The Replacement for Displacement?
When it comes to automotive engines, there is an old saying "There is no replacement for displacement." While, I feel that for the most part this statement is true, modern day technology has found ways to deal with this.
A quick look around on many foreign car manufacturer's web sites and you will find that many cars, even performance oriented versions, are coming with 4 and 6 cylinder engines with displacements well under 200 cubic inches. In the 60's and 70's, any performance car would contain an 8 cylinder with a displacement as high as 500 cubic inches. The reason car manufacturers are able to do this are the insane advancements in technology. Things such as overhead camshafts with variable valve timing, 4 and even 5 valve per cylinder, cylinder heads, electronic fuel injection and forced induction are making this all possible. Some of these technologies have been around for a while, but they are just now being fully utilized by the OEM market. Two good examples of amazing technology include the Honda S2000 and the Mitsubishi Evolution VIII. The Honda S2000 makes 240 horse power naturally aspirated out of only 2.0L. That is the most horse power per liter, naturally aspirated, ever produced in a production engine, and this car can be driven on a daily basis back and forth to work with Honda reliability and decent fuel economy. The Mitsubishi Evolution has models ranging from the base 276 horse power model up to a European only model that has 400 horse power. This is done through a turbocharged 2.0L four cylinder. That means this car can make 400 horse power, with only 122 cubic inches. Back in the 60's it was quite an accomplishment to be able to match your horse power with your cubic inch numbers, the Evolution more than triples it.
I do feel that this technology could be put forth in larger displacement engines and do insane things, which supports the comment of "there is no replacement for displacement." On the other hand, who needs 400 cubic inches when John Shephard is making nearly 1200 horse power out of a 122 cubic inch Mitsubishi engine and General Motors has a factory based program making nearly 1200 horse power out of their 122 cubic inch Ecotec motor that can be found in Cavaliers and SunFires.