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Explanation

Will someone please tell me the difference between a 1.4L 4-cylinder car and a 2.4L 4-cylinder car? Which will climb Colorado hills better? Which will get better gas mileage? Can I make a straight comparison between a 2.4L 4-cylinder car and a 2.4L 5-cylinder car?

Generally speaking, the larger engine will produce more torque, which is what you need for effortless hill climbing as well as for faster acceleration when merging onto highways. The numbers (1.4, 2.4) reflect the displacement (interior volume) of the engine’s combustion chambers.

As to gas mileage, this is not predictable on a generalized basis. Believe it or not, a larger engine can frequently get the same gas mileage–or even slightly better gas mileage–as compared to a smaller engine, simply because the larger engine is usually turning over at a somewhat slower speed in order to produce its power. And, that larger engine may actually be quieter, simply because it is usually turning at a slower speed. For example, my current car’s 3.6 liter engine turns at ~2,000 RPMs at 60 mph, whereas some cars with smaller engines that I previously owned would be turning at ~2,700 RPMs at the same road speed.

How about giving us an idea of the cars that you are considering, so that we can give you some info that is more specific, rather than a generalization?

Climbing hills is a matter of proper gearing and power to weight ratio.

The difference in a 1.4L or a 2.4L motor is size. In general the bigger motor has more power. Yet, the bigger motor might be in a bigger and heavier car so it might not do as well in hills. A 1.4L motor in a small car might be able to zip up hills better. So, you have to consider the car the motor is in and in particular how heavy that car is.

A 2.4L 4-cylinder motor and a 2.4L 5 cylinder motor will have the same power since they are the same size. The 5 cylinder might be smoother at idle and lower speeds, but in fact some 4 cylinder Honda motors are smoother than 5 cylinder Volvo motors. Two motors of the same size (say 2.4L) could produce very different power numbers. One motor might have variable valves, and other more advanced features and deliver a lot more power than a “plain Jane” motor.

For hill climbing ability you want a powerful engine and/or a lighter weight vehicle.

You can’t make a straight comparison…especially if you’re talking about different manufacturers. As others have said…in GENERAL an engine with a bigger displacement will have more torque and hp and provide worse gas mileage. And the industry is full of exceptions to that GENERALIZATION.

Also, the 1.4l engines I know of are turbocharged, which changes everything. A turbo 1.4l engine can put out about the same power as a larger non-turbo, and will run better than a non-turbo at higher altitudes, so if you’re above 5000 feet, the 1.4l turbo might do better than a 2.4l non-turbo.

In addition to the information already provided, gear ratios are important, especially for severe use such as regular mountain driving.

Bottom line: there are too many variables to say a 2.4L is alway better than a 4.2L. My suggestion is to get some consumer magazines at the local bookstore that do comparisons on different vehicles.

Colorado foothills, 6000 -9000 feet elevation. FORGET a 1.4L powered car…it will be hopelessly underpowered…

Not if it’s turbocharged, @Caddyman - probably referring to the 1.4l turbo Chevy.

The car I looked at with the 4-cylinder engines is the Toyota Matrix. The 5-cylinder car is the Jetta Station wagon.

The Matrix can come with a 1.8l or a 2.4l engine (both non-turbo), but not a 1.4l engine. The 2.4l Toyota and 2.5l VW engine would be pretty similar in power, both would do better in the mountains than the 1.8l Toyota, but it might be OK depending on how much of a load you plan to carry.

In the case of the Matrix, the 1.8L with the auto transmission gets better gas mileage: 25 MPG city/32MPG highway/28 MPG combined. The 2.4L gets 20/26/22, respectively. If you drive 15,000 miles per year with 45% city and 55% highway, the 1.4L will save you about $600 annually. But you really need to drive both under conditions that you will encounter to see which one provides the most acceptable combination of mileage and power.

I’ll echo the statement that a turbo charged vehicle would be better suited, all things considered, for the hills of Colorado.

Thanks for all the comments and information. Years ago (1990), I bought a Honda Accord 4-cylinder. When I tried driving it up and down the hills of eastern Oklahoma, I had to get a running start downhill to make it to the top of the next hill at anything over 40 mph. Since that time, I’ve been leery of 4 cylinder cars. My wife and I frequently vacation in Colorado, and I don’t want to spend my time pushing the car up the hill.

I’ve been to Colorado a number of times in small displacement, naturally aspirated 4 cylinders and some of the climbs were frustrating to me and no doubt antagonizing some of the larger displacement or turbocharged cars who were getting held up by me.

On a few climbs 20-25 MPH was flat on the floor and the only vehicles I passed was the random motor home that was belching black smoke and wheezing along at 10 MPH.

The general rule of thumb is a 3% power loss for each 1000 feet of elevation and it doesn’t take long to kill performance at that rate.

Thanks for all the comments and information. Years ago (1990), I bought a Honda Accord 4-cylinder. When I tried driving it up and down the hills of eastern Oklahoma, I had to get a running start downhill to make it to the top of the next hill at anything over 40 mph

Either this is a blatant exaggeration, or there was something seriously wrong with your car. 4 cylinders do fine in the mountains. I had a 1.1L 4 cylinder in a 69 Corolla that did just fine getting up to my house in the Rockies, and we lived at 8000 feet, which is a lot higher than anything in Oklahoma.

We use to own a 87 Accord (4-cylinder). And it didn’t have any problems climbing hills. Very peppy car…and extremely reliable.

Mike if you dont like it, it will never satisfy-Kevin( PS find something with a turbo,a turbo is actually self compensating to a certain degree at higher elevations)