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Small engines amp up power, demand

August 11, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Your search for better gas mileage doesn't mean you want to give up the search for luxury driving. Automakers are working to give drivers both economy and luxury.Mazda is taking the wraps off its newly-redesigned Mazda6, a mid-size sedan to compete with cars like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The new car offers two engine choices. And while the V6 is much more powerful, Mazda's putting strong emphasis on the four cylinder engine and its better mileage.

"The car's going to cruise all day on the highway, very little wind noise, and you're making 30 miles per gallon," said Mazda spokesman Jay Amestoy.

It used to be that choosing the smaller engine meant getting a more stripped-down car, but Mazda is offering the four in even the most luxurious trim level.

"That's what the customer wants. They want the same amenities and the same comfort they might have had in their previous, larger vehicle," said Amestoy.

The trend toward better mileage has many car brands offering smaller engines in more models. Ford originally emphasized the powerful V6 when the mid-size fusion debuted a few years ago. Now they're highlighting the four, available even in the high-line SEL model.

Ford's also offering a newly improved four cylinder in the Escape compact SUV, giving it more power along with a new six-speed automatic transmission. Together they allow the Escape to achieve 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. That's not as good as the Escape Hybrid, but about $4,000 less expensive.

Over at Chevrolet, the mid-size Malibu is now available with four cylinder power in the upscale LTZ trim package, thanks to buyer demand.

A lot of people might be reluctant to try a four cylinder engine because they don't think it's going to meet their needs. But experts say that's probably because they have tried a four in awhile.

"They make plenty of power. They're much better equipped with better transmissions, and there are more gears in the transmissions to take advantage of the power. They work well, and people are satisfied," said Scott Oldham from Edmunds.com.

While bigger engines do offer more power and smoothness, they also increase consumption. These days, many car shoppers are opting for saving gas instead of maximum power.

 

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