Q and A: Cylinder deactivation has come a long way
QUESTION: We are looking at a new Honda. The engine has cylinder deactivation. I had a car with this once, and it simply did not work. Should I trust it now?...
QUESTION: We are looking at a new Honda. The engine has cylinder deactivation. I had a car with this once, and it simply did not work. Should I trust it now?
--L.L. Carter, The Villages, Fla.
ANSWER: That must have been on one of the "8-6-4" engines from General Motors, specifically Cadillac, and no, it wasn't a success. Then as now, the idea was to shut down some engine cylinders when their power isn't needed, such as at modest highway speeds, thereby saving gas.
GM's "8-6-4" was a V-8 that became a six-cylinder, then a four-cylinder, then a V-8 again when more power was needed and you pressed the accelerator. Honda's current deactivation system -- as well as similar systems used by other manufacturers, such as Chrysler -- works seamlessly, and does save a little gas, especially if you drive a lot on the highway. Why does it work now, and didn't then? Computers that manage the engine are so much more advanced than they were 30 years ago in 1981, when GM debuted that engine.
Q: My new car has push-button starting, instead of starting with a key. Can you tell me the supposed advantage? After a month in the car, I still can't get used to not needed a key.
--Bill McMahon, West Palm Beach, Fla.
A: Probably half the new vehicles I test now don't use an ignition key. I once wrote that I didn't see much advantage, but got a letter from an elderly woman with severe arthritis who said it was very hard for her to insert and twist a key, and she loved push-button starting.