Cars have always been powered by combustion engines, either burning petrol or diesel. Excluding the first few steam powered cars and the most recent electric vehicles, 99 percent (maybe more) of all cars on the planet use a combustion engine. With the rising environmental awareness and pollution however, a large pressure has been placed upon the dinosaur that is the CO2 emitting classic combustion engine. People are turning towards every other alternative, be it electric, hydrogen and even ethanol.
The combustion engine as we know it is dying, but don’t think it’ll go down without a fight. Emission regulations have been getting stricter each year, making it harder for manufacturers to deliver an economical engine that’s actually got decent performance. And it’s not like petrolheads are the only people who want more power. Recent years saw a lot of manufacturers admit that they’ve been cheating emission tests just to pass them. Yes, they really have gotten that strict.
The problem itself lies in the way the combustion engine operates. In order to produce power, it needs to ignite a mixture of fuel and air which then subsequently burns. The explosion pushes the piston inside the cylinder down creating the moving force which propels your vehicle. It’s a very violent process however, the result of which is harmful CO2. To cut down on CO2 manufacturers have resorted to everything, from turbocharging to downsizing on both cylinders and volume.
The truth is that while those methods work, they compromise. They sacrifice power and torque to gain efficiency. Now imagine an engine that’s capable of delivering both. Great economy with more than adequate power figures. Sounds rather juicy doesn’t it?
Infiniti has developed just that, and we have to say, we’re really impressed. See, turbocharged engines are great when they’re in boost because they produce power with next to no loss, but it’s the rev range until the turbo spools up that’s not very efficient. Because of the lower compression used in turbocharged engines to prevent detonation, they gain no efficiency advantage over a naturally aspirated engine until the turbo comes into play.
Infiniti has found a way to create an engine with variable compression and the entire explanation is rather large and complex, so we’ll break it down. Simply put, Infiniti made a part of the engine which is supposed to be fixated, adjustable. Rather than having the pistons connected directly to the crankshaft, they introduced a pivot arm in between to act as a middleman.
This gives the engine the option of having different compression ratios at any given point, from 8:1 to 14:1. Depending on the revs, your type of driving and fuel injected it can work out the needed ratio and immediately adjust. As you can imagine, this makes the engine extremely efficient when cruising and surprisingly powerful for its size when you need the poke.
How powerful? 268 hp and 288 lb-ft of torque if you want to be exact. Take a look at the other 2.0 liter turbocharged units from BMW, Audi, and the like, you’ll find they’re no match for the power of the VC-T, let alone its efficiency. Currently the only vehicle to be getting it is the QX50 crossover, but expect it to find its way into most of Infiniti’s (and we suspect Nissan) lineup.