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Downsizing Hits an Upswing: Smaller Turbo Engines Are Going Big - The Kiinote

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 5/19/2015 Ron Kiino

The days of the naturally aspirated four-cylinder appear to be numbered, as well.

In 1964 the original Chevrolet Malibu made its debut. It was a sizable machine that stretched 193.9 inches long by 74.6 inches wide and came with a 3.2-liter straight-six that made—wait for it (literally)—120 gross horsepower. Given the humble output, maybe it's not too surprising that safety belts were optional.

Fast-forward 51 years, and the Malibu, now in its ninth generation, offers an engine that at 1.5 liters is not even half the original's size. But with help from a turbocharger, its estimated output of 160 net hp dwarfs that of the old 3.2. Better yet, the 1.5's estimated combined fuel economy of 31 mpg humbles the 3.2's gas-guzzling figure, which surely fell closer to 13 mpg. (The EPA didn't start providing fuel economy values until 1973.)

Downsizing Hits an Upswing: Smaller Turbo Engines Are Going Big - The Kiinote

Chevy's just-introduced sixth-gen Camaro is adopting the downsizing strategy, as well. Its entry-level engine, no longer even a V-6, will be a turbocharged, 2.0-liter I-4. You read that right. The Bow Tie's mighty muscle car, synonymous with the V-8, is going halfsies underhood. But before you write off the 2.0-liter as puny and weak, ponder this: Its estimated 270 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque aren't that far off the 305 horsepower and 335 lb-ft from the nearly three times as big 5.7-liter LS1 that motivated the tire-burning 1998 Camaro SS. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Except for boutique brands such as Aston Martin, which plans to meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements with a mix of full-electric vehicles and V-8 and V-12 monsters, chopping cylinders and adding turbos will be the norm. Sure, the Gen VI Camaro will continue to offer a top-dog V-8, but don't presume the Gen VII will. As GM's twin-turbo V-6s evolve with more power—already 464 horses in the 3.6-liter Cadillac ATS-V —all while consuming less gas than a comparable eight, the small-block might cease being a living legend. The next Ford Raptor, exclusively a 3.5-liter EcoBoost, is proof positive that a six more than suffices.

The days of the naturally aspirated four-cylinder, whose common 2.0- to 2.5-liter sizes have powered everything from Si Civics to Camrys to Outbacks, appear to be numbered, as well. Not only does the Malibu's shift from a 2.5-liter NA to a 1.5-liter turbo illustrate this trend, but Honda, long a proponent of naturally aspirated inline-fours, will debut a 1.5-liter turbo of its own this fall in the 10th-gen Civic. A powerplant destined for future generations of the Accord, CR-V, and others, the 1.5 promises what Honda inline-fours have never been known for: low-end torque. Combine this off-the-line grunt with superior fuel economy, and it's easy to see why the sub-2.0-liter turbo is proliferating among automakers from Chevrolet (1.4-liter Cruze) and Ford (1.0-liter Fiesta and Focus, 1.5-liter Fusion) to Jeep (1.4-liter Renegade) and Hyundai (1.6-liter Sonata and Tucson) to Mini (1.5-liter Cooper) and Volkswagen (1.8-liter Golf, Jetta, Beetle, and Passat). Toyota, too, is set to join the fray, having announced a 114-horse, 1.2-liter turbo that could nestle into hybrids and compacts. And let's not forget Subaru. After putting 300 miles on a JDM Levorg with a 168-hp, 184 lb-ft, 1.6-liter, turbo flat-four, I came to the following conclusions: Power and torque were abundant, mileage was excellent, and, man, how I wished the U.S. Outback and Forester had this engine.

In my first column back in November 2010, I wrote of the 2.0-liter turbo: "For melding power, efficiency, versatility, and driveability, the 2.0T—gas or diesel—is second to none. I just hope in 10 years I'm hearing about the brilliance that is the 1.0T."

Looks like my wishful thinking was way too conservative.

Toyota's new 8NR-FTS 1.2-liter turbo debuted in the JDM Auris (Scion iM). Next stop: Prius?© Provided by MotorTrend Toyota's new 8NR-FTS 1.2-liter turbo debuted in the JDM Auris (Scion iM). Next stop: Prius? More from The Kiinote:

2016-Chevrolet-Camaro-front-three-quarter3© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Chevrolet-Camaro-front-three-quarter3

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