Size Matters

Posted: July 8, 2011 in Cars

Holden SS-V Sportswagon Special Edition

I love my V8 and not just because I could probably take the vast majority of cars at the lights. It’s because this engine is just so damn flexible. At 100 km/h the engine speed is a mind boggling 1500 Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) which is just a smidge over idle. The lowest fuel consumption I have recorded is 8.4 l/100km, which doesn’t sound that good until you realise it is a 6.0 litre V8 engine.

However, when you decide that enough is enough and you want some speed, in a couple of seconds you can suddenly be travelling well over 150 km/h, something that has caught Beloved out a number of times when she overtakes a truck. The ease that this engine can achieve this continually astounds me. Its power delivery is smooth, linear and completely manageable. As the old saying goes, “You can’t beat cubes!”

Or can you?

Most car companies offer their wares with a choice of engines. Some will tell you that a small engine will give you better fuel economy, but is this really true? I haven’t ragged about Toyota for a while so I’ll use them as an example, with a story about the car that kicked off my hatred for the largest car company in the world.

Many years ago Beloved’s job required her to travel a bit, so she was given a car. Unfortunately it was a Toyota Camry. More specifically it was a 4 cylinder Altise. It had the world’s flattest seats that meant you slid all over them when taking a corner. It also had the worst set of springs and dampers ever fitted to a car, which meant you bottomed out over any number of bumps. It was hateful.

The engine was far too small for the car’s weight, so you constantly had to wring its neck to produce forward momentum. As a result the engine was working too hard and it used an incredible amount of fuel. It wasn’t until I talked to someone who had the same car with a V6 that I realised how much extra fuel we were using.

What you need to gauge is how much power and torque the car’s engine produces. Torque is essentially how much pulling power the car has and Power relates to how much energy it can provide to assist with this. It’s not much good having one without the other. The lower RPM that peak power and torque is achieved the better off you will be.

The other factor to consider is the car’s weight. If the car weighs half a moon you better have the other half in the engine bay or you’re not going to get anywhere. It’s all physics, equal and opposite reaction type stuff. Everything I have mentioned above should be available in the brochure. If it does not then ask the grinning idiot, he or she should have some idea. The internets should also be able to help you out.

I’m not suggesting that everyone should buy a V8, because I do use a fair amount of fuel in mine and it is just not practical for everyone, particularly if you’re mainly running the car in the city. But consider the whole package of the car. It’s all well and good to have climate control, sat nav and a kick arse stereo system but all these things are heavy and will add to your fuel consumption. If you have a small engine to begin with and then start ticking option boxes you may get a nasty surprise when you first get to the fuel pump.

Again, and I really can’t say this enough, take the car for a test drive. How does the engine perform? If the engine feels like it’s struggling to pull the car along then it probably is. Most cars have a tachometer these days, how high is it running? The higher the revs, the more fuel it’s using.

It’s not just about fuel though. With higher engine speed comes more wear and tear on moving parts which could also lead to higher service expenses.

V8’s are starting to look better and better, I’ll be sticking with mine.

This article first appeared in the April 2011 issue of The King’s Tribune


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