EngineEngine Configurations

Engine Types and their Differences

You will be helped here to understand different petrol engine types, their configurations, pros and cons of their designs, limitations, common ways to overcome them and how to best utilize the one that you own.

Petrol engines are Internal Combustion engines, meaning the fuel is set on fire or combusted inside the engine. Moreover it, External Combustion engines also exist.

Is a 3 Liter I4 engine better than a 3 Liter V6?

It’s not easily determined.

The engine configuration does not have to do much with the power produced. The power of the engine (or horsepower) is dependent on various factors. Now, let’s take a look on various engine configurations.

 

I4 or Inline Four Cylinder Engine

i4 engine gold

The most commonly found engine configuration in Pakistan:

Advantages:

The I4 is small and compact. It fits easily into the engine room and
doesn’t require much space.

Having only one exhaust manifold, it sheds more weight as
compared to other types of engines.

It also has a single engine head as compared to other configurations.
This means that it reduced costs and develop more efficiency as all
the parts are in a single place.

Having a single header, the engine is easily accessible. Mechanical
troubleshooting becomes easier.

Due to the above and other reasons, manufacturing the I4 is simpler
and cheaper.

Disadvantages:

Highest number of cylinders can be 6 as more than 6 would be too
long and the strain would be too much for the crankshaft.

I4 are small and they are limited in their intake capacity.

Being bigger, I4 causes vibrations for which a balancing shaft is
necessary.

The center of gravity for I4 is high as they are similar to the pillars in
shape.

Although, they are compact but they are not as robust as other
engines.

Boxer or Horizontally Opposed Engines

boxer 4 subaruSource: Subaru

First patented by Karl Benz in 1896, the boxer engine is an ideal choice by performance. Currently, it is still being produced by companies like Subaru & Porsche. The boxer engine is one of the few engines that achieve a natural balance. The boxer configuration is the only configuration in common use that does not have unbalanced forces with
a four-stroke cycle regardless of the number of cylinders, as long as both banks have the same number of cylinders. This makes it an ideal engine for a race car.

Advantages:

Being naturally balanced, the engine provides smoother operation.

Due to its smoothness, it creates fewer vibrations.

It gives better handling due to its lower center of gravity as compared
to other configurations.

It also has better weight distribution as the engine itself is naturally
balanced.

Disadvantages:

Although naturally balanced, the engines are wide which means they
take up more space in the engine room.

As the pistons are opposed that means two heads, this in turn means
the distribution of valves, exhaust manifolds etc.

Maintenance can be a challenge if the other components are too
tightly packed with the engine.

A boxer engine with six cylinders cause unbalanced moments, (a
reciprocating torque also known as a “rocking couple”) which are
unavoidable due to the “opposite” cylinders being slightly out of the
line with each other.

I6 or Straight Six Engine

i6 skyline gtr

The straight-six layout is the simplest engine layout that possesses both
primary and secondary mechanical engine balance, resulting in less
vibration than engines with fewer cylinders. It’s featured in some of the
most iconic cars like Nissan Skyline GT-R R34, Toyota Supra, Honda
NSX, BMW 3 Series E46 and many more.

Advantages:

An inline six engine is practically a perfect primary and secondary
mechanical balance, without the use of a balance shaft.

The I6 is essentially an I4 with 2 extra cylinders. Meaning, it reaps all
of the benefits of an I4.

Mechanically, it is easily accessible.

Less production cost due to the single cylindrical head is similar to an
I4.

Due to an almost perfect balance, it results in much more
smoothness.

Better handling due to the balance.

Disadvantages:

Almost impossible to work with a FWD configuration.

Not as robust and sturdy when compared to a V6, due to its length
and skinny design.

Higher center of gravity when compared to a boxer engine.

Due to its increased length, it takes a lot of space. Meaning, less
space for additional components like turbo, supercharger etc.

V6 Engine

v6 gtrSource: Nissan

The V6 is one of the most compact engine configurations, usually ranging from 2.0 L to 4.3 displacement, shorter than the inline 4 and more compact than the V8 engine. Because of its short length, the V6 fits well in the widely used transverse engine front-wheel. Due to these reasons, its quickly becoming the go-to engine configuration for most of
the car companies.

Normally, it is found at either 60° or 90° angles. It was first produced by Lancia. Today, it’s one of the popular configurations in the world.

Advantages:

They can be used for both FWD and RWD cars because they are
compact in size and are able to easily cater to both drive types.

More powerful than a 4 cylinder engine configuration.

More robust and sturdy when compared to an I6.

Due to smaller size it can be easily equipped with additional
components like turbos and superchargers to maximize the output of
the engine.

Disadvantages:

Although more compact, it’s more expensive to produce.

Not as smooth naturally, it needs counterweights on the crankshaft
and a counter rotating balancing shaft to achieve smoothness.

Additional components simply mean higher costs and complexity.

It has more parts like two cylindrical heads as compared to an I6’s
one cylindrical head.

Two heads mean two exhaust manifolds which simply mean more
weight.

High center of gravity like an I6.

V8 Engine

v8 mustang
In its simplest form, the V8 is basically two parallel inline-four engines sharing a common crankshaft. Since the 1920s, most V8s have used more complex cross plane crankshafts with
heavy counterweights to eliminate the vibrations. This results in an engine that is smoother than a V6, while being considerably less expensive than a V12.

V8s continue to use the single plane crankshaft because it allows faster
acceleration and more efficient system designs.

Advantages:

Having a V Configuration, it’s more compact and powerful.

More cylinders make it able to produce more power. Meaning, it’s a
more powerful engine.

Having the advantages of a V6, it has a more robust design and
higher endurance.

Being a bigger engine and more space, it can also be armed with
additional components like turbo and supercharger easily.

More cylinders make it more balanced than a V6.

Disadvantages:

Being a bigger engine, it weighs more.

It is not like the most balanced engines. It requires more machinery
to keep it smooth.

More machinery means it has a more complex design than an inline
engine.

Same as a V6, it is more expensive and costs higher to produce.

Higher center of gravity as compared to a boxer engine with the
same number of pistons.

Due to its larger size, it works for either a RWD or an AWD car.

 

V12 Engine

V12

Source: Wikimedia

Each cylinder bank is essentially a straight-six which is by itself in both primary and secondary balances. A V12 inherits perfect primary and secondary balance without regarding angles. Therefore, it needs no balance shafts.

Advantages:

V12 are simply 2 straight-six or I6 on a single crankshaft. They
provide a natural balance.

A V12 at 60° angle has the smoothest power delivery than any other
engine. Even at any other angle, it has minimal vibrations.

Having natural balance, it doesn’t need additional components like
other V configurations to balance it. Thus, they are less complex and
require fewer components.

We get more power from V12 because they use small cylinders and
large displacements.

Having more cylinders, they are able to produce more power. This is
one of the reasons that why modern super cars like Lamborghini
uses it.

Disadvantages:

Additional cylinders lead to higher costs.

As they are monstrous engines, they require the same amount of
space in the engine room.

Being such big engines, they weigh more. A solution that’s wide used
is that v12’s are made up of lighter materials than the ones used in a
V8 to reduce the weight.

More cylinders mean a complex network of exhaust manifolds and
pipes.

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