We’ve known for a while now that tougher regulations are forcing car manufacturers around the world to shrink engine capacities, combined with forced induction and other clever technologies in order to reduce CO2 emissions. As a result, cars which previously came standard with a range of 6 & 8-cylinder engines, such as BMW’s 3-Series range, have dropped down a rung and now offer 4 & 6-cylinder engines instead.
In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, 6-cylinder engines were the de-facto choice for drivers seeking reasonable economy, yet still offering a good level of power needed for comfortable motoring on the open road and during overtaking – and for those wanting more, they simply had to have a V8. But times have changed. 6-cylinders are a bit on the nose, replaced instead by high-output turbocharged 4-cylinder models that match the old 6’s for power output, yet smash them (literally for a 6) economy wise. Spare a thought for those who love V8’s – though they are understandably worried about the prospect of their favourite engine configuration going the way of the dinosaur, they shouldn’t start panicking yet.
Mercedes-Benz’s most senior research and development executive has said this week that its iconic V8 will never die. In an interview with Australian journalists at the Mercedes-Benz GLC launch in Germany earlier this week, the German car-maker’s R&D chief Prof Dr Thomas Weber announced “We are completely convinced we will stay forever with V8s”.
Aussie petrol-heads and AMG faithful alike will be stoked to hear the news, which comes despite impending 2020 emissions regulations that will force car-makers to adopt new techniques to reduce fleet-average tailpipe CO2 outputs to just 95g/km – or what you’d find coming out the exhaust pipe of a Toyota Prius or Lexus CT200h.
In order to meet this strict limit, Mercedes-Benz will continue to downsize their engines and increase the size of the turbochargers. A good case in point is AMG’s latest twin-turbo 4.0L V8 found in the C63, which replaced the previous 5.5-litre bi-turbo and 6.2-litre naturally-aspirated V8s.
“The style will be different, the displacement different. We will see bigger turbos and how small can you go with V8? I don’t know yet,” he said.
So while the German V8 will survive into the future, Dr Weber said it will have to evolve — potentially radically – via measures such as cylinder deactivation and electric harvesting and ‘boosting’ a la modern F1 race cars, but the weight penalty of plug-in hybrid technology is not so high on the agenda.
“Maybe the key question is electrification. Plug-ins in the high-performance field? Will the AMG customer will go for these technologies? For plug-ins you add weight. Maybe we will look to Formula One and this type of electrification?” he added.
“There is room for something which is more leaning to boost and energy harvesting and a role model could be the F1 story. It’s a little bit different than the hybrid concept.”
The high-ranking Mercedes-Benz executive also pointed out that the popularity of its high-performance four-cylinder engines will “steadily grow”, but stated “there is still enough room for V8s and V6s”.
As the development of performance engines increasingly relies on forced-induction and electrification, Weber conceded – somewhat forlornly – that the “naturally aspirated [engine] is gone”.
His advice? Get your hands on a traditional big-bore V8 before they disappear forever.
“6.3L? Now you should as fast as possible buy one!”