Demanding more from cylinder-on-demand

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I believe that I am the very first writer this year to have discovered that Volkswagen Group is doing a whole slew of wondrous things technologically for the world of engines. This little-known company in the exotic city of Wolfsburg owns eight car companies, and almost a ninth, one motorcycle brand and three commercial vehicle builders. I wouldn’t even be surprised if they owned a couple of Pacific island nations! Its leader, Dr Ferdinand Piëch, is, I have on good authority, about 130 years old now – living proof that deep engine research can indeed add years to one’s life.

Has this big guy and his little company made a glaring mistake lately? Think about it for a moment. With awards being scooped in by the bucket load annually at both the World Car Awards and our own illustrious International Engine of the Year awards, the envious competition is already accusing us writers of being in cahoots with the Germans from the north of the country. The recently revised EA288 small diesel and EA888 small gasoline-sipping families needed to be revised only because Volkswagen Group invested something like US$800 trillion in the new MQB architecture that has as one of its massive benefits a constant rear-leaning 12° mounting angle for all these transverse motors. If this had not been necessary, these two engine families would have been absolutely fine in their designs pre-MQB. But an engineering company such as this one simply cannot help but take every single opportunity to fiddle with things and make them better.

On the other hand, I don’t think I was the only writer to feel worry over the cylinder-on-demand (COD) trend that was so proudly launched in V8 biturbo form with the latest larger Audi S cars (and now the RS variants as well) and Bentley Continental GT V8 in early 2012. We had had various COD experiences prior to this that made such a big deal about the V8-to-V4-and-back seamlessness of operation – yet rarely was it actually seamless. The full-bore to half-bore moments were, disappointingly, always perceivable. Well, until now.

This miraculous powerplant – labeled EA824 – only goes COD fishing when the onboard system for drive modes is in comfort or eco settings. Cylinders 2-3-5-8 cease their valve-lift and combustion phases whenever the ‘no throttle load’ time exceeds five seconds. And, frankly, I haven’t a clue whether my EA824s have ever seamlessly switched to 1-4-6-7 V4 turbocharged status. I tend to want to never be off-throttle with these particular car models for more than five seconds, for one thing. For another, and more probably, the system’s on-ing and off-ing, is so seamless that it goes completely unnoticed. And hence unappreciated by the typical owners of these cars.

The cars bearing the EA824 do not even boast about it when one has entered the V4 trance state – there is absolutely no indication anywhere on the dash display. These mostly suburban machines will often be in this V4 mode and owners will perhaps notice only that they’re going further between expensive fill-ups of premium fuel.

Volkswagen Group knows its customers so very well: they mostly do not care and will roll around being much greener than before without so much as even thinking about it. Which is perfect.

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