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The reason smaller engines are more desired fir standard drivetrains is called grams per mile. In other words, the accumulated weight of each exhaust pollutant through the EPA drive cycle. It is easy to see over drive and small displacement engines get the nod.

Mass inclusion of overdrive was sold as a fuel saving feature. It is true. BUT the engineering inclusion was grams per mile…the fewer rpms the engine makes the lower the pollutant emission…in weight.

Additional gearing on vehicles also works to keep the engine operating in a more desirable range. This could be lower emissions, fuel economy, and performance. I love the m6 gearing with the 3.90 rear axle ratio even though a closer ratio spread through the gearing would be more desirable. The reality closer ratio gearing would necessitate a higher first gear, or add another reduction gear and drop the highest over drive.

Of course, driveability, characteristics and engineering concerns would present themselves
 
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