To me, there is no sound on the planet that can match the sweet symphony of eight cylinders firing in rapid succession. I love the power, and the sound of V8 engines. Alas, America seems to be moving away from big motors and towards smaller four-cylinder engines.

But as much as I love the big engines, the shift is, of course, a good thing for emissions requirements and fuel efficiency. Car makers are shunning big engines for smaller, more efficient power plants as the 2016 35.5 mpg deadline looms just a few years down the road. Less than 5% of new cars sold in 2009 were equipped with V8’s. But even as Americans move away from bigger engines, they continue to buy big vehicles like the F-150. Can this trend continue while still providing the power Americans demand?

Wards Auto reports that in 2009, 4.9% of new cars sold came with a V8 engine. This is down from an all-time high of 88.9% of cars in 1969. Yes, 90% of cars used to have V8 engines. These days it is all about the four-cylinder engine, which increased its market share in cars from 51% in 2008 to 61% in 2009. Most of these engines (36%) have a displacement between 2.0 and 2.9 liters, while engines with displacements of between 3.0 and 3.9 liters made up just 29% of the 2009 market. But while V8 engines are falling out of favor with car buyers (despite becoming more fuel efficient than ever) they remain popular with truck buyers.

In 2009, the best selling vehicle was still the F-150, with over 413,000 units sold. The Toyota Camry ranked number two, selling over 356,000 units. The third best selling vehicle was the Chevy Silverado with over 316,000 units sold. Now obviously, Americans love us some trucks, and they are integral for many businesses, but 40% of light trucks are still equipped with V8 engines. That dynamic could change this year as Ford introduces (eventually) an EcoBoost-equipped F-150, following the trend set by cars moving away from big V8’s. Chevy likely isn’t far behind with something up their sleeve. With 365 horsepower and 365 ft-lbs of torque, the 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6 should be up to most tasks asked by truck owners. But many truck owners might be skeptical of any engine missing two cylinders.

Flex fuel, hybrids, and diesels made big gains in 2009 (though actual sales were down), making up 7.9% of the market, up from 7.4%. Americans are definitely moving away from bigger engines. How low will we go?

Source: Wards Auto | Image: Ford