What Engine is Best For You?
June 23, 2020
1. 4 Cylinder
We are gonna start off with the good old four-cylinder engine. Now, four-cylinder engines, you know that we're pretty familiar with them. Engines like the F20, the 4G63, the Subaru's EJ series engines, and they've become well-known engines throughout the entire car community. Typically, the four-cylinder engines are laid out in an in-line formation. However, as we know, with the Subaru opposed-cylinder engine layout, that isn't always the case. Today, a lot of the four-cylinder cars that we see coming out are equipped with some kind of turbocharger on them. Even though some are strictly for performance, like Subaru's Evos, Civic Type R's, all that sort of good stuff, some of the turbochargers are added to the engines to help strictly with fuel efficiency. And it allows the car manufacturer to supply a smaller engine that produces similar power to something with a few extra cylinders would. Four-cylinder engines do offer quite a few pros to them, as they are more fuel-efficient, at least when they're stock, but that's no fun.
But they are also a lot lighter than some of the other engines. Obviously because, well, they're smaller, but also because they utilize alloy blocks and they don't utilize as many components. Typically they are a lot cheaper to maintain. A smaller engine requires fewer parts. And also, because they're smaller, things are easier to get access to when you're working in the engine bay, because usually the entire engine is exposed when you open the hood. We all know that four-cylinders are capable of putting down some impressive horsepower numbers as well, however, it does take the introduction of forced induction and upgraded internals to usually achieve that.
Leading into some of the cons of the four-cylinder platform, they aren't the most powerful in stock form, and the good majority of them are going to be front-wheel drive, it's just because that's what they were mostly developed for. Sometimes can be a little bit of a deal-breaker for some people.
2. 5 Cylinder
Next on the list is the five-cylinder. There is a ton of love for five-cylinder engines, mostly for the sound that they produce. Made famous by the Audi Quattros in the 1980s, the five cylinder saw a huge success in World Rally Championship racing, and even though the five-cylinders never got super popular as far as engine choice goes for a lot of manufacturers, we do still see some in vehicles today, such as the Audi TT RS. So what is a five-cylinder able to offer that something like a four-cylinder couldn't?
Well one, obviously, would be an extra piston. But their biggest advantage actually lies in the stroke cycle of the engine. In a four-cylinder engine, the power strokes don't overlap, and what does that mean? That in a four-cylinder, four-stroke engine, there is a gap between when one piston completes its power stroke and when another piston begins its power stroke. By adding an extra cylinder and getting rid of this gap, it helps with a smoother operation of the engine overall.
3. 6 Cylinder
Let's add another cylinder to the mix and talk about some six-cylinder engines. Now, these engines come in a wide variety of configurations, from Porsche's opposing six-cylinder engines to some of the great Japanese and European straight sixes, and even things like V6's and VR6's. Some of the all-time favorites, like the RB26, the 2JZ, and the S50, are straight-six engines that produce some pretty fantastic noises. Six-cylinder engines offer quite a unique sound to them, of course, depending on the configuration and seem to be the sweet spot when it comes to engines. They are a good balance of power and efficiency, especially when they get a good old turbo or supercharger on them.
The engines that we listed above are capable of some really impressive horsepower numbers, that's why they're so popular. However, there are some cons. Straight sixes aren't the easiest engines to just drop into any old engine bay. They're some long boys. However, swap that over to a V6, and you relieve some of that issue. The other con that comes with that is that they can be a little bit of a pain to work on, especially the straight-six engines, as typically the last cylinder or two can get tucked up away in the engine bay and can be a little tough to get at. Similar to what we see with four-cylinder engines of today, six-cylinders have received some of that same treatment, taking what used to be a V8 platform, and dropping a couple of pistons, and replacing them with turbos or superchargers to increase that fuel efficiency.
4. 8 Cylinder
Finally, we have the V8. Now, V8s are the big, loud, bulletproof engines of the car world. V8s offer high displacement, they are reliable and they can take an absolute beating and still keep ticking. They are literally what makes muscle cars, muscle cars. But they're also found in quite a few European and Japanese cars as well, usually with a little less displacement, but still a V8 nonetheless. People love their V8 engines, especially when it comes to a good cam that has some chop to it. One of the reasons that people love V8s so much is that reliability, but also the fact that they offer a good amount of power straight out of the gate because of the higher displacement.
However, nothing is without its cons. V8s are heavy, they're absolutely massive engines, there's a lot of moving parts to them, there's a lot of things that go into making a V8 what a V8 is. And when things end up eventually going wrong there's a lot of stuff to replace. But what it all comes down to is that some engines are just good for some things, and the others just not so much. There really is no master platform when it comes to engines because each type of engine offers its own benefits and offers its own cons. Some engines are powerful in stock form, while others need a little bit of help, and are capable of being built stronger and more powerful than their competitor.