Inline-four, V6 and V8 engines are the most commonly heard about engines. They are probably the most common engine configurations being used in cars for almost a decade now. They are reliable, compact and easy to maintain. However, there is one engine configuration which most of us haven’t even heard of, V4 engines.
I used to believe that the normal 4 cylinder engine is the most used engine in cars in Pakistan. I was wrong. Watching a few YouTube videos and doing a little bit of research, I found out that V4 engines are predominantly found in motorbikes and not in cars.
This engine contains 4 cylinders in “V” shaped formation. The main advantage of such formation is that it’s super compact and its packaging is cleverly tiny, coupled with small crankshafts which result in low vibration and noise. Companies often set the engine banks at a 90-degree angle which cancel out vibrations. But if they are such magnificent engines then why do they not exist in modern cars?
The answer is that V4 engines are annoyingly complex and expensive to build in the first place. So much so that they can cost more than an entire car. They usually contain two valve trains, two cylinder heads and two exhaust manifolds. And if you cannot build the engine at a perfect 90-degree angle, it can cause the engine to vibrate a lot, which may require adding weight or even engine balancer. All these points are enough to make companies avoid this configuration as a whole since V4’s cons outnumber its pros. Hence the few regular cars to ever use this engine configuration are the Sab Sonnet, Ford Taunus and the Lancia Fulvia.
The most famous vehicle to ever use this engine configuration is the LeMan winning Porsche 919 which is a hybrid LMP1 (LeMans Prototype) car. It is a blisteringly fast and super expensive race car build by Porsche which happens to use a hybrid power train. Porsche had a choice between a small combustion engine and a powerful electric setup or a system with a big combustion engine coupled with a tiny electric system. However, Porsche went with a big electric system and wanted a small yet efficient and powerful engine for the hybrid power train, hence they choose to put a V4 in that car.
To sum up, V4 engines are rare because they are expensive to build.