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GM confirms 3-cylinder engine, 8-speed automatic for future models

Automaker is betting big on fuel-efficient engines and transmissions -- and it's officially entered the 3-cylinder race.

By Douglas Newcomb Apr 8, 2013 6:42AM

GM EcoTech engine. Photo by GM.Demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles has focused the auto industry's attention on hybrids and electric vehicles, even though price, supply constraints and charging issues still put those cars out of reach for most consumers.

But the real action -- and where the real money is flowing -- is in traditional yet highly efficient gasoline-powered vehicles.


As one example, General Motors said it would invest $332 million to develop more fuel-efficient engines and transmissions. The resources will go into GM plants in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana to support the production of the automaker’s new Ecotec 3-cylinder engine (pictured above), a new V6 engine, a new 8-speed transmission and tooling for an existing 6-speed transmission. GM said this brings the automaker’s total spending on U.S. facilities that develop fuel-efficient powertrains to $1.2 billion dollars since 2009.


It also signals not only that GM is entering the race to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles due to increasing consumer demand, but that it's also entering the early stages of a race among three automakers to establish a lead in the 3-cylinder engine arena.


In a statement, GM said that $225 million of the $332 million investment it announced will be aimed at the development of 3- and 4-cylinder engines, while $55.7 million will go to development of the current 6-speed transmissions and of a new 8-speed transmission. GM is expected to put some of the first 3-cylinder engines it produces into the 2015 Volt in time for a product refresh.

GM’s new 3-cylinder engines, combined with the company's stated goal of cutting weight in current models by a proposed 15 percent, could help the automaker not only catch up in the 3-banger race but also succeed in capturing the growing ranks of fuel-minded car buyers.

However, GM won't be first to market such an engine. Ford will take the early lead with the 2014 Focus, which will pack a turbocharged 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine as an option that the company expects will return more than 40 mpg.

BMW is also prepping 1- and 1.5-liter twin-turbo 3-cylinder engines for a  foray into the U.S. market, and we got a quick spin in a prototype with the larger-displacement powerplant just before the New York Auto Show. BMW’s new 3-cylinder will enter the U.S. next year in the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe.  


[Source: GM]

Apr 8, 2013 7:58AM

Just imagine the fuel economy if these 3-cylinder engines were fueled by DIESEL instead of gasoline!


What a shame.

Apr 9, 2013 4:59AM
My old '91 Geo Metro had a 1.0L (61 aluminum 3 cylinder, so these aren't anything new. Mine got about 52 mpg with a 5 speed manual transmission. Hopefully with direct injection and turbocharging, these will be decent engines. I believe the Chevy Volt uses a turbocharged 3 cylinder to run the onboard generator as well, if I'm not mistaken.
Apr 10, 2014 9:58PM

I bought a Chevy Crap (cruze) in Feb 2012.  I got the upgraded LT model with RS package. It had the turbo 1.4L in it.


At 600 miles on the odometer, the center console developed a very annoying rattle.  I went to the dealership and they said "oh well.  These cars are known for it and there really isn't a way to fix it."  Google Cruze Center Console Rattle.  At 1200 miles, it had a recall to remove the "drip shield" from the motor put there by the envrionmentalists so that oil would not drip onto the road--it would accumulate and catch a fire.  Removing the drip shield caused the engine to create a loud knocking sound when it was warm (like most engines do) but with the shield gone, it was VERY loud. 


I guess you get what you pay for.  An entry level Chev car, built like an entry level Chevrolet.  And with a volt being a glorified Cruze with a $15000 premium for a 40 mile battery range?  No THANK you.


And for the great fuel mileage?  What a joke.  My car was rated for 28 / 36.  I could occasionally get 36 on the freeway, but I never got close to 28 around town.   I replace the cruze after 1 year and traded it in on a Subaru Forester, a small SUV with a 2.5L non turbo engine that gets 24 / 32 MPG.


And Chevrolet brags about getting 36MPG highway with a 1.8L small car, and I get 32MPG highway with a near 40% larger displacement non-turbo engine in a compact SUV that I can load up with tons of stuff?


Back to the drawing board, GM.


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