Muscle Cars Poised To Get Four-Cylinder Engines


  • 2013 Chevrolet Camaro Picture

    2013 Chevrolet Camaro Picture

    Muscle cars like the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang are poised for some engine downsizing. | February 28, 2013

2 Photos

Just the Facts:
  • The expected migration of four-cylinder engines to America's muscle cars is being pushed by higher gasoline prices and a government mandate for better fuel economy.
  • Industry sources tell Edmunds that Chevrolet and Ford are preparing redesigned muscle cars, possibly with standard four-cylinder engines.
  • The redesigned Mustang is expected to debut in 2014, the car's 50th anniversary, while the Camaro's update is penciled in later that year or early 2015.

DETROIT — The expected migration of four-cylinder engines to America's muscle cars — most notably the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro — is being pushed by higher gasoline prices and a government mandate for better fuel economy.

Industry sources tell Edmunds that Chevrolet and Ford are preparing redesigned muscle cars, possibly with standard four-cylinder engines. The move isn't surprising, as four-cylinder engines become commonplace in full-size sedans like the Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Impala.

The redesigned Mustang is expected to debut in 2014, the car's 50th anniversary, while the Camaro's update is penciled in later that year or early 2015. The cars will shed hundreds of pounds by adapting lighter-weight materials. The end result is a four-cylinder engine that will provide performance comparable to a V6 engine.

"Four cylinders are definitely going to be a way of life in larger vehicles and sporty vehicles," said Michael Robinet, a managing director at IHS Automotive, in an interview with Edmunds.

He added: "I think the next cycle of muscle cars are definitely going to have to offer a four-cylinder of some sort, if only for the export market. And they probably will be available for the domestic market as well."

The four-cylinder engines will offer plenty of horsepower and torque to spin tires and burn rubber or rapidly accelerate down the freeway. Plus there will be an added bonus to woo buyers.

"If you can get a four-cylinder engine with the power of a V6, but with much better fuel economy, it won't be a problem to gain consumer acceptance," said Michael Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrains at LMC Automotive Inc., in an interview with Edmunds.

Of course, both Chevrolet and Ford are mum about their redesigned cars. Neither will say whether a four-cylinder engine will be available. However, Ford has said the redesigned Mustang is being engineered for a global market, leading to speculation that a four-cylinder engine is mandatory for markets outside of North America.

Chrysler appears to be the lone holdout when it comes to putting a smaller engine under the hood of the Dodge Charger or Challenger. Dodge has no plans to offer a four-cylinder engine in Charger or Challenger.

In fact, Dodge's boss admits he can't comprehend the suggestion.

"I have a hard time getting my head around that," said Reid Bigland, Dodge CEO, in an interview with Edmunds earlier this month at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show. "The Challenger and Charger have the muscle-car aura to them. I think what we are seeing right now in the market is still a great deal of appeal for Hemi power."

Bigland said that for full-size sedans that do not "have that muscle-car aura — the 300, the Impala, the Taurus — I think it is much more plausible for that to happen and happen in much greater frequency than we have ever seen."

However, Bigland said the automaker will have to look to hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles and diesel applications in other models within the Chrysler Group to balance the automaker's Corporate Average Fuel Economy so it can continue to offer the Hemi V8. He said the price to purchase a Hemi at some point likely will be somewhat higher.

While industry sources say Chevrolet and Ford are preparing redesigned muscle cars, it is unclear whether a Challenger redesign is in the works.

At Ford, the likely four-cylinder engine candidate for the redesigned Mustang is the turbocharged EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The engine is rated at 240 horsepower, 48 hp less than the standard 3.5-liter V6.

This would not be the first time a four-cylinder engine is offered in a Mustang. When the car was redesigned and downsized for the 1974 model year, a four-cylinder engine was offered. However, the automotive press criticized the car's smaller size and the engine's disappointing performance.

GM has three four-cylinder engines that could end up in the redesigned Camaro. A non-turbo 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is standard in the redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Impala. Chevrolet also offers a 259-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the Chevrolet Malibu. Finally, sitting in General Motors' arsenal is a 272-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter power plant. Today, however, it is exclusive to the Cadillac ATS.

Edmunds says: Some may wonder if we'll still be able to call them muscle cars. But as long as the power is comparable to a V6, four-cylinder engines may win the hearts and wallets of U.S. buyers.

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