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Teutonic Shifts

September 14, 2011 by Matt

BMW Logo Roundel V6 V-6 Engine Block

Motor Trend relays a bit of sleuthing by Bimmerfest involving recent patent filings by BMW. As it turns out, the Bavarian automaker has just applied for patents on a pair of upcoming engines: Two turbocharged V8s and, more significantly, a couple of twin-turbo V6s.

If you know anything about BMW’s relationship with the inline-6 engine configuration, you’ll know the adoption of a V6 would represent a fairly significant lurch away from their legacy. Virtually every other automaker has abandoned the I6 in favor of the more compact V layout for their 6-cylindered powerplants. Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota—you name it; they’ve ditched the I6. Why, then, has BMW persisted with the configuration for so long? In contrast to the more common V6, arranging the cylinders in a row does have some important advantages: Intake and exhaust plumbing is more simple, the valvetrain is much less complex, and perhaps most significantly: The engine is capable of achieving perfect harmonic balance, meaning it runs very smoothly. This puts less stress on its internals and gives the inline-6 a refined feel, an important quality for the engine of a luxury performance car.

And now BMW may be, at long last, introducing a V6. Somehow I doubt it will entirely replace their iconic I6 across the model range, as it did with the other automakers, but it muddies the waters; it dilutes what was previously an uncompromising devotion to the inherent qualities of a technically elegant engine configuration. That said, as with the introduction of FWD cars branded as BMWs, I don’t know if I can blame this entirely on some cynical quest for profit at the expense of the automaker’s legacy. The new EU regulations for cars include rather draconian specifications for pedestrian safety, regulations the European auto industry is striving to adhere to mainly by integrating larger crumple zones into the noses of their designs. The additional “give” needed by the bodywork means the “hard” engine must be pushed back farther in the chassis, putting the comparatively long inline-6 at a major disadvantage. So an attempt to conform to some arbitrary set of top-down restrictions may bear at least some of the blame for the shift. Whatever the reasons, it’ll be a sad day for classic Bimmer-philes when the first V6-engined BMW rolls off the assembly line.

Filed under: BMW, Car Industry, News


  1. John D says:

    “Whatever the reasons, it’ll be a sad day for classic Bimmer-philes when the first V6-engined BMW rolls off the assembly line.”

    While that may be true for the Bimmer-philes, the rest of us will have to wait and see how much power it makes before we decide to feel sentimental or excited. ;)

    That being said, I do share your appreciation for the inline six configuration. There’s just something about the way one sounds and feels while climbing through the rev range that makes it stand out from the run of the mill V6/8 etc. (And second only to a rotary in smoothness. :)

    • Matt says:

      That’s fair. I’ve no doubt that whatever car the eventual V6 is placed in (if it even sees the light of day), it will be BMW-capable. Just not as classically “BMW-ish,” so to speak.

      You know I love my I6s, having owned five different examples of the type (L24, 7M, 1JZ, M30, M50). There’s nothing like ’em for smoothness.

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