People are more concerned with fuel economy now than when cars were new, but they're also more concerned with engine power. After all, the first cars only had horses to keep up with. Now cars are driven on freeways. Modern cars are also a lot heavier than early cars, because they're stuffed with safety features and accessories. Today's car engines have a lot more work to do. They're carrying heavier loads at faster speeds.
Even with their increased efficiency, today's engines are more powerful than their predecessors - even compared to engines that are just a few years old. In 1983, the Chevrolet Malibu had a 3.8-liter V-6 engine that made 110 horsepower. In 2005, it had a 2.2-liter inline four cylinder making 144 horsepower. The 2011 Malibu has a base 2.4-liter four cylinder making 169 horsepower. Buyers can also get a 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 252 horsepower. Even though the V-6 on the 2011 Malibu is smaller than the V-6 offered on the 1983, model, it makes 146 more horsepower. Even the current four-cylinder engine on the Malibu makes 59 more horsepower than the 1983 model's V-6.