Back in the day the 4 cylinder engine never garnered much respect, especially with a manual transmission usually a 4 speed with the deep first gear and wide spreads.
We all know that 4 cylinders are reasonably smooth up to a displacement of 2.0L and beyond they start getting inherently rough.
Back in the day it was simple, it was either a 6 cylinder or a V8, and we all know that in North America the preferred engine for an enthusiast was a V8. In addtion the instant a 4 cylinder started generating a higher level of power they immediately became temperamental, with hardly any low end torque, while having the keep the revolutions higher to have a semblance of power.
Limited power, a clunky wide ratio transmission, or totally hideous performance with a 3 speed automatic, inexpensive gas, why suffer a 4 cylinder. Many folks (we know one) would quickly destroy a 4 cylinder simply keeping up with the flow of highway traffic. Most vehicles the models with 4 cylinders were always the entry level versions.
We also knew that if that 4 cylinder had more splits in the transmission it would perform better, the advent of 5 speed and 6 speed manuals improved the performance, where most transmissions still had a low first gear with closer splits in the higher gears. From our perpsective its the advent of 6-7 speed automatic transmissions that have truly made the 4 cylinder a viable alternative.
Yes...manual transmissions and 4 cylinders are not a combination we prefer.
Fair to say that technology has enabled 4 cylinders to become viable alternatives to a 6 cylinder, most if not all manufacturers have grasped the 4 cylinder 6-7 speed automatic combination.
Lets take a look at some technology that has improved 4 cylinders.
> Direct injection for the engine.
> Multi speed (6-7) automatic transmissions.
> Responsive shift algorithms to improve performance at all speeds.
> Turbocharging for performance applications.
Are we now fans of 4 cylinders? Absolutely for primarily a surface street, commuting application a modern 4 cylinder is our combination of choice.