Thursday, September 15, 2005


Lesson #1

I realise I may get jumped on for this, but hear me out first. I reconise that in niche markets and specialty cars with limited production numbers, having a V8 really is appropriate. The key being "limited production numbers". Commuter cars/everyday vehicles have no reason for V8s.

It is a waste of natural resources, and the most inefficient way to build power. Muscle car fans are the hard to explain this to, must be from all of the poor exhaust emissions they've inhaled over the years. I'll explain this slowly, use small words and big examples so as to get it through to them.

V8 engines in everyday cars are pointless. To make the lesson easier to comprehend, we're going to keep driving habits out of this, meaning that I'm not saying to drive slower, nor am I saying not to drag it out at the stop lights (if that's your thing). What I AM saying is that the same kind of power and almighty torque figures can be had in much smaller, fewer cylindered, cleaner and efficient packages.

Part of the problem here is weight. Bigger engines require bigger chassis which means more weight. This not only affects capabilities in terms of speed and acceleration, it affects braking and handling.

The key is power to weight ratio. Lets take a look at a simple comparisons here using only American cars for clarity purposes:

2006 Ford Mustang GT vs. 2006 Dodge Neon SRT4:

Mustang: 300bhp, 320ft.lbs., 4.6l V8, 69bhp/litre - 0-62 in 5.1, 1/4mi 13.6

SRT4: 230bhp, 240ft.lbs, 2.4l I4T, 79bhp/litre - 0-62 in 5.3, 1/4mi 13.9

Cost of the Neon: Between $5,000 & $9,000 less to similiarly equipped Mustang GTs. Gas economy is between 2-5mpg better with the SRT4. The Neon seats 5 people vs. the Mustangs 4 offering more utility functionality aside from performance. Independent suspension front and rear vs. a many decades old design of a live axle in the GT. Warranties are similar (basic), but the powertrain warranty for the SRT4 is a full 7 years, 100,000 miles.

Both vehicles are starard interiors for American cars (cheap and plasticy), so that's a draw. Yes, the Mustang does have a heritage and it is Rear Wheel Drive (which is my personal preference), but in the rear world, on public roads, it is pointless when you consider the numbers.. Do the math.

Note: I personally don't like the looks or feel of the Neon, though its size is much nicer than the Mustang which seems to be too big of a vehicle externally, while offering minimal increases inside vs. the SRT-4 (in this example).

Of couse, if we were to bring European cars into the fray we could very quickly find sport diesels with monstrous torque figures and low-six second 0-60's while retaining 40-50mpg fuel figures.

Bring the Japanese rally-bred cars into it and you end up with All Wheel Drive, nicer interiors, torque figures at or nearing 300 ft. lbs., though that does bring the price up a bit. Had to be mentioned though.


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