Yes: Good times will roll

Yes, definitely … actually, no question about it.
Name withheld

Yes, I do believe that “good times” will return to the industry. I'm of the mindset that the auto makers might even roll out their mid-year models earlier in an effort to help spark sales. Will incentives be needed? Hopefully not, as the models themselves should increase sales.
Jeff Halvorsen
SPX Corp.
Warren, MI

No: Don't count your chickens

No! We just gave away cars at 0% financing, depleted the inventory and idled plants! Now, we may not have enough vehicles to meet the demand. It just may keep car prices up. Remember, car prices have risen faster than the cost of living. Why?
Name withheld

Foreign competitors, mainly the Japanese, will see to it that the pain felt by the domestic producers continues unabated for the entire year (at least). They sense that there is a weak animal in the herd, and will do whatever it takes to ensure that its pain continues. The Japanese government will continue to send out dollars to assist their producers to reach this end.
David H. Hughes
Sr. Program Manager
7 Series Severe Service Product Center

Inline-6 deserves a better wrapper

Every time I a see a TrailBlazer, Envoy, or Bravada on the road, all I can think is “What a waste of a good engine.” That 4.2L six that won a place on your “Ten Best Engines” list (see WAW — Jan. '01, pp. 29-43) belongs in a good sport sedan or sport coupe. Instead, it is used in a 4,800-lb. truck, and not even a particularly good truck, except for the engine.

Come on, GM. Why don't you take that outstanding new inline six and build a good looking sedan around it? Maybe Mr. Lutz could help with the styling of the new car. It would be OK to admit in three years that the ugly new Cadillac CTS with the substandard V-6 was a mistake, after you have something good to replace it with.
C. B. Gerhart
Kokomo, IN

Wandering torque curves

I was recently delighted to see that you named BMW's S54 3.2L I-6 to your year 2002 “Ten Best Engines” list. Having purchased one of the first E46 M3s in the United States last May, I could not agree more! It doubles perfectly as a daily driver and weekend racer. It can, and if properly operated, will show its quartet of tail pipes to the latest 911 Carrera.

However, I was disappointed by your incorrect picture of the horsepower/torque curves (p. 30) for the motor. Your graph shows that the S54 would lose approximately 24% of its maximum torque from the peak figure. In fact there is only a 15% drop in torque at redline from the peak of 262 lb.-ft. The torque curve in actuality is much flatter than your graph depicts. This can be referenced to the many press releases on the E46 M3. The flatness of the torque curve is in my opinion what makes this car so great, more than enough (for most of us) power is available from as low as 2,500 rpm (85% of max) and holds steady until that orange needle tells you it is finally time to shift. I hope that this information can clear up this minor error.
Brian Butrico
Advanced Manufacturing Engineer
Saline, MI

Editor's note: Yow. Are you readers getting picky! Actually, Brian, your observant eye points out an issue we should clarify. The power and torque charts we provide sometimes end up as general representations of the actual power and torque curves supplied by the manufacturers. You see, we have to fit that information into a standardized “box,” and the need to fit the curves into the box dictates that our art director at times must take certain liberties with the shape. We do our utmost to stay faithful to the actual curves, but extremes — like that of the S54 — force us to noodle them to fit.

In praise of Saab turbos

The Saab turbo 4 in full-boost form beats all the fours, and many of the sixes, you selected in both horsepower and torque. It represents many years of refinement and utilizes unique and impressive technological wizardry. Why do lesser fours take its rightful place on your 10 Best Engines List?
Joshua Jablons
Metal Cutting Corp.
Cedar Grove, NJ

Editor's note: The Saab turbocharged 4-cyls. are technically advanced. They often are fun. But whipsawing torque steer and front tires clawing for traction isn't fun. We've gladly awarded Saab Best Engines laurels in the past — for its wonderful light-pressure turbocharged I-4s. But competition is ever-intensifying and we don't believe Saab has kept pace. These days, any number of engines — often V-6s — can deliver Saab-like turbo-engine thrust with better refinement and driveability.

Did we skip a year?

Having read your write up of BMW's new S54 3.2L I-6, I cannot believe the mistakes made in the article. It is stated that last year's '01 M3 had the S52 240-hp engine, which is dead wrong. The '01 M3 had the S54; the last S52 M3 was made in 1999.

Second, you state that the S52 was not included in the 2001 awards due to Europe having a more potent version and certain drivability issues. This is inaccurate because the S52 ceased production in 2000 and was not even offered by BMW in 2001. Its last appearance was in 2000 in MZ3 models. Furthermore, if the more potent Euro version was such a problem, why did the S52 win in '97, '98 and '99 when the Euro version at those times WAS the more potent 320-hp model.

I enjoy your magazine, but would expect more accurate information from supposed car experts. Thank you for your time.
Steven Mezzacappa

Editor's note: We test these engines in the fall of the previous year — so in the fall of 2000, we did not test BWM's “M”-spec 3.2L engine at all because the “new” M3 with the S54 engine was not yet available — so the “last year” to which Visnic refers meant the last M3 available for our testers, the '99 model with the old S52 engine. BMW's confusing model-year-skipping aside, Visnic says he should have been clearer in this regard.

As for giving the S52 a Best Engines award in '97, '98 and '99, we were able to overlook our annoyance about its power output versus the European 320-hp version because BMW's “standard” 2.8L straight six was making only 191 hp, so the “M” unit represented a worthy jump in horsepower. But for the '01 model year (remember, there essentially wasn't an '00 M3), BMW enlarged its standard I-6 to 3L and 225 hp — making the old S52's U.S.-spec 240 hp not worth the extra money — and the new S54 wasn't yet available to us for testing.

Now, as you see from our 2002 10 Best Engines list, the world is right again: We get the “good” Euro version of the new S54 and the outstanding standard 3L. Both engines won.

Low marks for CTS styling

Ummm … what in God's name were the guys at GM thinking when they released the CTS? Oh, I keep forgetting that this is GM, after all. Once again, they let loose onto the market a car that is hyped to the Nth degree, but misses the mark horribly (remember the Fiero?) The interior is a grade-school effort at best, and the exterior styling leaves much to be desired. Guys, take a look at Audi, BMW, heck, for that matter, even Chrysler. My 1974 BMW 2002 had more curves than this thing does! Is it any wonder why GM continues to lose market share?
Jim Kidd

Have your consultant call my consultant

Not another consultant!

A consulting team from RWD Technologies suggests that improving the Big Three's performance in manufacturing efficiency is a tall task because it requires additional manpower (see WAW — Jan.'02, p.58). Do you really believe the Big Three is short of manpower? Sounds like an excuse to bring in another consultant!
Mike Bates
Coordinator, Purchasing
Investments, Consumables
Macomb, MI

Question of the Month<br />February 2002

Will “good times” return to the auto industry before the end of the year?

Yes 50%
No 50%

Question of the Month<br />March 2002

Are cars getting too complicated?

▆ Yes
▆ No


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