4 or 6 Cylinders: Choosing the Best Engine for You

15317895599_3e6c278458_bFour and six cylinders engines are by far the most popular you’ll see on modern cars, even on powerful luxury vehicles, SUVs, and trucks. But what exactly does the cylinder count affect?


The most obvious difference between the two engines is the amount of power they have to offer. Two extra cylinders firing on each rotation mean that a V6 (6 cylinders form a V-shape) can offer roughly 50 percent more power than an I4 (4 cylinders ‘inline’) that uses similar technology. This means more power for acceleration and towing capacity. That’s only when all else is equal, however, so modern four-cylinder engines can often out-power an older V6.

Fuel Economy

Again, if all else is equal, extra cylinders mean a V6 uses more fuel each cycle than an I4. But in this case not all else is equal, since more cylinders make for a larger engine, and a larger engine adds a lot more weight and definitely drops the efficiency. However, V6 vehicles also save some energy, thanks to their having more effective acceleration. Still, four-cylinder engines are, for the most part, more efficient.

Turbo Vs. Cylinder Deactivation

In some cases, advanced engines use other technology to make up the difference between the two cylinder counts. Turbocharged I4 engines are becoming popular as a way to boost power, and V6 and V8 engines are deactivating some cylinders to improve fuel economy. But while these changes help shore up each engine’s problems, they don’t make the engines interchangeable.

At the end of the day, an I4 is best for fuel efficiency, and a V6 offers more power.


Image via Flickr by Dan Petreikis

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