It is about the end of high horsepower, high displacement, multiple cylinder engine that my generation grew up on.
Reports are coming in that we may be seeing the end of “big power.”
By big power, this is not just signaling the end of the internal combustion engine. It is about the high horsepower, high displacement, multiple cylinder engine that my generation grew up on.
In recent reports, both Bentley and Ferrari reported that their next generation vehicles will be at least electrified. Bentley has gone as far to state that the W-12 engine will be replaced by full battery electric propulsion. In another report, some have said that the next Ferrari hypercar will be hybrid and not a 12-cylinder monster.
Rolls-Royce have already signaled a transition towards battery electric propulsion for their top models. The Spectre coupe will be the first of such vehicles.
Maserati have already signaled the inclusion of battery electric and other electrified propulsion vehicles in their lineup. Within the same corporate family, Dodge already introduced a concept where the famed Hellcat engine will be replaced by a series of electric motors.
All of these are not news to us. The chatter towards replacing displacement with electrons has been going on for almost a decade. If it's not replacing displacement with boost, then this would be the next step towards a change that we never thought it would come.
This lament has been coming for quite some time. It is a reflection of my childhood, where I grew up at the apex of the horsepower wars. A time when Detroit built cars with high displacement high horsepower and high excitement. No one can deny the sound and the fury of these magnificent engines.
It was a time before the Nixon administration created the Environmental Protection Agency. A time when new safety regulations, emission controls, and a change in the way horsepower is measured would forever change the way we enjoyed the automobile.
Although we had a reprieve as technology infused the internal combustion engine with new life, we should have seen the writing on the wall. And, we were enjoying this. Advances in fuel injection and delivery, improvement in turbocharger Reliability, and further advances in engine management brought the internal combustion engine from near death in the early 1970s to what we've experienced in the last 20 years.
This is the era that I was very happy to have lived in. An era that engaged me towards the career I'm in right now the celebration of a century-plus old technology that has propelled the automobile for as long as the development of this form of propulsion.
To me, the automobile will always have a pulse. That pulse is fed by cylinders from a crankshaft. Fuel, air, and water eventually mixing to create life force that is the essence of transportation. This technology has emerged over decades, but the essence has always been there.
Don't get me wrong. I have worked with enough battery electric vehicles to understand where the future is going. Just like back at the turn of the 1900s, electric vehicles were seen as a smart idea, despite the fact of the greed of the oil barons and the eventual expansion of petroleum as the primary source for fueling vehicles.
However, comprehending the news where some of our more revered automobile entities are going the way of the battery is indeed a signal of massive and disruptive change. I know a lot of you have not welcomed this news. You would rather see the continued Reverence for the internal combustion engine for eons to come.
Believe me, I am with you. I, too, have been wrestling with this. As I mentioned before, I grew up in an era where horsepower mattered. I grew up where the terms “muscle car” and “pony car” were everything.
As a kid, the V12 engine was the ultimate expression of what performance should be. As flawed as they were in some vehicles, it is about the dream of this type of engine that infused fantasies. The idea of 12 cylinders firing to propel a vehicle luxuriously and/or rapidly was the stuff of legend.
Brands, such as Lamborghini, celebrated the essence of a 12-cylinder engine. In the past few decades, you would add Bentley, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volkswagen, and BMW to the lore of the 12-cylinder engine.
While some seemed wedged inside their particular engine bays, they evoke dreams and fantasies of vehicular flight. The audacity of a 12 cylinder engine have always been one that has never felt attainable. In some cases, they have become accessible to most consumers. That is, with some warning of higher repair costs.
Soon, these fantastic internal combustion engines will soon be relegated to the dustbin of history. That will take some time to digest. An era where it seems that unlimited power was the stuff of childhood dreams will be forgotten.
Frankly, I am not ready for this. It will take some time to grieve. Progress can be one pain in the you know where. However, we would eventually have to embrace this change.
Adieu, big power.
All photos by Randy Stern