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Car engine types: Explore the types of automotive engines

Team Ackodrive1, Oct, 2021

The engine is the ‘heart’ of an automobile. An engine converts the heat energy produced by the combustion of fuel into mechanical work. Modern-day vehicles are equipped with internal combustion (IC) engines. However, there are several types of IC engines. This article throws light on different car engine types. So, turn on the ignition and read on!

Car engine types: Different types of automotive engines

There are several types of engines used in automobiles. The car engine types are generally described based on two factors: the fuel type and engine layout/number of cylinders (cylinder configuration. One of the most common types of engines is petrol and diesel engines. But that’s a generic way to describe a car engine. 

Apart from diesel vs. petrol, several other factors differentiate one engine from another. The following sections will explain different types of engines used in cars based on the factors mentioned above.

Car Engine Types

How do car engines work?

When you turn on the ignition key, the engine comes to life. But have you ever wondered how an engine works? Modern-day engines generate power via internal combustion or controlled explosions. It is achieved by igniting the air-fuel mixture inside the engine's cylinders. This process is called the combustion cycle, and the process repeats thousands of times per minute to propel the car.

A combustion cycle has four strokes (steps). Hence, modern-day engines are also called four-stroke engines. The four strokes include intake, compression, combustion and exhaust. Below are the detailed explanations of each stroke.

  • Intake: In this stroke, the piston moves down, and the intake valve opens and releases the air-fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber. The valve opens and closes with the help of a camshaft. The piston moves up/down with the help of a crankshaft.

  • Compression: As the name suggests, the piston moves up and compresses the air-fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber in this stroke.

  •  Combustion (Power): The spark plug produces a spark during this stroke and ignites the compressed hot air-fuel mixture. It causes a small explosion, and the energy generated by it pushes the piston down. This store provides the power to propel the vehicles. Hence, it’s also called a power stroke.

  • Exhaust: As soon as the piston moves down, the exhaust valve opens. And when the piston moves up, it pushes out the gases generated by the explosion via the exhaust valve. The cycle repeats thousands of times per minute to power the vehicle.

Note: The above working mechanism is of a petrol engine. The diesel engine also works on the same principle, but fuel injectors replace the spark plug to ignite the hot air.

Types of automobile engines in India

Here are the types of auto engines used in cars in India.

1. Naturally aspirated engine

  • It is an internal combustion engine. It’s also called a normally aspirated engine or NA.

  • In this type of engine, air intake depends on atmospheric pressure.

  • It does not use forced induction of air into the intake manifold.

  • It produces less power than forced air induction engines (turbocharged/supercharged).

  • It is simple in construction and more reliable than forced air induction engines.

2. Turbocharged engine

  • It is an internal combustion engine with forced air induction.

  • An additional component called a turbocharger is used for forced air induction.

  • A turbocharger comprises a shaft with a turbine at one end and an air compressor at the other end. The components are housed in a snail-shaped covering with an inlet port.

  • The waste exhaust gases enter at high pressure via the inlet port.

  • The exhaust gases pass through the turbine, and in turn, it spins the compressor.

  • The air compressor sucks in more air that is compressed and passes through the air outlet port.

  • The air is fed into the cylinders via an intercooler that cools the air before it reaches the cylinders.

  • Since the air pressure is higher than atmospheric pressure, the engine produces more power.

3. CRDi engine

  • It is a type of diesel engine known as a Common Rail Direct Injection (CRDi) engine.

  • CRDi is a fuel injection technology used in modern diesel engines.

  • It comprises a single common rail (line) to supply fuel to all the fuel injectors.

  • CRDi engines can maintain a constant fuel injection pressure due to the presence of a common rail.

  • Due to the constant pressure, the fuel spray is very fine and is evenly distributed. It helps in enhanced efficiency and power.

  • ECU (Electronic Control Unit) regulates the fuel injection pressure depending on the speed and load on the engine.

4. MPFI engine

  • It is a type of petrol engine which is also known as Multi-Point Fuel Injection engine.

  • MPFI is a fuel injection technology used in petrol engines. It is similar to CRDi, which is used in diesel engines.

  • The MPFI system makes use of fuel injectors to deliver the exact amount of fuel to each cylinder.

  • Due to the precise fuel delivery system, MPFI enhances fuel efficiency.

  • MPFI also increases the engine power output.

  • MPFI engines are refined, and they also start effortlessly even in cold weather conditions.

  • MPFI engines produce fewer carbon emissions due to the precise fuel delivery.

Common car engine layouts

As mentioned earlier, auto engines are also classified based on cylinder layouts. Different car manufacturers use different layouts to accommodate the engine under the bonnet or to extract more power. Below are some of the common car engine layouts used by car manufacturers.

1. Straight

  • In a straight layout, the cylinders are arranged in a straight line parallel to the car (front to back).

  • The straight engine layout allows for more cylinders. The more the cylinder, the more the engine displacement. Hence, more power output.

  • The straight engine layout is mainly used in powerful sedan cars from the stable of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, etc.

2. Inline

  • The cylinders are arranged side-by-side across the engine bay (perpendicular to the car).

  • The inline layout allows for a compact arrangement of engine components. Hence inline engines are compact in dimensions.

  • Inline engines are mainly used in hatchbacks and small cars.

3. V

  • The name ‘V’ refers to the shape of arrangement of cylinders when viewed from the front.

  • In this layout, the cylinders are mounted at an angle of 60-degrees on either side. So, the rows of cylinders face outside to form a V-shape.

  • The pistons of all the cylinders are connected by a single crankshaft at the base.

  • The V layout can accommodate a lot of cylinders. Hence, it is mainly seen on high-end supercars.

4. Flat

  • In this engine layout, the cylinders are arranged horizontally. The two rows of cylinders face outwards.

  • Flat engines are uncommon. They are known to offer a low centre of gravity due to the arrangement of cylinders.

  • Hence, flat engines aid in driving dynamics and impressive handling.

  • Porsche is one of the largest manufacturers of flat cylinder engines. The iconic Porsche 911 sports car makes use of a flat-six (6 cylinder) engine.

Car engine cylinder configurations

The car engine cylinder configuration is nothing but the number of cylinders in an engine. There are several types of configurations which are listed below.

  • Twin-cylinder engine: Nowadays, this type of cylinder configuration is not used in cars. You can find twin-cylinder engine two-wheelers. The reason it’s not used in cars is the low power output.

  • Three-cylinder engine: It is a configuration that is generally used in small cars. However, with the introduction of turbochargers, three-cylinder engines are also used in large hatchbacks. One of the drawbacks of this engine is the lack of refinement due to the odd number of cylinders.

  • Four-cylinder engine: It is one of the most common configurations found in modern cars. Four-cylinder engines generally feature an inline layout in almost all small and large vehicles. Unlike three-cylinder engines, these engines are refined and can produce more power with the introduction of turbochargers.

  • Five-cylinder engine: It is a very rare configuration, and it has become almost obsolete. A five-cylinder also suffers from vibrations due to the odd number of cylinders. Manufacturers like Volvo, Audi, etc., adopted the five-cylinder configuration. 

  • Six-cylinder engine: One can find this configuration in high-end or sports cars. Generally, these engines feature a straight or V engine layout. With the advent of turbochargers, six-cylinder engines have become more powerful.

  • Eight/Ten/Twelve (or more) cylinder engine: Eight (or more) cylinder engines are only used in supercars. They are generally in V layout and are called V8, V10 or V12 engines. These engines produce massive power due to their large capacity.

Also, read: How to check engine oil level in a car?

Most powerful car engines in India

The engine is the source of power to propel the vehicle forward—the more powerful the engine, the higher the car's performance. Although India is known for its fuel-efficient engines, the new-age buyers look for more power for an engaging drive. Hence, car manufacturers have also come up with powerful car engines in India. Below is the list of some of the powerful engines in India.

1. Kryotec 2-litre turbocharged diesel engine

The Tata Harries SUV comes with a powerful 2-litre Kryotec turbo-diesel engine. As an SUV, the engine needs to produce more torque, and Tata Motors has done a great job tuning this diesel engine. Below are the power figures of this reliable oil burner.

2-litre turbocharged diesel engine (Tata Motors)
Power 167 Bhp
Torque 350 Nm

2. 1.3-Litre turbocharged petrol engine

The Nissan Kicks compact SUV draws power from a 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine. It is one of the most powerful engines in the SUV segment, and Nissan has also used the GT-R supercar’s unique cylinder coating technology. Below are the performance figures of the engine.

1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine (Nissan)
Power 154 Bhp
Torque 254 Nm

3. Smartstream G 1.4-litre turbo GDI petrol engine

Powering the petrol variant of the Kia Seltos SUV is the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine. The Seltos took the Indian market by storm due to its revolutionary features and powerful engine options. Below are the power figures of this peppy petrol engine.

1.4-litre turbo GDi petrol engine (Kia)
Power 154 Bhp
Torque 254 Nm

4. 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine

Honda’s 1.5-litre petrol engine is the only naturally aspirated engine on this list. Powering the popular City sedan is the same 1.5-lire engine known for its performance, despite being a naturally aspirated engine. The below table denotes the power figures of this engine.

1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine (Honda)
Power 119 Bhp
Torque 145 Nm

5. 1.2-litre Revotron turbocharged petrol engine

Indian automaker Tata Motors has come up with some powerful and reliable engines in recent years. The 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine is one of them—the engine powers several Tata cars in different states of tune. But our choice is the one employed in the Nexon SUV. Refer to the table below for the power figures of the engine.

1.2-litre Revotron turbocharged petrol engine (Tata Motors)
Power 118.3 Bhp
Torque 170 Nm

6. 1-litre Kappa turbocharged GDi petrol engine

Hyundai was one of the first manufacturers to introduce turbocharged engines after the implementation of BS6 emission norms. The 1-litre turbo-petrol is a powerful engine and powers several Hyundai models such as the Grand i10 Nios, Hyundai Verna and Hyundai venue SUV. Below are the performance figures of this engine.

1-litre Kappa turbocharged GDi petrol engine (Hyundai)
Power 118 Bhp
Torque 172 Nm

7. 1.5-litre mStallion turbocharged diesel engine

Powering the diesel variant of the Mahindra XUV300 is the 1.5-litre turbocharged engine. It produces best-in-segment power figures. The XUV300 is a compact SUV, and the diesel engine makes it a fun-to-drive vehicle. Below are the power figures of this engine.

1.5-litre mStallion turbocharged diesel engine (Mahindra)
Power 115 Bhp
Torque 300 Nm

8. 1.5-litre Revotorq turbocharged diesel engine

The diesel variant of the Tata Nexon draws power from a 1.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine. Apart from Nexon, the Revotorq engine is also employed in other Tata models. But the Nexon makes more power. Hence, this is the best choice. Below are the performance figures of the diesel engine.

1.5-litre Revotorq turbocharged diesel engine (Tata Motors)
Power 108 Bhp
Torque 260 Nm

9. 1-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine

The Volkswagen Polo hatchback draws power from the 1-litre turbocharged petrol engine. The BS6 petrol engine delivers a peppy performance thanks to its high torque. The Polo is a sporty-looking hatchback, and this engine compliments the looks. The power figures of this engine are listed below.

1-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine (Volkswagen)
Power 108 Bhp
Torque 175 Nm

10. 1.2-litre mStallion turbocharged petrol engine

Powering the petrol avatar of the XUV300 SUV is the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine. It produces best-in-segment torque, and it is one of the reasons behind the success of the XUV300. Below are the power figures of this engine.

1.2-litre mStallion turbocharged petrol engine (Mahindra)
Power 108 Bhp
Torque 200 Nm

Components used to cool car engine 

A car engine produces a lot of heat due to friction. Hence, a cooling system is essential for the smooth functioning of an engine. Without a proper cooling system, the engine may overheat and break down. Below are the components used to cool the engine.

  • Radiator

  • Radiator fan

  • Water pump

  • Thermostat

  • Pressure cap (Radiator cap)

Best 4-cylinder engine cars in India

Here is the list of cars with 4-cylinder engines in India.

Model Engine Fuel type
Maruti WagonR 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder Petrol
Maruti Swift 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder Petrol
Hyundai Grand i10 Nios 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder Petrol/CNG
Hyundai i20 1.2-litre/1.5-litre, 4-cylinder Petrol/Diesel
Tata Altroz 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder Diesel
Maruti Baleno 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder Petrol
Maruti Ciaz 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder Petrol
Honda City 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder Petrol/Diesel
Hyundai Elantra 2-litre/1.5-litre, 4-cylinder Petrol/Diesel
Toyota Camry 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder Petrol
Tata Nexon 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder Diesel
Mahindra XUV300 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder Diesel
Hyundai Venue 1.2-litre/1.5-litre, 4-cylinder Petrol/Diesel
Hyundai Creta 1.4-litre/1.5-litre, 4-cylinder Petrol/Diesel
Kia Seltos 1.4-litre/1.5-litre, 4-cylinder Petrol/Diesel
Tata Harrier 2-litre, 4-cylinder Diesel
Mahindra XUV700 2-litre/2.2-litre, 4-cylinder Petrol/Diesel

Frequently asked questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions related to car engine types

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How many types of car engines are there in India?

There are mainly two types of car engines: petrol and diesel. The engines can be classified into several categories depending on the layout, fuel injection technology and air induction system.

Which type of engines are used in modern cars?

Modern cars use IC (Internal Combustion) engines. A petrol engine features a spark-ignition system, whereas a diesel engine uses a compression ignition system.

Which is the most common engine configuration used in modern cars?

Inline 4-cylinder is one of the most common engine configurations used in modern cars. Some cars even come with 3-cylinder engines, especially small petrol engines.

Are SI and CI engines the same?

The SI and CI are internal combustion engines, but they work on different principles. An SI engine uses petrol as fuel and works on spark-ignition and Otto cycle. On the other hand, a CI engine uses diesel fuel and works on diesel cycle and compression ignition.

Why are turbocharged engines more powerful than naturally aspirated engines?

A naturally aspirated engine purely relies on the atmospheric pressure for the air required for the combustion. In contrast, a turbo engine uses a turbocharger to draw in more air—the more the air, the more powerful the combustion. Hence, turbocharged engines produce more power than NA engines.

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