four-bangers.

We've taken an even bigger turn away from V-8s.

In 2005, a V-8 powered about 30% of the light vehicles sold in the United States. In the first half of this year, that percentage dropped to about 16%.

Driving this trend toward fewer cylinders is a combination of relentless price pressure at the pump and the change in engine mix offered by carmakers struggling to meet ever-higher government fuel economy regulations.

Neither of these causes shows any sign of tempering. Eventually V-8s -- particularly in cars -- will be squeezed out of the market.

Because of towing and payload needs requiring a V-8 engine, it will still have a place in light trucks.

It may also survive in a handful of very high-end luxury cars and a few high-ticket sports cars. But for the most part, V-8s will be priced out of the ballpark for us common folk.

It's not all bad news.

Engine technology is improving at the same relentless pace as fuel prices are increasing.

Today's breed of four-bangers is much more sophisticated and energetic than yesterday's. Things have come a long way in the last 10 years.

This is equally true of V-6s.

I recently spent a week with the Camaro V-6 Convertible. Other than showing off, I am hard-pressed to come up with a reason to recommend the Camaro V-8 instead.

Making 304 horsepower, the V-6 sprints from 0 to 60 in about six seconds -- about a second slower than the Camaro V-8.

That second of quickness will cost you an extra $7,000 at purchase and lose you an EPA-estimated 3 m.p.g. in combined city and highway driving.

No, I'm not happy to see V-8s disappearing. But when six-cylinder engines perform as well as the Camaro's V-6, I'll make do.

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