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March 19, 2009

2-cylinder Fiat engine packs plenty of power

ORBASSANO, Italy -- Eighty-five horsepower never felt this good. The 1,900-pound Fiat 500 minicar leaped forward like a motorcycle when I floored the tiny two-cylinder turbocharged engine under its hood.

Driving around the test track at Fiat Group's research center just outside Turin, I was one of the first outsiders to feel the power of Fiat's upcoming mini engine and the automaker's new Multiair valve-timing technology.

The 900cc engine -- that's less cylinder displacement than a Big Gulp cup -- goes into production next year.

It plays a key role in Fiat and Chrysler's plans, as a fun and fuel-sipping powerplant for the 500 and potentially the generator in extended-range electric vehicles.

I drove a turbocharged 85-horsepower version that's tuned to produce maximum torque.

Fiat won't reveal fuel economy or torque figures for the engine this far ahead of production, but a naturally aspirated version of the engine that produces 65 horsepower could be used as a generator or for hyper-m.p.g. versions of the 500.

Fiat's Multiair valve-control system reduces fuel consumption 10% to 25% and can be fitted to existing engines.

It increases torque 15%, providing Multiair vehicles with good performance as well as high fuel economy.

The system debuts later this year on a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine in the Alfa Romeo MiTo.

"Multiair can give gasoline engines almost the same fuel economy and performance as diesels," said Rinaldo Rinolfi, Fiat Powertrain chief and the man who led the Fiat team that revolutionized diesel engines in the 1990s.

LINK:2-cylinder Fiat engine packs plenty of power | | Detroit Free Press
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