I think the point is well taken, though I'd narrow "Americans" to "GM" and I'm not sure the monstrously complex VW twincharger is the best example to show where American car companies should go. I'd probably use the BMW turbodiesels instead, because they get even better milage and have the low-end torque of American V8's. Also, I doubt that GM's manufacturing infrastructure (not its people, its equipment) could handle anything as complex mechanically as a small twincharged engine with a high-pressure direct fuel injection system. (Likewise, the Z06, a hand-built rattletrap loss-leader with abysmal interior quality, is a bad example of what GM can do on a real car.) However, ultimately I disagree with the premise that engines are the issue holding American cars back. People still don't pay attention to fuel economy as much as they should (witness the sore lack of 30+ mpg cars), and the American cars stay power-competitive despite using obsolete* techology by using larger-displacement engines. For example, the biggest Japanese sedan V6 is Nissan's 3.5L VQ. GM's standard sedan engine is a 3.9L. Rather, the fundamental problem facing Detroit is that they don't know how to design cars that are attractive, usable, and fun to drive. They don't pay attention to suspensions; witness Ford sticking a 19th century rear end on their 21st century Mustang. No American company is visionary enough to come up with something like the Mini. When GM tried to ape the Miata, they came up with something that was:
- Chock full of head-scratchingly bad design choices such as a top that requires exiting the car to raise or lower and a trunklid that opens the wrong way. Not to mention that said trunk will not fit a suit hanger, let alone an actual jacket!
- Much wider, meaning less capable on the narrow twisty roads for which sports cars are designed
- 400+ lbs heavier
- Driven by an awful-feeling engine that thrashes rather than screams
- Saddled with an absurdly gigantic deadweights at each corner rather than rationally-sized wheels/tires
- Possessing a handling balance characterized by understeer rather than neutrality
- Riddled with ugly plastic pieces like that wannabe BMW grill and the whole interior
- Poorer in fuel economy as well as straight-line acceleration despite nearly half a liter of displacement advantage and greater HP/torque as well..
So the Solstice, despite being not entirely hideous (Lane Bryant rear end, ironic enough considering how little it can hold, excepted) is the poster-car for the failure of the American automotive industry. GM had over 15 years to figure out what made the Miata the world's best-selling sports car ever, and they proved not up to the task. *Not strictly applicable in this case, because the Solstice's engine is a dual-cam, 16V engine. Just not a good one, like a Honda, Toyota, BMW, or Ford/Mazda four cyl. Also, I'm not insensitive to the defense that despite larger displacement, some of these old-style pushrod engines are just as powerful and economical as multicam engines in the same class, as well as being lighter and easier to package. Also, now that engine bays are full of plastic, the aesthetic advantage of dual overhead camshafts (think of a Jaguar XK or Aston straight six with triple SU flasks, an Alfa or Lotus twincam four with Weber DCOEs hanging off the side Mickey Mouse-nut up, or an Italian V12 with siamesed-horn Webers on top) has vanished. That kind of beauty does not exist in any of today's fused-front engines. However, none of these pushrod engines feel
like precision instruments to me, the engine in the old C5 Corvette Z06 included. I've not driven a C6 of any stripe, only seen them, so I can't compare that one.