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Fuel-efficient cars that haven't lost power

June 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The price of gas keeps fluctuating, but it's probably not going to go way down anytime soon, if at all.

With that in mind, fuel economy is on more car shoppers' minds than ever. The federal government is mandating higher MPG too, so many cars will be getting smaller engines.

But those who still like powerful cars need not worry. New technologies are helping smaller engines keep up.

Chevy's Equinox crossover SUV gets by just fine with its four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. A V-6 is available as well, but it uses much more fuel.

Chrysler's new 300 sedan also scoots along nicely with its base V-6. With the previous version, many buyers upgraded to the V-8 for smoothness and power. Now that same smooth power and fuel economy comes in the V-6 package.

Engineers throughout the automotive industry are at work making smaller engines behave like bigger ones.

Car companies know that some buyers will pay extra to get some power. The new Kia Sportage has a power upgrade, but not like a bigger engine like a V-6. It has a turbo four, which has lots more power but has the same fuel efficiency of a four.

Kia's corporate cousin Hyundai is adopting the same philosophy. The stylish new Sonata sedan has no option of a V-6 but a turbo is available as an upgrade.

Designing the car without room for a V-6 provides another benefit beyond fuel efficiency.

"By dropping something that only a tiny fraction of our customers have even asked for, we're able to make gigantic strides in terms of interior room for everybody else," Hyundai spokesman Michael O'Brien said.

And it's not just family cars. Sports models are going on an engine diet, too.

Audi's high performance S4 model used to have a thirsty V-8 for big power. Now, a supercharged V-6 provides nearly the same acceleration while using less fuel.

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