Yesterday I asked if you would be open to the thought of a V6 engine in a Corvette, as an ancillary model. Some responded no effing way, and condemned me as anti-American. Others said, sure, as long as the engine and the car adhere to the expected performance and feel of a real Vette. The rest said “what’s a Corvette?” and went back to eating their oatmeal. That got me thinking ( and hungry), does it matter how many pots your engine has, as long as it does everything you expect of it?
For nearly 30 years a Ferrari came only one way – with 12 cylinders. Smaller road cars arrived with lesser piston counts, but they were branded separately because Enzo felt doing otherwise would denigrate the brand’s mystique. Then came a batch of 308 GT4s that were stacking up like cord wood at dealers due to the gas shortage. In order to give the cars a greater sense of desirability Enzo instructed the dealers to affix prancing horses to the cars, a first for a non-V12 road-going Ferrari. History was made, and the earth did not swallow up the company, nor did prospective buyers flee elsewhere.
So what about other brands? Porsche has gone from flat fours to sixes to V8s and has hardly missed a beat. Jag, best known for their dohc straight six and V12 boat anchor now is exclusively V8 in the states, and even sells a diesel back on the Continent. BMW still sells a straight six, they’re one of the last in fact to do so. But instead of being the centerpiece of their engine lineup, the six is just one engine out of a series of fours, sixes, eights, tens and twelves that flow from the Bavarian maker like so many tasty schnitzels.
Fuel economy has been a wavering factor for decades, but the near doubling of gas prices within the past couple of years has added some immediacy to car makers efforts to make do with smaller, less thirsty motors. Ford’s Eco-Boost line and Hyundai’s 270 hp turbo 4 are notable examples of these. The Korean motor takes the place of the previous V6 in their mid-sizer and produces even more power than the six.
So, if it’s becoming more difficult to tell how many cylinders are under the hood by the throttle pedal, does it matter how many there are when popping the hood? Are bragging rights about having more that important? Does quantity really trump quality?