At the moment, oil is relatively inexpensive compared to earlier this summer, but it does not approach the $0.79 world of 15 or so years ago, as a result, four-cylinder engines are making a comeback. Nearly five years ago, at the pinnacle of the housing bubble, just over 30% of cars sold in the US were fitted with four-bangers; now it’s somewhere around 50%. Has the car industry become all cold and tired, frightened of a $150/barrel oil future?
Having owned an early Civic, I know what it’s like to sit on the ground and moan like a pop star without really getting anywhere of note all that fast. The tiny cars of the world are damn good fun to fling around, but often come up short on pick-up, practicality and long-distance pleasure.
The world it seems though, has changed: clever turbos, stop/start technology and direct injection have turned the tin-can Chevette segment into a world of 130-mph class leaders with similar fuel economy.
The Explorer has had a rocky history of tire recalls, rollovers and initially very beige aesthetics. Fuel consumption has never been its calling card, nor has outright speed; now however, the terms “Explorer”, “28 mpg”, “2-liter four” and “270 lb-ft” now may reside in the same sentence.
Ford is not the only company pushing the four in an unlikely car: starting in the 2012 model year, BMW also offers a two-liter turbocharged four as standard in their five series; an improvement over the previous straight six, not just in efficiency (15% in the case of the new 5-Series) and power, but also when that power arrives. The new, more powerful four will offer up all of its 258 torques at 1,250 rpm while mated to their new eight-speed automatic. This engine also sees the light of day in the one and three series plus the Z4. Expect mileage for the above cars to be in the low thirties range. So there you have it, proof that it isn’t just the cheap and cheerful cars of the world, but also some heavy hitters as well.
– By: Sawyer Sutton