By on October 16, 2008

This is about as scientific as the fifteenth-century Vatican, but I think 3.7 liter engines are cursed. Six vehicles come to mind, featuring five engines. Click through to see the gallery and my descriptions.

Consider the models currently or recently on the market in the U.S.:

1. Mercedes ML350 (2004-2005). With a name like “ML350″ you’d be thinking 3.5 liter engine. It had 232 horsepower and 254 lb ft of torque. Not bad for a V6 generally speaking, but also not a knockout for a 3.7 liter V6 and a big SUV. It was also featured in North American in the S350 sedan, of which Mercedes sold about 2.

2. Mazda6, Lincoln MKS. It’s not that this 260 horsepower engine is bad. It’s very smooth, even if the 6-speed auto can be powersucking especially in the MKS. It’s the 17/25 and 17/24 mileage rating for two front wheel drive V6 sedans. Honda can crank 29 mpg on the highway out of its V6 in the Accord.

3. Hummer H3. It’s a 3.7 liter inline 5. It’s in the Hummer H3. Done.

4. Jeep 3.7 V6. This one manages to mostly escape the curse. While its not so hot on horsepower or fuel economy, it has enough grunt to power the Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee around. And the fact that it sounds like a spoon in the garbage disposal isn’t too bad in the Jeep.

5. Acura RL 3.7. I haven’t driven this model with the new engine yet, but when even Edmunds says acceleration is a problem, I’d be nervous.

The exception seems to be the Infiniti G37. And thank goodness for that.

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38 Comments on “Daily Podcast Lieberman Edition: A Curse On 3.7 Liter Engines...”


  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    If any of them deserve a critical review…it’s the Liberty and it’s V6. You seemed to give it the most slack, when it’s truly antiqued.

  • avatar
    factotum

    Vehicle 7: Acura MDX. Edmunds calls it a “powerful engine with decent fuel economy.” At 15/20, decent is the new miserable.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I actually halfway like the 3.7 Chrysler motor as the base option.

    It’s old and brutal, but that fits the nature of the Liberty, Dakota, Grand Cherokee, and Nitro. The torque keeps vehicles powered by it feeling quicker than their actual slug 1/4 mile times. The Ram/Durango overwhelms it though, and the 4.0L or 4.7L are overall better choices if you can afford the upgrade.

  • avatar
    davey49

    225 Slant Six!

  • avatar

    My team’s Datsun rules, and sushi is delicious!!!

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Other than the Mazda, the vehicles all seem to suffer from the single problem of not enough power for the intended purpose. Perhaps 3.7L is about as much as you can enlarge a normal-sized V6, so the 3.7L indicates that the manufacturer was just trying to get away from moving to a large-displacement V8 or to a complicated turbo or supercharger.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    I think S350s sold 2 because they were SO SMALL. Size of a C-Class, style of a C-class, Engine of a C-class… for twice the price. Hah.

  • avatar
    newcarscostalot

    I like the slant six too. I know the Acura TL has a 3.7L six that, I think, makes 5 more horsepower than the RL. I don’t know about torque. I wonder if the AWD systems cause slower acceleration because of weight? Could that be it? That does not seem likely, but 300hp on paper sounds good. The Chevy Impala makes 303hp with a v8. Something strange is going on me thinks. Anyone have any ideas? I got nothin!

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @romanjetfighter:

    were they that small? I know they were on the short wheelbase and the S430 and S500 were a longer wheelbase, but still.

  • avatar
    newcarscostalot

    mmm Sushi

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    @newcarscostalot:

    AWD has more driveline loss than a FWD or RWD configuration resulting in less relative WHP.

    Also, 260 hp is bad for a new 3.7L V6, istn’t that what the 3.5L makes? Perhaps it has a better power curve or more torque but for that fuel economy the MKS should have had a V8.

  • avatar
    findude

    The Willys 226 Super Hurricane (available on pickups and station wagons from about 1950 through the end of production in the early 1960s) was a great engine.

  • avatar
    redrum

    The 3.7L Duratec in the Mazda6 and MKS makes 272hp and 273hp, respectively.

  • avatar
    marc_m

    Perhaps 3.7L is about as much as you can enlarge a normal-sized V6

    No, it’s not. Vehicles like the KIA Sorento, KIA Borrego and the Hyundai Genesis all run with the same power plant: a naturally aspired 3.8L V6. Some displacements just don’t make any sense, while fuel management and direct or multiport injection has also somthing to do with it. The new Mazda 6 is heavy, and it doesn’t drive nothing like the old 6, actually it doesn’t drive nothing like a Japanese car. It tries to emulate “Germanic” handling, and by doing so it looses all its sporting character. So much for Zoom Zoom. I for one like the new 6, but I like it for what it is, and not for the bulshit Zoom Zoom marketing. As far as the 3.7 Ford power plant is concerned, it has a multiport injection system, and while that helps the engine rev whery smooth on regular cheap low octane fuel, it also gets class trailing fuel mileage. And so does the four pot 2.5 in the 6i for that matter….

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Anyone else remember the 1.8L V6 in the Mazda Precidia? Anyone else think it’s sick that these engines have the same cylinder count but are twice the displacement?

    I used to park beside an early nineties 7-Series (or did, until the driver’s drinking habit saw him draw a lines down my car–twice). It had a 3.5L eight. Can anyone even imagine a sub-five-liter eight in a passenger car?

  • avatar
    USAFMech

    “A plague on all both your cylinder banks!”

    Who doesn’t love them some Mercutio?

  • avatar
    newcarscostalot

    guyincognito, Thanks! I knew I was missing some part of the equation. I didn’t think weight was the issue.

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    @ psarhjinian

    The Honda CBX has a 1 litre straight six, but thats a motorcycle so it doesn’t really count…

    It’s also air cooled, except for the middle two cylinders (they don’t get cooled at all).

    The inline 6 probably sees the biggest range of displacement as it is the best trade off between balance and simplicity, everything from motorcycles to trains and ships use inline 6’s with the next jump being V12’s. I remember hearing about a GT road car with a 1.5L V12 engine but I am not about to go hunting for it right now.

    3.7 litre inline 6’s are exempt from any curses as far as I am concerned.

    edit: Speaking of I6 engines… why don’t GM make the 6 cyl. Atlas the base engine in the G8?

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    It’s not the engines, it’s the bloated vehicles they are stuffed into.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    SunnyvaleCA : Perhaps 3.7L is about as much as you can enlarge a normal-sized V6, so the 3.7L indicates that the manufacturer was just trying to get away from moving to a large-displacement V8 or to a complicated turbo or supercharger.

    In the 80s and 90s GM offered a 4.3 liter V-6 in a variety of cars and trucks. Basically a Chevy 5.7 liter V-8 with two cylinders sawed off. Though coarse and buzzy, it did have a lot of torque.

    In the 1960s GMC (but not Chevy) offered a 5.0 liter V-6 in their full-sized pickups and Suburbans. For many years it was the largest engine available and no V-8 engine was offered as a move-up option. It sounds like it would have been rough and noisy, but people who had them swore by them and offer conspiracy theories that the 5.0 liter V-6 was so good and reliable that GM quit making them because they never wore out.

  • avatar
    texan01

    There was also the GMC 5.7 V-6 along the same lines as the 5.0 V-6. There was even a V-12 based on the V-6, Apparently there was even an 7.8L version of that V6.

    http://www.6066gmcguy.org/Jolly-702v12.htm

    Dad’s GMC Canyon 3.7 I-5 gets the job done, it’s just mated to a transmission that needs a gear between 1st and 2nd. Gotta love the wide ratio 4L60/700-R4. It sure does sound funny when worked hard, like a diesel tractor.

    There comes a point in a given engine that making the pistons any bigger adds weight with lowers the redline, and makes meeting emissions harder to do with such a massive area that doesn’t burn all the available fuel evenly/cleanly.

    I think around 4 liters is the size where going to a V8 makes for a more fuel efficient, cleaner running engine.

  • avatar
    chanman

    Now why do 3.5’s which seem to be a popular V6 displacement escape this curse? (Right off the bat, the Nissan, Toyota, and Honda mills, all around the 270 hp mark)

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    psarhjinian :
    Can anyone even imagine a sub-five-liter eight in a passenger car?
    There is the odd sub-5.0 from irrelevant brands like Audi (all V8s are 4.2), BMW (4.4 and 4.8 gas, 4.4 diesel), Mercedes (diesel V8 is 4.0, there is a 4.5 gasser V8 in the S and GL), Porsche (Cayenne is 4.8), Volkswagen (Phaeton/Touareg 4.2), Cadillac (all Northstars), Ferrari (4.3), Maserati (4.3), Jaguar (3.5 and 4.2), Aston Martin (4.3), Land Rover (3.6 diesel, 4.4 gas, 4.2 supercharged gas), Volvo (4.4 Yamaha V8), Ford (4.6), Chrysler (4.7), Lexus (4.6), Infiniti (4.5) but you are right, other than that nothing immediately comes to my mind.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I know people with Jeep Libertys and Dakotas with the 3.7, and in these vehicles, the fuel mileage is very bad.
    Meanwhile, the GM 3800 Series II V6 was known for it’s decent FE in larger Buicks, Olds and Chevy models.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    shaker: “I know people with Jeep Libertys and Dakotas with the 3.7, and in these vehicles, the fuel mileage is very bad.”The 3.8L in the Wrangler seems to be generally despised, as well.

  • avatar
    Banger

    Psar:

    “I used to park beside an early nineties 7-Series (or did, until the driver’s drinking habit saw him draw a lines down my car–twice). It had a 3.5L eight. Can anyone even imagine a sub-five-liter eight in a passenger car?”

    I won’t give you any grief on the “can anyone imagine a sub-five-liter eight in a passenger car,” because Merko Reinhardt handled it pretty well.

    But I’m afraid I must further correct your statements, as that BMW 7-series didn’t have an eight. It had the vaunted 3.5 liter inline six. And even coupled with a four-speed automatic, I’m here to tell you: That thing drove like a car half it’s size. Scary fast when you wanted it to be.

    Imagine learning to drive on one of those (albeit a well-worn 12-year-old version). I did. Always wanted to push the pedal to the floor at cruising speed one day, then give it that “extra push” that BMWs had back then for the transmission “kick-down” feature, but I never had the guts to do it. At least, not with my mom riding shotgun!

    It’s a shame BMW went solely to V8 or V12 variants in the 7 series. That straight six was like the rock of Gibraltar.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Hey Justin,

    The AMG minivan you referenced was an R63…the R55 never existed, at least in US production form, since the R class intro coincided with the switch away from the Kompressor 24V 5.4 to the 32V 6.2.

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    The answer is simple. They make better torque on a broader band than the 3.5’s. I just got an 08 CX9 and testing it back to back with the 07’s is a marked difference. The engine is not rough and the tranny works just fine.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @Banger
    But I’m afraid I must further correct your statements, as that BMW 7-series didn’t have an eight. It had the vaunted 3.5 liter inline six.

    In the E32, sure, but the E38 735i had the V8. (ever watched “The Transporter”?) The E65 735i launched with a 3.5 V8 as well, which was later increased to 3.9 and became the 740i.

    It’s a shame BMW went solely to V8 or V12 variants in the 7 series. That straight six was like the rock of Gibraltar.

    They didn’t. The new 740i has a 3.0 twin turbo I6, there is the 730d which is about 85% of all 7ers sold in Europe, and I’d be very surprised if they don’t bring in another (more powerful) I6 diesel and another (less powerful) I6 gasser.
    Making the entry level 7-series a V8 would be as bizarrely idiotic as not offering 4-bangers in a 3- or 1-series. (as long as gas isn’t free)

    @rudiger
    The 3.8L in the Wrangler seems to be generally despised, as well.

    I never understood why they still made gas Wranglers. If any vehicle would make more sense with a diesel, even a loud, agricultural one, it’s the Wrangler.

  • avatar
    Banger

    @ Mirko:

    You’ve taught me a great deal more about the 7 series, for which my heart has a soft spot. I stand corrected, and thank you for the info!

    And no, I’ve never watched The Transporter.

    I was just thinking of my mom’s old 735iL being a 1990, thus Psar’s “early ’90s” comment immediately triggered a vision of her car. But I was not aware they had a V8 in that size at all! Well done with the information, chap.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Banger and Psar:

    But I’m afraid I must further correct your statements, as that BMW 7-series didn’t have an eight. It had the vaunted 3.5 liter inline six. And even coupled with a four-speed automatic, I’m here to tell you: That thing drove like a car half it’s size. Scary fast when you wanted it to be.

    I used to drive my boss’s 735i when I was house-sitting for him during college. He had a Dinan turbo-charger installed on that inline 6 – amazing. That turbo-charger transformed the car. I drove it to the beach one day and hung with a 911 the entire way.

    Great motor, with the turbo – amazing.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Is the 3.5 – 3.7 Atlas engine good or not? On paper, 242 hp and 242 ft-lb of torque sounds pretty good for a smaller truck. In my landscaping days I drove around in an old GMC with a 292 inline 6 that had less horsepower and torque and it seemed to do the job.

    That being said, being in the execrable H3 is a mortal sin…but you can’t blame the engine.

    I assume the Atlas 6 wouldn’t fit in the Canyon, Colorado. Pity. I am sure it would fit in the full-size pick up though…I don’t understand why it’s not an option.

  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    Psar: I actually can imagine a sub 5 liter V8…in the car I drive every day, a BMW 540i, complete with a 4.4 liter V8 with 282 bhp and 324 lb ft tq….Many V8’s are sub 5 liters…SO many

    Mirko Reinhardt : Don’t forget the 4.0 liter V8 in the new BMW M3

  • avatar
    davey49

    shaker- It’s a wonder what good aero and low drag will do. Those big GM cars are sleek and slippery, a Jeep is not.
    Mirko Reinhardt- expense is why Wranglers aren’t diesels. Do you really want to add $4-5K on to the price of a Jeep?

  • avatar
    shaker

    davey49:

    Point taken, but these people are driving roads in the suburbs @ 45 – 50 MPH max, and they’re still pulling 16- 17MPG (unloaded) out of these vehicles – there’s some other factor at play, maybe rear axle ratios.

  • avatar
    lowmanjoe

    other than that nothing immediately comes to my mind.

    There’s also the odd 3.5L Rover V8, which was used extensively by Rover, Land Rover, Triumph, MG, TVR, etc (basically all of what was once British-Leyland), and that’s after Rover bought the motor from GM, which was then known as the Buick 215 and had handily sold over 375K units during the sixties. The 3.5L Rover went on to spawn 3.9/4.0, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6 and 5.0L variants that powered many Land Rovers and TVRs throughout the 1990s.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Justin, the G37’s engine is a gem, but real world mileage sucks if you use it like you should. And I do remember the 1.8 litre V6 in the Mazda. In fact I always had a soft spot for Mazda engines. Lastly, that oldie but goodie slant six engine is a legend in durability. There used to be speed parts for the slant six, too. Internals never broke on these pups

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @davey49:
    Mirko Reinhardt- expense is why Wranglers aren’t diesels. Do you really want to add $4-5K on to the price of a Jeep?

    It’s only a $1584 difference in Germany before taxes, not anywhere near the figure you quoted. If the Wrangler had a more modern V6, cost qould certainly be at least on par with a 4-cylinder diesel.

    @Banger
    You’ve taught me a great deal more about the 7 series, for which my heart has a soft spot. I stand corrected, and thank you for the info!

    You’re welcome. I have a soft spot for some BMWs too.

    And no, I’ve never watched The Transporter.

    It’s not as wrong as Transporter 2, and it features a manual transmission E38 735i.


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