WHY ARE V4 ENGINES SO RARE AND WHICH CARS USE THEM?
Four cylinder engines have become a staple powertrain choice for the majority of the automotive spectrum, providing a convenient, well-packaged and efficient solution to propelling a vehicle down the road. Nearly every four-cylinder is an inline-four either placed longitudinally or transversely in the engine bay, with the trend being bucked by Volkswagen, Subaru and now Porsche who decided upon a flat-four format.
A V4 setup however has very rarely been used in car production, only finding its way under the bonnets of obscure and finely-niched vehicles. The main reason for this is the cost involved with developing and manufacturing a V-format engine over a straight engine block. Two separate valvetrains are needed due to the need for two cylinder heads, along with two exhaust manifolds that all increases the complexity of the production process.
Weight distribution is another issue, with a V4 engine having a higher centre of gravity than a flat-four. But a V4 does have its advantages; it is naturally shorter than an inline-four which is great for packaging and the more-upright cylinder heads when compared to a flat-four makes the V4 an easier engine to work on and maintain.
The cool factor of these engines may be simply because they are super rare but let’s take a look at the cars whose engineers decided a V4 was the engine of choice.
The Ford Taunus was Ford’s main representation in continental Europe from 1939-1994 before being succeeded by the Sierra and Granada. It took until 1962 for the Taunus to come with a V4 engine through the 12M P4 model, with the engine’s power being sent through the front wheels.
The V4 powerplant ranged from 1.2- to 1.7-litres of displacement throughout the Taunus’ production lifespan, offering from 44-74bhp depending on which engine was chosen. A V6 upgrade was offered as the range-topper in 1964, but I’d personally pick a less-powerful V4 variant due to its eccentricity.
SAAB SONETT V4
Sharing numerous components with the SAAB 95 and 96 models, the Sonett was a two-seater sports coupe built by the Swedish manufacturer from 1955-74. The model we’re interested in however is the V4 version from the Sonett II range which was used as a performance variant to be built in small numbers. The Sonett V4 was actually a pioneering piece of kit in its day, sporting a roll bar, three-point seat belts and special bucket seats specifically to protect against whiplash.
Utilising the 1.5-litre V4 engine from the Ford Taunus, the Sonett V4 was introduced in 1967 with 64bhp and a rash bonnet bulge to house the new powertrain. Performance was fairly docile, with 62mph coming in 12.5 seconds before a top speed of 99mph but these figures were enough for it to keep up with its competitors like the MGB and Triumph TR5.
Particularly stunning in coupe form (as seen above) the Lancia Fulvia brought with it the company’s first world rally win, launching Lancia into a history book that would see them returning for more chapters in the coming decades. Its name comes from the Roman road from Tortona to Torino called Via Fulvia, with the car being launched in 1963 as a four-door saloon.
The aspect that makes the V4 in the Fulvia particularly impressive is that it uses a tiny 45-degree angle between the cylinder banks, meaning that it can get away with a single cylinder head and therefore a single valvetrain. The Fulvia launched with a 1.1-litre, 58bhp unit before the 1.6-litre HF brought 132bhp to the table. Lancia used the 1.6 HF as its works rally entrant until the mighty Stratos took over the helm, going on to win three WRC titles.
PORSCHE 919 HYBRID
Believe or not, but it is true!
The 919 Hybrid is potentially one of the most-advanced cars on the planet, taking the cutting edge of internal combustion, electric drive and aerodynamics and amalgamating them into a Le Mans-winning package. Interestingly, the motorsport guys at Porsche decided to choose a 2.0-litre V4 engine to power the rear wheels. The front wheels are then driven by a KERS system, making for an all-wheel drive monster that can supposedly sprint to 60mph in just 2.2 seconds.
That crazy time is achieved due to a combined 900bhp and an 875kg kerbweight which is thrown down the road via the brutal torque combination of electric and turbocharged power.
The V4 layout is a head-scratching prospect for those automotive speculators out there; with the current Cayman and Boxster using flat-four engines, could we see a turbocharged V4 engine in Porsches production cars any time soon?
– Could we see a V4 in the likes of the Panamera or the future Boxsters and Caymans?
And the most famous car with the mentioned engine, that I believe that all of you car maniacs heard off, is…: ( 🙂 🙂 🙂 )
ZAZ Zaporozhets was a series of rear-wheel-drive superminis (city cars in their first generation) designed and built from 1958 at the ZAZ factory in Soviet Ukraine . Different models of the Zaporozhets, all of which had an air-cooled engine in the rear, were produced until 1994.
Zaporozhets is still well-known in many former Soviet states. Like the Volkswagen Beetle or East Germany’s Trabant, the Zaporozhets was destined to become a “people’s car” of the Soviet Union, and as such it was the most affordable vehicle of its era. At the same time, it was rather sturdy and known for its excellent crossing performance on poor roads. Another important advantage of the Zaporozhets was its ease of repairs.
There were 2 main versions and numerous special versions produced. Main model were:
ZAZ-965A (1960-1969) with 2 versions of motors: 746 cc MeMZ 965 V4 and 887 cc MeMZ 966 V4
ZAZ-966, ZAZ-968, ZAZ-968M (1966-1994) with 1.2L MeMZ-968 V4 engine