Ever since the late 1990s, the world has been moving away from straight-six engines in favor of the ‘more modern’ V6 units. Although technically a lot more compact, V6 engines lack the character and soulfulness a straight-six configuration offers the driver. You’ll find countless supporters of both engine layouts, but which one is better? Is it the old school inline six-cylinder or the newer V6 layout? And can one actually be better than the other?
The truth is, as much as all of us love comparing these two engines and keeping the endless debate going, they were both made for different applications. The straight-six engine is simpler and a lot easier to maintain than its V6 counterpart, but its length means it’s impossible to mount transversely in FWD vehicles. The top-heavy design also compromises the center of gravity slightly, but on the bright side you do get equalized lateral forces.
The V6 configuration’s popularity came to rise in the late 1990s, when manufacturers were keen to reduce harmful emissions and increase fuel efficiency. The more compact V6 meant car makers could more easily fit the engine with a turbocharger, as well as mount it sideways in FWD and AWD applications.
The drawback is that the design is a lot more complicated than that of the straight-six and because the V6 gets two banks of three cylinders each, it’s naturally unbalanced. To reduce vibrations and stress manufacturers have to use balancing shafts, which is yet another part to wear out and potentially go wrong.
Some people love the sound of V6, but most agree that the raspy, higher-pitched scream of an inline six is a lot more compelling. Some of the best engines ever made are inline-six units, but there are plenty of people who will claim V6 engines are just as amazing. For more on the differences between these two engine layouts, check out the video below.