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Have automakers' claims about their 4-cylinder engines gone too far?

Automakers trying to brain wash consumers about the power and fuel economy of their four-cylinder engines seems to have passed beyond promotion to outright fantasy.


While reading a car magazine this month we came across a four page advertisement for a new compact economy car made by one of the world’s largest automakers. The black bold print in the middle of the ad said “Exceptional mileage with V6 power – 0 to 60 in 8.6 seconds.” We were intrigued. We could see that the car indeed did have exceptional highway mileage, 46 MPG.

Looking at the power rating on the car though made us a little confused. It says “V6 power” in the advertisement, yet the car only has 150 horsepower. There has not been a mainstream V6 automobile in the US market with so little power in a long, long time. In fact, the workhorse V6 made by this same company, which it uses in everything from crossovers, to sedans, to sporty cars creates well over 300 horsepower. That is more than double the claim in the advert. The newest V6 from this company actually makes 410 horsepower. How can a company claim that 150 horsepower is “V6 power?” Isn’t that false advertising?

In the fine print of the advertisement it says “With all that muscular torque and horsepower, driving (the car) is comparable to driving a V6.” Is that true? This is a compact car. It is pretty hard to find a compact to compare this car to with a V6, but one we can think of is the BMW 135i. That car can go from 0 to 60 in 4.6 seconds according to the tests done by Car and Driver. This is not surprising really. A Honda Accord or Toyota Camry with a V6 can run to 60 in under 6 seconds without a turbocharger. 8.6 seconds does not feel like 4.6 seconds when you are accelerating. One is a moderate pace, the other is like being shot out of a cannon. 8.6 seconds to 60 MPH feels like four cylinder power and anything under 6 seconds feels like 6 cylinder power.

As a reality check, is 150 horsepower even average power for a four cylinder engine? It really isn’t. Most four cylinder base model engines these days have about 175 horsepower. Cars like the MazdaSpeed 3, the Sonata 2.0T and many others have 250 or more horsepower from four-cylinder engines. The king of the hill four-cylinder is the new AMG – Mercedes engine in its compact/mid-size car which produces 355 horsepower.

Exaggerated claims that four cylinder engines can live up to six-cylinder engine performance, while delivering better fuel economy are not new. However, those were generally claims made by cars that had power in the 250 horsepower range which were a second slower to 60 than the six-cylinder models in the class. There is a point at which car companies' pants are on fire and I think we have now passed it.