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Thread: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

  1. #1
    shally
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    Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    My son and I were talking about new cars recently and it's his opinion (I'm not sure if I totally agree with him) that all other things (gas mileage, expense, etc.) being equal, if possible it's a good idea to get a larger engine, if available, because it'll work less at powering things like A/C, PS, etc. and thus last longer. There's also the "fun" factor, but I assume that's more important to my son than to me. Is this a good rule of thumb or obsolete?

  2. #2
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    Quote Originally Posted by shally
    My son and I were talking about new cars recently and it's his opinion (I'm not sure if I totally agree with him) that all other things (gas mileage, expense, etc.) being equal, if possible it's a good idea to get a larger engine, if available, because it'll work less at powering things like A/C, PS, etc. and thus last longer. There's also the "fun" factor, but I assume that's more important to my son than to me. Is this a good rule of thumb or obsolete?
    Hi Shally,

    Welcome to the site, first of all - good to have you on board!

    As far as your question: I think it's less of an issue today - because today's "smaller" engines are typically as powerful as mid-sized (and even large) engines were inthe past. For example, the typical four-cylinder engine today produces around 120-150 horsepower; in the '80s that was V-6 power - and not all that far off what the V-8s of the time were producing. So these "smaller" engines are generally more than adequate for normal driving; it's not necessary to floor it all the time and press the engine just to get a reaction. Meanwhile, with many V-8s today producing 300 horsepower and more, it's really a matter of "fun" rather than "need." Anything more than 200 hp for most normal driving is more than anyone really "needs," if you stop to think about it. I'm all for powerful engines, though! I just don't think it's necessary to buy the V-6 over the four (or the V-8 over the V-6) because the smaller engine is no longer borderline inadequate and thus likely to be over-stressed and wear out sooner, etc.

  3. #3
    DonTom
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    Is this a good rule of thumb or obsolete?

    I would say it's obsolete. IMO, the small engines today may prove to be more reliable than the large engines of yesteryear, but it depend on many factors. For an example, some new engines today can self destruct & turn to junk when a timing belt breaks. However, some older GM engines use nylon teeth on the timing chain sprocket that can wear out and have the timing chain fall off and then the engine self-destructs. A lot of this depends on your luck.

    Notice in newer cars the odometer goes to a million miles, unlike the big V-8's of the past where the odometer only went to 99,999.9 because the manufacturer of the vehicle didn't expect it to last that long.

    IMO, cars are getting better and more reliable as well as require a lot less maintenance than in the past. I would say generally the small engines today are more reliable than the larger engines of the past, but it's still possible to have some bad luck and get a lemon.

    Nevertheless, I still prefer larger engines today in RV's and the trucks that I tow with. However, today a 5.2 L engine is considered large unlike back in the 1970's during the muscle car days.

    -Don-

  4. #4
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    I just passed 95,000 miles on the CR-V, and had my first thing break -- a brake fluid sensor. I had a couple of false alarms (dash light came on) because the float had gotten soaked over the years. $32 later, all is well. Not too bad for a 6 year old car!

    (BTW: 2.0 liter DOHC (no VTEC) producing 147hp)

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

  5. #5
    DonTom
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    (BTW: 2.0 liter DOHC (no VTEC) producing 147hp)

    What does "VTEC" stand for?

    -Don-

  6. #6
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    It's Honda's name for their variable valve timing technology. BMW calls their system "VANOS", which I'm sure is an abbreviation for some 35 character long german combined word.

    Chip H.


    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

  7. #7
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    VTEC = Variable valve Timing and lift Electronic Control

    The first mass produced engine to have it was the one on the Acura Integra GSR and the Acura NSX.

  8. #8
    DonTom
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    "VTEC = Variable valve Timing and lift Electronic Control"

    Thanks, but how do they control valve timing ? Seems that would be hard to do with a timing belt, cam chain, or push rods while the engine is running. And do they mean valve "lift" electronic control?

    Is this some type of new technology?

    -Don-

  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    Variable cam timing/lift has been around for some time; Honda/Acura first offered it on the NSX back in 1990 or thereabouts; today, most automakers use some form of it. Honda's web site has a technical brief, if you'd like to understand how their system works...

  10. #10
    DonTom
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    Thanks Eric,

    I found the info here:


    http://auto.howstuffworks.com/framed...tec/index.html


    -Don-

  11. #11
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    You should also take into account where you live. If you live in a hilly or mountainous place, I'd surely go for the larger HP engine.

  12. #12
    DonTom
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    "You should also take into account where you live. If you live in a hilly or mountainous place, I'd surely go for the larger HP engine."

    I disagree. We own a house near San Francisco and another house near Reno. The elevation goes from near zero to 7,200 feet, so lot's of hills.

    The money we save on gasoline with a small engine could pay for another vehicle in a year or so. My little 1.9 L (stick shift) Saturn does this trip like it's nothing. Because of the MUCH better elevation compensation these days, it will go faster up these hills than a large V-8 from the 1970's, when above 6,000 feet or so. And it seems to not be taking much effort to do so.

    We also have a pickup truck and a Jeep with a larger engine (5.2 L). We often take the Jeep in the winter, because it will go through when there is a tire chain requirement, without having to bother with tire chains, since it's 4WD with what qualifies as "snow tires" under CA law (but really are "all terrain tires" ). However, it's a gas hog and we would rather have a smaller engine, because we make this trip so often. This Jeep gets about 14 MPG, compared to my 35 MPG with the Saturn on the same trip.

    -Don-

  13. #13
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    Quote Originally Posted by dBrong
    You should also take into account where you live. If you live in a hilly or mountainous place, I'd surely go for the larger HP engine.
    Hi Doug,

    Not necessarily - again, bear in mind that most of today's engines are producing the same power "the next size up" engine used to. Even the puniest econ-car has at least 100-hp (vs. 70 or less in the not so-distant-past) and many make 120-150 hp, or comparable to what V-6s used to make. Today's V-6s (almost all of which make at least 200-something hp) are usually plenty adequate. Most V-8s today produce 300 or more hp. That is great to have - but excepting trucks that need to pull a heavy load, etc., not really "necessary."

    Again, I love powerful engines - but it's mostly a question of" want" and "enjoy" - not "need"!

  14. #14
    DonTom
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    . Today's V-6s (almost all of which make at least 200-something hp) are usually plenty adequate.

    I find my in-line four, 1.9L, to be adequate. Even on hills at 9,000 feet.

    -Don-

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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Again, I love powerful engines - but it's mostly a question of" want" and "enjoy" - not "need"!
    A few weeks ago, because of a tyre problem (a story I'll tell some time!) we hired a FIAT Punto for the weekend. Only 60bhp, perfectly adequate for what we needed it for - my wife seemed to consider that 90mph was an acceptable Motorway cruising speed (the limit's 70!).

    On the other hand, yesterday I did a track day in my Alfa; I could have used more than its 145bhp!

  16. #16
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Brand
    Only 60bhp, perfectly adequate for what we needed it for - my wife seemed to consider that 90mph was an acceptable Motorway cruising speed (the limit's 70!).
    I'm from eastern PA. My grandfather was an engineer, and also in the first graduating class from Goodyear (that was around 1920). He was also heavily into racing. He was Dutch, and had several Dutch engine technicans who worked for him.

    Anyway, he bought a 1965? Brand new Chevy Nova with a 6 and a three speed on the column. He just wanted the car, they didn't want the engine or the tranny or the rear end. For the hell of it he had me drag race it, in a stock class at Atco, NJ. I remember one of his guy's saying "Don't shift until 7 grand"

    I went the 1/4 mile - never took the car past second gear. The engine was a pig, but it really started to scream near the red line. We trashed in after a couple of races.



  17. #17
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Again, I love powerful engines - but it's mostly a question of" want" and "enjoy" - not "need"!
    Yeah, but I NEED a bigger engine. I just can't stand to drive a slow car.

  18. #18
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Engines - Is Bigger Better?


    Yeah, but I NEED a bigger engine. I just can't stand to drive a slow car.


    I hear that!

    A 350 would be plenty sufficient to move my Firebird along... but the 455 is much more satisfying!

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