Nestled below the hoods of some Volkswagens — perhaps even your individual — is an engine that generally solely identifies itself as a V6. It’s a venerable engine fitted to well-known vehicles, however one we’ve by no means actually talked about by itself. Over 30 years after its creation, the Volkswagen VR6 continues to be a incredible piece of engineering.
Final month, Volkswagen flew me out to Johnson Valley, California, to take a pair of ID.4s off-road. To get to the occasion I used to be handed the important thing to a crossover that confuses fans with its coupe-like roofline: a 2022 Atlas Cross Sport SEL Premium R-Line.
I put over 300 miles on the Atlas Cross Sport, taking it by means of Joshua Tree Nationwide Park and even scooting my approach right down to the Salton Sea. A part of my willingness to drive to this point was attributable to it being practically as comfy as my outdated Touaregs. And half was attributable to what’s below the hood.
The tailgate says that there’s a V6 below there, and also you see the identical after opening the hood. The exhaust observe instructed me that this greater than a mere V6.
That engine is definitely a uncommon configuration: it’s a compact V-engine taking up some attributes from an inline. On this case, the engine is a 3.6-liter VR6 pumping out 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft torque. Not unhealthy for a 4,464-lb crossover.
Volkswagen has used variations of the VR6 since 1991 in numerous autos. Even my 2005 Touareg has a 3.2-liter, 240 HP, 229 lb-ft torque VR6.
The “V” within the VR6 title refers to V-Motor whereas the “R” refers to Reihenmotor, or inline-engine in German. Put all of it collectively and also you get V-inline engine. However how can an engine be a V and inline on the similar time, and why does it even exist?
As Engine Labs explains, the rationale that the VR6 exists has to do with packaging. To suit extra cylinders into an area normally meant for a small inline 4, you should utilize a compact V6.
However what should you want that engine even smaller? Right here’s the place the VR engine is available in.
In 1991, Volkswagen unveiled its VR6 and fitted it into the Passat B3 and the Corrado. Wolfsburg didn’t invent the narrow-bank angle V-engine. That reportedly goes to the 20-degree financial institution angle Lancia V4 that ran from 1922 to 1976. However Volkswagen is holding it alive.
As a substitute of getting a 60- or 90-degree angle between the cylinder banks such as you’d see in a typical V-engine, Volkswagen’s VR6 would house them out solely 15 levels.
To realize this, the banks would now share a single cylinder head and be staggered out, taking up an look of each an inline and a V-engine on the similar time.
It didn’t cease there, as having an engine with such a slim financial institution angle and a single cylinder head creates some issues, defined by Engine Labs:
In an effort to preserve the everyday 120-degree firing interval between the cylinders, the split-pin design offsets every financial institution’s crank journal by 22 levels. One other facet of the engine design shared with inline engines is apparent when wanting on the crankshaft. The crankshaft bears extra resemblance to that of an inline-six crankpin association than that of an even-fire (split-pin) V6 crankshaft.
These engines didn’t simply keep of their six-cylinder configurations. Volkswagen used the VR engine as the idea for its W8, W12 and W16. In these engines you get two VR cylinder heads banked 72 levels aside and sharing a crankshaft.
And whether or not the engine is a VR6 or a W, they’ve a soundtrack you wouldn’t hear wherever else. VR6 and W-engines even have timing chains that appear to be artworks, however are a nightmare when a part fails, necessitating their alternative.
Right this moment, these engines stay a uncommon sight, being restricted to Volkswagens, Linde Forklifts and Horex Bikes. Even because the world strikes to various energies, I’m pleased to see oddball options to the packaging constraints of engines nonetheless getting used on the market.