Commentary: Why Are There No Photos of Engine Bays in Vehicle Reviews Anymore?

Do you miss photos from the engine bay?

Lately, you have noticed that a lot of V&R’s reviews are not features shots underneath the hood. Don't blame me. There is a reason…

This came about a debate among my fellow automotive media professionals whether it is necessary to include photos of the engine bay in our reviews and other related content – with the notable exception of this article, of course. It went back-and-forth. Some argue that because these photos are no longer engaging in their readership. Others argue that some engine bays are worth including in their article.

Video producers have also joined the argument. For MotorWeek, the long-running television program from Maryland Public Television, it is a part of what they do. It is a tradition if you will. Most video producers would love to show you what’s underneath the hood as a way to talk about engine performance.

Let’s be real for a moment. With the advent of the plastic engine cover, the engine bay is no longer worth telling the story. There is an engine underneath it, but the art of looking at it has changed.

Engine covers are both a blessing and a curse. Sadly, they have become a curse. One thing I heard years ago was that engine covers were supposed to reduce noise from the engine to the cabin. Sorry, but they do not reduce noise from underneath the hood. You can still hear the struggle of a given four-cylinder engine on a heavy throttle. There are also noise reduction measures that have been installed in modern cars, including added insulation, active noise canceling technologies, glass construction, and so forth.

In practical terms, the plastic engine cover is not exactly great for quick maintenance. Yes, you now have to go to a mechanic for service, because the engine is now diagnosed through a computer. I know you have laptops loaded with diagnosis software with the plug to tap into the control module, but how accessible are these ECMs?

For us novices who wrench on occasion, popping open the engine cover can be a task. We could break one of the plugs if we’re not careful. Then, we get scolded by the service advisor for doing so when we take our vehicle in for routine maintenance the next time.

And, let's face it, we’re seeing engine cover design that is simply photocopies of another one. If I open up a Volkswagen – say, a Jetta GLI – and open up the hood of an Atlas Cross Sport with the same EA888 engine (I know, different performance mapping, but, still…), they will look exactly the same. It is as they made a million engine covers for several different versions of the 2.0-liter turbocharged EA888 engine.

There are exceptions to this rule. There is still beauty underneath the hood of today’s automobiles to behold – even worth putting on your screen. For example, Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Hellcat engine. The engine from a Mustang Shelby GT 350. Can you name any others?

Which brings me to something I miss from modern cars – classic engine bays. I appreciate the customized engines with their Edelbrock headers, carburetors, and valve covers, along with supercharger kits and shaker hoods.  There is also nothing like feasting my eyes upon the chromed inlet pipes on an Alfa Romeo engine. Or, the red valve covers of a Dodge/SRT Viper.

I grew up in a time when engines were painted, spark plugs were easier to access, and – the most obvious point – things were simpler.

So, to that end, Victory & Reseda will not include photos of engine bays on our new vehicle reviews. The notable exceptions are engine bays that are truly worth photographing. We do apologize for those who like to see what’s underneath the hood on each of the vehicles we feature on this site.

This is a part of our new normal, folks.

Photo by Randy Stern

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