There’s been a lot of talk lately that the V-8 is a dying breed, big cars are going the way of Artie Lange’s liver, that the auto industry is sobering up and apologizing to those it hurt during its decades-spanning blackout. Good for you Artie, err, carmakers, we wanted you to get help for a long time. It’s such a relief to know that your days of showing up blurry-eyed and bloated to international auto shows with 400+ hp cars and barn-sized trucks are over, it was tough to see you like that.
But you know, the straight efficient life can be a blast too. Just look at how Toyota is managing to dress the Prius up without actually making it more fun to drive.
What? You didn’t think the little hybrid knew how to party? Think again buster. For 2010 the third generation Prius is stepping out with a full lineup of factory backed tuning parts. Modellista, a Toyota subsidiary offers three versions of a jazzy aero kit designed to take the Prius from ugly to… better.
For a little extra spunk, the base-level Aero Tourer replaces the Prius’ front grille, sides and rear clips. Version 1 and Version 2 of the kit includes add-on under-lip spoiler sets and if you’re feeling particularly randy, opt for two lightweight wheel designs and a lowering spring kit.
The modifications make the dainty fuel sipper look like it can swill petrol like a hardcore tuner, but the rebel car modifications don’t actually affect its fuel-economy. It’s like pounding a sixer of O’Doul’s at a party and keeping your cool while others go way too fast. Other high-mileage cars are following suit as part of the new ‘eco-tuning’ movement. Heck, Mugen already released factory installable accessories for the 2009 Honda Insight, people like that kind of thing (Cough). (1)
Except maybe for the two guys who used the United Kingdom’s new “Cash for Clunkers” style program to purchase new 2010 Nissan GT-Rs within five hours of the incentive initiation. These fellows are bad influences on an auto industry that is trying to steer clear of excessive fuel consumption. Purchasing 485 hp Nissans that max out at 16/21 mpg when driven like a Prius is not keeping in step with the program to wean consumers off their oil addictions.
Then again, carmakers such as Ford are actually finding ways to squeeze even more ridiculous power from their burly V-8 engines while still managing to boost efficiency, slightly.
It’s been confirmed that in 2010 Ford will replace their current two-valve, 4.6L V8 and three-valve, 4.6- and 5.4L V8 engines used in the F-150 pickup truck to make room for a fresh 5.0L V8, code named “Coyote.” The 5.0 produces approximately 400-hp and 400 pounds-feet of torque. Russell Christophers, Ford Australia’s product development director had nice things to say about the new power ratings:
“I have seen the performance curves and it is a pretty good engine.” (3)
Get this; Ford is also planning to stuff the Coyote beneath the hood of the new Mustang. What’s more, because the howlin’ engine uses a four-valve per cylinder setup that could put up similar fuel economy ratings to Ford’s current 5.4L V8, or even better. (4)
That’s right, the fuel economy might even be better. Let’s call the Coyote a smart move for Ford then, as in, smarter than coming out with a more powerful engine that didn’t use a bit less gas. In all reality, anyone interested in purchasing a new GT Mustang in the first place probably wouldn’t be at all opposed to having a 400hp engine option available to them instead of having to go the whole nine yards and upgrade to the 540hp $50K GT 500.
And there you have it. Car culture the world over is showing attempts at movement towards a more efficient and progressive future with consumers and manufacturers each lending a hand in their own special way. If hybrids really do represent a bridge to the next generation of automobile production we’re definitely seeing a lot of stepping stools to help reluctant feet up to the crossing. The first step to recovery is admitting we have a problem on our hands, but its clear few of us want to quit oil cold turkey.