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Car Advice & Reviews

Engine size – Which one to get?

Posted on January 9, 2013

A common question confronting car shoppers is whether to stick with the base engine or upgrade to either a bigger engine (with more “displacement” or “cylinders”) or one with forced induction (either a turbocharger or a supercharger). As many of the terms surrounding engine upgrades are beyond the grasp of many customers, the general take-away is that an upgrade simply means “more power”, which is better than less power. Should you choose the upgrade engine in your next car, or will the base engine be sufficient? The first consideration is whether you need the extra power at all. Drivers who prefer strong acceleration, haul big families or tow will certainly appreciate extra power. Certain models have much more efficient transmissions / drivetrains, which make a given amount of power produce better acceleration than that amount of power in a competing model. Also, a model’s weight is an important factor, as a better-engineered, lighter vehicle can get by with less power than its heavier competitors. Also, 200 hp from one manufacturer does not necessarily equal 200 hp from another manufacturer. Power is stated in “peak” terms, but is delivered very differently be different engines: some engines only seem powerful when you wind them out, whereas others produce strong acceleration right off of idle. Fuel efficiency is another consideration. Generally upgrade engines consume more fuel to make their increased power, but that is not necessarily the case. In some instances, through superior technology, an upgrade engine can make more power and get getter fuel economy than the base engine. In many cases, upgrade engines increase the cylinder count from the base engine (ie, you move from a four-cylinder to a V-6). This change in engine configuration can result in a markedly smoother engine that transmits much less noise and vibration into the cabin. A final important consideration is whether the base or upgrade engine will be more reliable and/or less costly to maintain. As many upgrade engines incorporate increased stress on the engine by virtue of making more power and/or different technology, they can be less reliable and more prone to catastrophic failure. Car Match has seen a recent model in which the base engine was very failure prone, often failing well before 100,000 miles, whereas the upgrade engine has proven bullet-proof. In that case, the upgrade is a great long-term value. In other recent cases, the turbocharged upgrade engines in certain models have proven vastly more troublesome than the base engine. Choosing the right engine for your needs is difficult decision. Car Match has expertise in the configuration, fuel efficiency, power, and reliability of the different engines fitted to each car model and will advise you in its report about which engines are worth opting for and which are not, based on your needs.

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