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Editorial: Ruminations On the V6

Featured Posts, Interesting | October 10th, 2011 by 44
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A curious thing is the V6 – it’s either half an engine or three quarters of an engine. It isn’t as smooth as an in-line …

A curious thing is the V6 – it’s either half an engine or three quarters of an engine. It isn’t as smooth as an in-line six, and it requires more individual parts. Based on its V angle it can sound as coarse as a cob at higher RPMs or sound nigh on perfect given individual exhausts for each bank.

The first appearance of the V6 configuration is probably the Delahaye design from 1911 mentioned in Jan Norbye’s book, “The Complete Handbook of Automotive Power Trains”. The V6 then reappears in a 1950 Lancia Aurelia. But it became a popular engine configuration with the advent of mainstream front wheel drive vehicles and the need to minimize engine length in transverse applications.

Editorial: Ruminations On the V6
Of course the V6 most Americans are familiar with is the Buick 3800 – derived initially from the 3.5L V8 (which became a Rover staple – and there is your BMW connection). It was known as the Fireball V6 and grew in size and applications soon thereafter. At the end of it’s life, over 25 million units were built and they had infested everything (with the exception of Cadillac) in GM’s lineup. Often a member of Ward’s Best Engine lists it was a workhorse. It’s biggest drawback was the uninspiring nature of its exhaust note. Something akin to mechanical flatulence, it was a victim of its pedigree – its derivation from a V8 and subsequent 90 degree V angle.

The 60 degree V6, on the other hand has an even firing order and can be derived from a V12. Ferrari did that with the 246 Dino, a car that many still lust after. Alfa Romeo built a number of very fine 60 degree V6 engines, and Ford had a really nice small 2.5L V6 in the 1990s known as a Duratec. What’s interesting to note is that in most cases V6 engines are synonymous with transverse engine placement.

The question for BMW is what do they stand to gain by introducing a V6 in the next M3. For one thing there is less of a nose heavy weight penalty for a V6 than an in-line six. You give up the smoothness of the in-line 6 in either 60 or 90 degree V implementations. And you create additional work for audio engineers with a 90 degree V.

A 60 degree V6 can be derived from the existing V12. Because of the narrow V angle it would probably use a turbo on each bank with conventional exhaust. It would be smoother sounding than the 90 degree V6, but would have two hot zones in the engine compartment.

A 90 degree V6 makes some sense if you want to use a twin scroll turbo. It would be placed in the V and take exhaust from either bank of cylinders much like the current M V8s. It’s drawbacks are the need for a crankshaft with offset journals (to even the firing impulses) and of
course the less than pleasing sound emitted.

Frankly – BMW has taken pains over the years to emphasize the long hood that speaks of an in-line six and rear wheel drive. I believe there are only two mainstream auto manufacturers of in-line six engines left, BMW and Volvo (I don’t want to count the massive in-line six marine diesels still being built). I do not know why BMW would want to introduce a V6 – it would be a bespoke engine for the M3 initially, if the rumors are accurate. If it’s a 90 degree V6 it will require more development time to get it ‘just right’. And the primary purpose of a V6, extending the power options for FWD cars into C and D class ranges, is outside the scope of where BMW wants to take FWD cars from what I understand.

So why introduce what will be an exceptionally controversial power train into the very heart of the M brand? Are they daft or are they just stirring the pot and enjoying the ranting and ravings on the intertubes. Stay tuned, we’ll find out for sure eventually.

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  • Kiko Toshev

    90 degree V6 has a balance schaft between the V shape in contrast to 90 degree V8, so there is no space to put a turbo there. Moreover the i6 has much more in common with the V12, than either 60 or 90 degree V6. The only reason for BMW to replace i6 with V6 would be FWD car and that would be the moment from wich on I would never drive BMW.

  • Kiko Toshev

    90 degree V6 has a balance schaft between the V shape in contrast to 90 degree V8, so there is no space to put a turbo there. Moreover the i6 has much more in common with the V12, than either 60 or 90 degree V6. The only reason for BMW to replace i6 with V6 would be FWD car and that would be the moment from wich on I would never drive BMW.

  • Mateo

    nice article (hell, every article on bmwblog is nice), if bmw put V6 in next M3 i hope it will be half of 760i’s V12.

    i don’t care about upcoming turbo M cars but since they killed tradition they should made M3 at least 500 hp! And than CSL with 550 hp just to show off

  • Mateo

    nice article (hell, every article on bmwblog is nice), if bmw put V6 in next M3 i hope it will be half of 760i’s V12.

    i don’t care about upcoming turbo M cars but since they killed tradition they should made M3 at least 500 hp! And than CSL with 550 hp just to show off

  • Arwar

    well…as one reader posted in the eariler article, they are trying to minimize the costs at BMW. So they would just take 2 cylinders off of current M5 v8 engine, it would still get plenty of power and be efficient. However, I think V6 is going a little too far in breaking traditions…I would rather see awd m5 than v6 m3. Heck, awd m5 would be a true competitor to audi rs6.

  • Arwar

    well…as one reader posted in the eariler article, they are trying to minimize the costs at BMW. So they would just take 2 cylinders off of current M5 v8 engine, it would still get plenty of power and be efficient. However, I think V6 is going a little too far in breaking traditions…I would rather see awd m5 than v6 m3. Heck, awd m5 would be a true competitor to audi rs6.

  • Xcoreflyup

    i said if before and i will say it again…….time to save up for a Porshce…….

  • Xcoreflyup

    i said if before and i will say it again…….time to save up for a Porshce…….

  • Giom

    You mentioned a few things I hadn’t considered, Hugo. In the end, it wouldn’t be as simple as chopping off two cylinders from the V8, but, what we came to learn from BMW M, is that they are true engine wizzards. If it is going to be a V6, it will incorporate technology we havn’t heard of or ideas we havn’t thought of. In which case, I’ll be happy… because it will be a nother M product that will return the competitors back to their respective drawing boards.

  • Giom

    You mentioned a few things I hadn’t considered, Hugo. In the end, it wouldn’t be as simple as chopping off two cylinders from the V8, but, what we came to learn from BMW M, is that they are true engine wizzards. If it is going to be a V6, it will incorporate technology we havn’t heard of or ideas we havn’t thought of. In which case, I’ll be happy… because it will be a nother M product that will return the competitors back to their respective drawing boards.

  • Iemand12

    I understand why BMW are breaking traditions, competition is getting alot tougher, and BMW requires new ideas and they will need to innovate more, especially with the strict emphasis on emmisions lately. However, i don’t know where the information on a possible v6 m3 is coming from, so i find it hard to believe that BMW will do it, especially with their decades of knowledge and development on the inline 6. I do think however that BMW are experimenting with the v6 layout, but i doubt it’ll be for the m3, if they are developing a v6 engine, it will most likely be a tri-turbo charged engine, which should make it very fuel economical. If BMW are developing a v6 engine it’ll most likely be for a car with similar specifications to the m3 like weight, drag and chassis design, and my gut tells me it will probably fall under the i-brand, especially with the possibility of fwd cars under the i-brand and the popularity of v6’s in fwd cars. The engine might even be used to power a possible M version of the i8 (in which case a v6 would be preferable due to the lack of space in the i8’s engine compartment). The possibilities are there, and the ball is in BMW’s court.

    BTW Xcoreflyup, why would you want to buy a Porsche, if Porsche are also breaking traditions??

  • Iemand12

    I understand why BMW are breaking traditions, competition is getting alot tougher, and BMW requires new ideas and they will need to innovate more, especially with the strict emphasis on emmisions lately. However, i don’t know where the information on a possible v6 m3 is coming from, so i find it hard to believe that BMW will do it, especially with their decades of knowledge and development on the inline 6. I do think however that BMW are experimenting with the v6 layout, but i doubt it’ll be for the m3, if they are developing a v6 engine, it will most likely be a tri-turbo charged engine, which should make it very fuel economical. If BMW are developing a v6 engine it’ll most likely be for a car with similar specifications to the m3 like weight, drag and chassis design, and my gut tells me it will probably fall under the i-brand, especially with the possibility of fwd cars under the i-brand and the popularity of v6’s in fwd cars. The engine might even be used to power a possible M version of the i8 (in which case a v6 would be preferable due to the lack of space in the i8’s engine compartment). The possibilities are there, and the ball is in BMW’s court.

    BTW Xcoreflyup, why would you want to buy a Porsche, if Porsche are also breaking traditions??

    • Xcoreflyup

      let me give u one example, i have two friends who work at a BMW performance shop, a couple week ago there is a N55 engine car with 7800 miles on the clock came in for turbocharger replacement(side note: the car has been driven normally, didnt see any abuse at all) meanwhile my 95 e36 m3 which have went thru 6 owner, Yes im the 7th. a moneyshift on racetrack and up to today, still run like no tomorrow, im a business major and i could not believe BMW didnt resolve the HPFP/and quality of the turbocharger/injector problem  after something like 4.5 years and two generation of engine?for a corporation as big as BMW. clearly this is not because they are incapable. now for the P-car, all i saw are improvement based on their transitions, the engine, still site right behind the rear bumper cover. styling – still taking small step on each new generation, key slot is still stupidly placed on the left of the steering wheel(there is a reason for that), engine is still a flat six. i know alot of fans are disappointed when they dropped the air-cooler engine, but BMW also doesn’t not have a whinny little nissan always on their back trys to claim the title like porsche does.

  • Kiko Toshev

    But let’s don’t forget what BMW have announced officially before buying a Porsche :) In their new EfficientDynamics Engine Family there is nothing mentioned about V6, but it is very well explained about their inline 6, 4 and 3 cilinder engines. So I belive that this is a rumour that should not be taken into account.

  • Kiko Toshev

    But let’s don’t forget what BMW have announced officially before buying a Porsche :) In their new EfficientDynamics Engine Family there is nothing mentioned about V6, but it is very well explained about their inline 6, 4 and 3 cilinder engines. So I belive that this is a rumour that should not be taken into account.

  • Nnnn

    I don’t think a V6 is likely.  It might sound attractive to have a higher-end engine in their FWD ‘platforms’, but since their stated purpose of FWD is to improve fuel economy through weight-savings, then it doesn’t make sense to both undermine that and be redundant with I6 offerings.  Not to mention spend development funds on an entirely new, unique engine.

  • wazon

    It seems that some of you are trying to learn how to love the bomb. I hope that your effort is futile.

  • LexusLVR

    This reminds me of all the whiners that complained about forced induction when BMW introduced the TURBOCHARGED BMW 335i/535i? I bet all those whiners never even knew of past turbocharged BMWs like the 2002 Turbo or certain F1 engines that BMW sourced to Brabham for example.

    BMW needs to get with the times. A V6 is lighter and more compact and has far more uses than an inline-6 layout. Traditions have to be broken at some points especially today where EFFICIENCY is the big word.

    And FWD is a good thing. The new BMW 1 series hatch for example is completely useless as a 5 seater because there is ZERO space in the back thanks to its RWD layout. Even if it was FWD people would still be uncomfortable at the rear but they’d have a bit more leg space.

    BMW needs to get out of the 20th century and say hello to the 21st century.

  • LexusLVR

    This reminds me of all the whiners that complained about forced induction when BMW introduced the TURBOCHARGED BMW 335i/535i? I bet all those whiners never even knew of past turbocharged BMWs like the 2002 Turbo or certain F1 engines that BMW sourced to Brabham for example.

    BMW needs to get with the times. A V6 is lighter and more compact and has far more uses than an inline-6 layout. Traditions have to be broken at some points especially today where EFFICIENCY is the big word.

    And FWD is a good thing. The new BMW 1 series hatch for example is completely useless as a 5 seater because there is ZERO space in the back thanks to its RWD layout. Even if it was FWD people would still be uncomfortable at the rear but they’d have a bit more leg space.

    BMW needs to get out of the 20th century and say hello to the 21st century.

    • alex

      FWD a good thing, lol. That’s why every performance car made is either RWD or AWD. Every FWD car I’ve ever seen still has the “hump” in the center of the floor which limits legroom, and rear passenger space is more reliant on wheel base and how far they want to push the seats back. And how can you like Lexus if the majority of their cars are RWD or AWD if FWD is such a great thing?

      Troll harder.

    • alex

      FWD a good thing, lol. That’s why every performance car made is either RWD or AWD. Every FWD car I’ve ever seen still has the “hump” in the center of the floor which limits legroom, and rear passenger space is more reliant on wheel base and how far they want to push the seats back. And how can you like Lexus if the majority of their cars are RWD or AWD if FWD is such a great thing?

      Troll harder.

    • Guest

      New ideas are good but tradition is what separates BMW and other V6 automakers. I don’t mind the turbo route with BMW’s engines. Adding spice to some good old fashion steak. Moving to a V6 to me is like replacing the beef with chicken. Cheaper but definitely no comparison to steak.

    • Guest

      New ideas are good but tradition is what separates BMW and other V6 automakers. I don’t mind the turbo route with BMW’s engines. Adding spice to some good old fashion steak. Moving to a V6 to me is like replacing the beef with chicken. Cheaper but definitely no comparison to steak.

    • wazon

      Who the hell did tell you that V6 is lighter? It’s more compact – that’s true, but lighter? Inline 6 has as simple block as any 6 cylinder engine can ever have, whereas V-shaped engines have block in which next to cylidenrs there is connection between them. How does it supposed to be lighter?! You’ve actually got something extra next to what you have in inline6. Doesn’t it weight?

      As for FWD, they used to be the most crappy kind of cars with heavy noses. If you find them good, bad for you. I cannot list single FWD car that doesn’t suffer badly from understeering. But I guess that for you the leg room for fifth passanger on back seat of small hatch is more impornant than this, even though most of these fifth passangers won’t travel with you longer than 30min. Man, hatchbacks are really cars for people. Do you believe that there is more space in Golf than in 1-er? Have you seen these cars? If you want to carry fifth pasanger and you don’t hate her/him, buy something bigger: 5-er for example.

      • Sheldon

        V6 engines tend to be lighter than a straight 6 for the same reason that the current S65 V8 is lighter than the previous S54 I6: the V shape allows them to share more material between cylinders.  Due to the wider and lower shape, they also tend to have a lower center of gravity, which can improve handling.  That said, I hope BMW continues with the I6 arrangement, because of the way they are perfectly harmonically balanced, which leads to less stress on the engine.

        • wazon

          Well, only crankshft is shorter, but it’s also thinker, so I am still not sure why V6 is supposed to be lighter than inline 6. Comparing new M3 V8 to an old M3 inline 6, which was 8 years construction (or even older) at that moment, makes little sense to me. Materials had change extensively during the developement. Better compare that inline6 with some 4.0 litre V8 from the very beginning of XX century. I doubt, you will find it to be heavier. 

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  • Guest

    As you say, all the logical reasons for a V6 are negated by its application in a RWD car which is almost certain to have a longer bay than the current M3.  It makes no sense at all. I really, really hope the internet is wrong about this one. 

    As a long time M3 owner (e46, e92) I would be very concerned if BMW went this route. I love the s65 in my current car but I still think that L6 engines are what BMW does best. Giving them up in a halo car like the M3 would be like Porsche sticking the 911 with a V6. Your ‘ultimate driving machine’ loses a huge part of its edge and it become just another blown V6 german poseur mobile. You might as well give it 4 wheel drive and four rings on the grille! If this is true I predict a lot of M3 customers moving over to the 911/Cayman camp.

  • Guest

    As you say, all the logical reasons for a V6 are negated by its application in a RWD car which is almost certain to have a longer bay than the current M3.  It makes no sense at all. I really, really hope the internet is wrong about this one. 

    As a long time M3 owner (e46, e92) I would be very concerned if BMW went this route. I love the s65 in my current car but I still think that L6 engines are what BMW does best. Giving them up in a halo car like the M3 would be like Porsche sticking the 911 with a V6. Your ‘ultimate driving machine’ loses a huge part of its edge and it become just another blown V6 german poseur mobile. You might as well give it 4 wheel drive and four rings on the grille! If this is true I predict a lot of M3 customers moving over to the 911/Cayman camp.

  • Arwar

    one thing that baffles me: why does mercedes make v6 for their cars? They make rwd cars with long bonnet like bmw, i6 would be perfect. They did make i6 engines in the end of 80s but suddenly stopped.

  • Arwar

    one thing that baffles me: why does mercedes make v6 for their cars? They make rwd cars with long bonnet like bmw, i6 would be perfect. They did make i6 engines in the end of 80s but suddenly stopped.

  • Viper

    bmw v6….doesnt sound nice but if they make one…it better be the best v6 out there.
    the best or nothing.

    • Heavyhitta24

      Good luck taking that title away from the GT-R which is getting bumped to 570hp next year…

      • wazon

        Actually, reaching 570hp result is no problem for BMW M-enginers whether they work with inline6 or V6. But – unlike GT-R – M-cars are also everyday car and are expected to be relatively reliable. That’s why their power output is limited in these cars. 

        • Mateo

          I don’t like nissan, their only car i respect is Skyline GT-R. BUT new GT-R is AMAZING CAR FOR MONEY. AND BMW CAN’T MATCH GT-R.
          i’m bmw m fan but facts are obious, gt-r will outpower, outslide and simply humiliate any BMW M…and that’s sad (remember, i love old ///M cars from e92 backwards

          • Giom

            It’s a little school boy-like to say that BMW can’t match GT-R. It’s like saying my dad will beat your dad in a straight fight. If they want to, they can… everybody knows that! You don’t compete in F1 with your own in-house designed/build engine and is then unable to ‘match’ Nissan with engine technology. Didn’t quite think that through, did you.

          • wazon

            Well, true, GT-R is faster than any M-car, but that’s very different from ability to catch Nissan technology. Actually, it’s BMW, not Nissan, that rules in LeMans, despite the fact that both are involved in competition. As I said before, M-cars are underpowered, because they are also everyday cars and are expected to be relatively reliable. BMW could make freakingly powerful M3, but they would loose those of their customers who don’t want to tolerate unreliability of – say – GT-R. BTW, I wonder when people start to notice that M-cars are real 4 seat cars and that that very feature makes them very dfferent from basicaly two seater GT-R. 

    • Heavyhitta24

      Good luck taking that title away from the GT-R which is getting bumped to 570hp next year…

    • Nnnn

      it would be the best V6, not the best 6-cylinder engine.  Whoop-de-doo.

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