The auto industry might be moving headlong into all-electrics but that doesn’t mean internal combustion is dead, not by a long shot. Witness the introduction of a brand-new engine from Stellantis, a turbocharged inline-six that will be capable of generating more than 500 horsepower.
Development of this ‘Hurricane’ I-6 was kept on the down-low, at least as much as can be expected during these modern times when everyone has a camera in their pocket. Two variants will be available when the engine goes into production and pops up in showrooms later this year.
When Mazda announced it would be discontinuing the midsize Mazda6 sedan for the U.S. market, some were crestfallen. With the industry having spent the better part of a decade moving away from the body style to support models they could associate with higher price tags, there’s been a deficit of good sedans of late. But a seed of hope was left intact when the company announced it would be pulling the Mazda 6 from our market.
You see, the company had long been teasing a rear-drive variant utilizing a powerful inline-six motor. Mazda was also going upmarket, indicating the possibility of the model returning to do battle with midsized German products with a higher price tag. But it’s looking like the concept is going into the trash bin along with Mazda’s suggestion of bringing back RX performance vehicles and creating rotary range extenders for EVs.
Much of the news surrounding Mazda this past year has concerned powerplants: a new turbocharged 2.5-liter four-banger for the CX-5 crossover and 6 sedan, a sort-of sparkless Skyactiv-X mill that still doesn’t have a North American arrival date, a lackluster diesel that took its sweet time getting here, and the brand’s continued lack of electric offerings.
The engine news continues. Buried within this week’s fiscal year earnings report is a hint of two new engines to come — inline-six engines. For a brand eager to position itself as premium, the development of a mill widely regarded as the classiest engine type reflects well on it.
While the United States’ obsession with massive V8 engines was picking up steam, Britain was falling in love with the inline six. In the years following World War II, Aston Martin was acquired by David Brown for a pittance and entered into the era that would define it forever. This era included the engine stylings of Tadek Marek — a man with a serious penchant for the straight six. Eventually both Aston and Marek would move on to motors with more cylinders, but the company would still hold onto the inline six until the new millennium as an entry-level option. It’s last application was on the base-model DB7.
Unless you count the DB4’s continuation, we’ve not seen any Aston Martin hosting a straight-six configuration since then. However, the company recently let slip that it’s talking about borrowing one from Daimler. Specifically, the turbocharged 3.0-liter from Mercedes-AMG.
As a parent of two young children, I watch a lot of movies at home. Most of the blockbuster movies I’ve watched this year are remakes. This month alone, I watched Ghostbusters, Star Trek Beyond, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. All three are part of franchises that died a decade (or more) ago and have been reborn successfully in 2016.
In the same way, inline-six engines have returned to Mercedes-Benz after nearly a 20 year hiatus in North America.
Why are straight six engines making a comeback?
Mercedes-Benz is introducing a host of new engines with clever shared modular components, including a standard 500cc cylinder displacement.
These new engines include a new AMG-developed twin-turbocharged V8 for the S-Class and one of the most encouraging mechanical additions to the automotive landscape seen in a while — a high-tech inline-six specifically designed to compete with, and outclass, larger motors.
The BMW 3 Series has been the benchmark to which all manner of vehicles are measured. The comparisons go beyond the likes of the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Volvo S60, and include BMW M3 vs Chevy Camaro and BMW 328d vs Toyota Prius. It seems that every car company in America makes at least one “3-Series fighter.” But there’s a problem with your largest volume product being put on this kind of pedestal: die-hard fans hate change.
Enthusiasts claim that BMW ruined the 3 Series when they redesigned it in 2012. The “F30” sedan got bigger, fatter, softer, and more gadget-filled than ever before. BMW fanbois cried in their gemüsesuppe, Road & Track called it an “also ran” and … BMW laughed all the way to the bank.
For 2016 the 3-Series gets a facelift, new engines and a redesigned suspension. What isn’t changed, however, is BMW’s new direction. And that’s a good thing in my book.
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