The Morality of High Displacement
Back in the day, the size of an engine was very closely tied to the type of application it was used for, whether it needed peaky power, or smooth constant strong torque delivery. However, that was over a century ago, and engine technology has moved on considerably. Also, while back when the automobile was still young, there really was no ‘replacement for displacement’, now there is and it`s called a turbocharger – one of the single greatest inventions to help move engine technology along.
At first turbochargers (and superchargers, but to a lesser extent, at least in Europe), were used in high-end sports and racing cars, which really needed to stick to engine displacement rules and regulations, yet wanted more power. However, slowly but surely turbochargers have become commonplace in our modern cars, and in fact, some manufacturers don`t even have naturally aspirated cars on offer, at all, any more.
The turbocharger has allowed us to downsize our engines, and benefit from lower fuel consumption, and get more power and reduce the overall weight of our engines. Turbocharging is a great way to maintain a high power output when you need it, strong linear and flat torque delivery and low fuel consumption and emissions.
However, this new craze of turbocharging has created a bit of an issue. Some manufacturers are still offering huge engines, and while some are turbocharged, there still are a lot of naturally-aspirated units on offer. The US is a very prominent example of that, as the 2.5-liter four-pot, which hasn`t really been touched in years, is still arguably one of the most common engines, when a 1.6-liter turbo could take its place easily.
This all begs the question: In this day and age, is it morally correct to buy a car with a high-displacement naturally-aspirated engine, thus encouraging manufacturers to still offer them? Any modern V8 can be replaced by a turbocharged V6, and any V6 can be replaced by a turbocharged four-pot, and any four-pot can be replaced by something with less than four cylinders and a turbocharger – Ford is getting 125 hp out of one liter, and that`s extremely impressive for a production engine to get 125 hp per liter. Also, while fuel efficiency may not always be directly correlated with engine displacement, but it is nevertheless better to start with a smaller displacement engine, then try to make it more efficient, instead of taking a large one you already have and fiddling with that. It is common sense and common knowledge.
So, is it moral to keep buying large naturally-aspirated engines? Well, I say hell no! Sure, some may argue that with turbocharging you get a bit of lag, and the noise made by the engine is not as pleasing, but really… There are so few people in the world genuinely interested in driving a car and listening to it, and very few will actually notice and understand what turbo lag is. What most people will notice is excellent torque low down, a strange hissing sound when really pushing it and less-frequent stops at the petrol station.
Of course the major automakers will still keep making old-fashioned old tech engines, because people aren`t demanding the introduction of new tech, because most don`t care, and most of the those that do know what is actually going on, can`t really be bothered to try and make a change. Never forget that the automotive industry is very consumer-driven, and if people don`t like an automaker’s offerings, they will sit in dealer lots until they are sufficiently discounted to make them a worthwhile purchase.
You need to actively ask the automakers to give you what you want, and not keep feeding you what they think you want, justifying their course of actions through bogus ‘studies’.
Turbocharging is the next big thing in the history of the automobile, and everybody, from the showroom rep, to the high-ranking automotive executive, to you need to understand that. It is a step which must be taken, and will be taken no matter what. The size of engines will go down, until we move to something even better (possibly electric), and all we can do is embrace and encourage it.
I totally get the people who still want big displacement naturally-aspirated engines, but in this day and age, it just doesn`t feel right to buy an 8.4-liter SRT Viper – it’s just wrong. Its engine displacement is exactly 8.4 times larger than that of the Fiesta – exactly! Not that it is not an ok size for a supercar, but it is perhaps a bit over the top for the day and age we live in.
So, to answer the question of morality, I`m going to take a chance here and say it isn`t moral to buy a car with an oversized engine which is not turbocharged. Sure you can find many arguments to back up your decision, and I will agree with you on all of them (probably) but what you are basically doing is telling the manufacturers that it`s ok to linger on in this purgatory of engine technology, between turbo and non-turbo, and between the past and the future – it really is like that!
We either go all the way with this turbocharging stuff (which will get even better in the future, if enough is invested in its development and progress, anyway) or we really get into EVs, as the petrol engine, sans-turbo, and even with the Atkinson cycle, is just not green enough for our needs as people, in the year 2013. I will say it again – it is not moral to buy a big displacement engine, without a turbocharger and some sort of green tuning. Sadly, the consumer-driven automotive market will keep giving us what we think we want, and it will only really change if we do it, as well.
comments written so far
to use the word moral in this context is questionable, but is it therefore moral to buy a big house, fly on a dirty plane, keep all of your income even?
ev's are green? or do they pollute more than gas engines, do your homework. is it moral for the govts to confiscate income under threat of incarceration to redistribute to tesla and solyndra?
is that moral? or is honda more moral with its civic than any ev?
one last thing, a large engine operating at less that peak efficiency can be more efficient than a boosted small motor which has higher associated "immoral" costs
check out the awful immoral chevrolet corvette with its immoral 27mpg or perhas their new v4/v8 combo LT engine
As for moral, I'll take the point of view of asking if it is moral for you to force your choices on me. Where I live, cars are rated on fuel consumption, not taxed on displacement. Simply put, if you can avoid gas guzzler penalites with a V8 engine, you are perfectly welcome to try to do so. Indeed, I could have bought a car with a twin turbo V6 instead of the V8 powered car I drive. However, it was no more efficient with fuel, and in fact, would have been worse under certain situations, where the technologies used in my V8 increase fuel efficiency by running the car on four, not six cylinders. In this case, enforcing a method rather than a result would be a mistake, and if you're going to use the word immoral, then I'm going to fling it right back in your face in this case.
Further, I wonder if you don't come from a society with a caste system, where certain things are privileges of a upper class that the masses are forbidden to enjoy. I don't, and therefore resent your line of reasoning.
I have a better idea than simply relying on small, turbocharged engines. Let's rely on what works, whatever it turns out to be.
The lack of knowledge about engines is further illuminated when the author states that an 8.4L SRT viper engine is 8.4 times larger than a Fiesta engine. Yes, the cylinder displacement is 8.4x more, but the engine itself is not.
In future articles please compare EPA or fuel efficiency ratings WITH the provided engine displacements before making grand claims. Not a single example of actual differences in fuel efficiency was stated. Finally, not a single reference to a credible source was provided.
I think a much better example of immorality is when governments impose legislation that makes the lives of people they are supposed to be responsible for more stressful and less enjoyable.