There's been a fair amount of commentary in politics of late about "American exceptionalism," the notion that the U.S. is qualitatively different from any other country in the world.
It is occasionally interpreted to mean "We're the best, damnit, and if you don't say that a whole lot on the campaign trail, you're not a patriot!"
We're not going to step into that one.
We can confidently say, however, that the U.S. may be the only country in the world where a headline writer at a major national newsmagazine considers a four-cylinder engine of more than, say, 2 liters to be "tiny."
We refer you to a recent article by one Brad Tuttle on a TIME magazine blog entitled, "4-Cylinder Revolution: Lots More Fuel-Efficient Cars With Tiny Engines Being Sold."
The article describes a recent Edmunds study showing that 45 to 50 percent of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. this year are fitted with four-cylinder engines, versus just one-third of the total in January 2007.
Hyundai Gasoline Direct Injection Theta II Four-Cylinder Engine
We've said for a long time that much smaller, more efficient engines will be one of the main tools that carmakers use to meet increasingly stricter gas-mileage standards, up to a CAFE average of 54.5 mpg in 2025.
In late 2009, for example, Hyundai said it would abandon V-6 engines altogether for its 2010 Sonata, fitting only fours to the mid-size sedan. The base Sonata engine is a 2.4-liter four putting out 198 hp, and not a single V-6 is available. It said the same about its 2010 Tucson compact crossover, too.
More and more, fours are appearing in cars that never had then. Consider the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C 250 sedan we drove just a few weeks ago. It's the luxury maker's first four in the U.S. market in almost a decade.
So our amusement at the TIME article isn't about the statistics.
It's about the headline.
To call any four-cylinder engine--including those up to, say 2.5 liters--"tiny" is to invite contemptuous laughter from the rest of the world.
In Europe, Asia, and Central and South America, the vast majority of passenger cars and even a huge number of trucks have four-cylinder engines. Most are 2.0 liters or less, down to displacements as low as 1.2 liters on some European models.
But, hey, We're Number One, right? Bigger is better. The more, the merrier.
"Team America, [deleted] Yeah!"