Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Editorial: Is There Really No Replacement for Displacement?

"There's no replacement for displacement!" This was a common phrase I heard throughout high school, as most of my car nerd friends were into good 'ol fashioned "American Muscle." That phrase was their rallying cry. "Oh, you got a tiny little 2.0 liter turbo charged four-banger? You ain't got nothing on my 352 Hemi!" or some variety of that would be their attempt to put down cars with forced induction. I didn't really care much for the phrase, but I also didn't really care all that much for forced induction at the time either. In my high school years and throughout college, I was into high revving, small displacement, naturally aspirated engines. Honda's F20C, K20A, and B18C5 were my engines of choice. The largest displacement motor that had my attention was the Honda C32 3.2 liter V-6 found in the Honda/Acura NSX. 

Now that I live with a turbo engine for daily driving, I started to think about the whole "no replacement for displacement" argument again. Why? Because the 1.5 liter turbo four in my Civic Si makes nearly as much horsepower (post ECU reflash) as my S2000, and makes way more torque. Heck, after reflashing the ECU in my Civic, it almost makes as much torque as the V-6 in our departed 2016 Accord Touring. In the age of almost every vehicle coming off the factory line with a turbocharger, it almost feels like the argument for larger displacement should no longer exist. 

Of course, the troll in me always felt the "no replacement for displacement" argument was a load of garbage anyway. Even when I was in high school, I would always argue back, "well, what if I stuck a turbo or supercharger on your giant engine...wouldn't that make more power?" More often than not, my muscle car friends would always bring up the Dodge Viper's enormous V-10 as the "crowning achievement" of displacement over forced induction. I would always argue back, "but they make turbocharger kits for the Viper's V-10..." or "XYZ engine with less displacement and forced induction makes more power..." For those of you not familiar with Dodge's ginormous V-10, the 2017 version of the  admittedly old school 8.4 liter V-10 makes 640 horsepower and 600 lb/ft of torque. For comparison's sake, you can get a 2017 C7 Corvette Z06 with a 6.2 liter supercharged V-8 that makes 650 horsepower and 650 lb/ft of torque. Yes, more horsepower and torque from an engine that is an entire F22C size smaller, all because it has a (giant) supercharge strapped to it.  

In this day and age where factory forced induction is now the norm (for emissions/fuel economy purposes though), the "no replacement for displacement" saying really means absolutely nothing anymore. If you want to really get technical, a lot of today's electric cars are faster than big displacement muscle cars, and their electric motors aren't even measured by displacement at all! I love big block engines as much as the next car nerd, but even I know that the future of performance lies in forced induction, hybrid technology, and pure electric power. There will always be a place for good 'ol fashioned Detroit Iron, but I have to question for how much longer.      

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