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Mercedes Gets Its Pistons Back in a Row

October 27, 2011 by Matt

Mercedes Benz Merc M-B C36 AMG Engine Bay

Even as BMW tiptoes in the direction of abandoning their relationship with the straight-6 cylinder configuration, their arch-rivals at Mercedes-Benz seem set to reintroduce an engine featuring 6 cylinders all lined up, a layout they haven’t used for gasoline engines since they went all-V6 in ’99.

It’s yet another engine configuration shakeup as engineers scramble to find the new balance between their brand’s requirements and new efficiency and emissions regulations. The past half-decade has witnessed a remarkable downsizing of displacement and a virtual explosion of turbochargers, which have the promise of boosting the power of the smaller, more miserly engines. Whether or not they’re equipped with a turbo, the new inline-sixes from Mercedes stand a good chance of replacing larger engines at the same time they increase efficiency over the automaker’s outgoing V6s, mainly due to better manifold optimization and lower valvetrain loss (two camshafts vs four, etc). The only question I have concerns what I understand to be another major reason automakers are switching to smaller, shorter engines: The new EU frontal impact crash regulations. How will Mercedes square the additional length of an inline-6 over a V6 with the added crumple zone size required by the regulations?

If nothing else, it’s an interesting turn of events, and ensures that whatever BMW decides to do, the inline-6 won’t go be consigned to the dustbin of obsolete engine configurations (see: straight-8) just yet.

Filed under: Car Industry, Mercedes, News

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