Today: Six is the New Eight

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 14, 2015

Dear Car Talk:

I have had a Mercury Grand Marquis for over 15 years. We use it for long trips, and have been very satisfied with it. But the time has come to replace it. I saw an article about the new Buicks, and they look good. My question is: They all seem to be six cylinders. Our Grand Marquis is an eight. I wonder if the sixes deliver the same good driving I am used to. Also, does the engine get more wear at continued highway speeds because it has fewer cylinders?

-- Bruce

Six is the new eight, Bruce. Also, four is the new six, and three is the new four.

With technologies like direct injection and turbo-charging, engineers have been able to wring more power and efficiency out of each cylinder. For instance, your 15-year-old Grand Marquis with a V-8 produced 215 horsepower. By comparison, the 2015 Buick LaCrosse, with a V-6, makes 304 horsepower.

The 2015 Buick Regal, which is well-regarded, has a choice of two four-cylinder engines. The more powerful of the two makes 259 horsepower -- 45 more horsepower than your Grand Marquis, with half the cylinders. So you are not going to experience any lack of power.

Nor will your engine necessarily work harder on the highway. Your old Grand Marquis has a four-speed transmission. The new Buicks have six-speed transmissions (many cars now have seven, eight and even nine speeds). With more gear ratios available, the highest gear can be dedicated to highway cruising. That means at 65 mph, your engine probably will be loping along at 1,800 rpm, which is a piece of cake for an engine. That's one of the reasons you'll get better highway mileage, too, despite the increased power.

The only thing you'll be unhappy with, I predict, is the rear visibility. But that's true with almost every new car, as today's style calls for a rising belt line and a high rear end (and I'm talking Buick here, Bruce, not Kardashian). So be sure to order the rearview camera.

But I think you should embrace the future, Bruce. I can tell you'd really rather have a Buick.

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