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Audi rethinks the piston engine

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Audi’s engine of the future may be a little off-kilter.

Autocar reports that the automaker is working on a unique four-cylinder motor that features a bank of pistons sitting offset and parallel to the crankshaft rather than directly above it.

A patent drawing of the proposed powerplant has been unearthed that depicts its unusual design, with pistons attached to connecting rods via rocker arms that are fitted with counterbalancing weights.

According to the patent filing, “damping free inertia forces” are created, which should reduce the vibration of the inline-four-cylinder to the level of a six or eight piston engine. Autocar speculates that lobes could be added to the crankshaft that would allow the motor operate using variable compression ratios -- a long-sought holy grail of efficiency that’s never quite made it to primetime in the automotive sphere.

Audi and its parent company, the Volkswagen Group, are no strangers to novel engine layouts, having featured inline-5-cylinder, narrow-angle V6, and W12-cylinder engines in their cars over the years.

More engine news: California company reinvents the rotary engine

Next year Audi is set to launch a new motor that uses electrically-driven turbochargers to reduce lag and increase performance.

So far the company has not commented on the new four-cylinder design, keeping it as hush-hush as the engine appears to be smooth.