V6 engines have been common in cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs for decades. The V6 has traditionally served as a happy medium that’s more powerful than a 4-cylinder and more efficient than a V8. Forced induction with turbochargers and superchargers can change that dynamic, but today we’re going to stick to the basics of what a V6 is and whether it’s right for you.
What Does a V6 Engine Do?
A V6 engine is an internal combustion engine with six cylinders arranged in a V-shaped formation. Using six cylinders often results in a higher horsepower rating compared to a 4-cylinder. For example, in the popular Toyota Camry, the available V6 produces 98 more horsepower than the base 4-cylinder engine.
V6 engines have performance applications in vehicles like the Kia Stinger GT and the Ford F-150 Raptor, but they’re most commonly found in midsize SUVs, minivans, and other practical family haulers. V6 engines are suitable for vehicles like the Hyundai Palisade and Honda Odyssey because they balance performance and fuel efficiency.
How Does a V6 Work?
A V6 engine works like any other internal combustion engine but has the distinction of six cylinders shaped in a “V” formation. A gas/air mixture enters the cylinders through intake valves where it’s compressed by the pistons and ignited by the spark plugs. After ignition, exhaust fumes exit through the exhaust valves, and the combustion process starts over.
Two cylinder banks containing three cylinders each meet in the middle, with all six pistons connecting to the crankshaft. The combustion process turns the crankshaft, which sends power to the transmission. The transmission then sends power to the wheels, making the car go.
- More powerful than a 4-cylinder — Generally speaking, more cylinders and higher displacement result in more power. All things being equal in terms of forced induction, V6 engines are more potent than 4-cylinder engines.
- More efficient than a V8 — V8 engines are great for high horsepower ratings and towing capabilities, but they’re usually inefficient. A V6 engine delivers a good balance of power and efficiency, generally netting better fuel economy ratings than V8 engines.
- Good towing capabilities — A V6 can have pretty muscular towing capabilities. For example, the V6-powered Nissan Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 lbs.
- Less efficient than a 4-cylinder — When you have a choice between a 4-cylinder or a V6 engine in the same car, the V6 is almost always the less efficient option between the two. It’s also usually the more expensive choice.
- Less powerful than a V8 — While the V6 has the perk of better fuel economy than a V8, the V8 still beats the V6 in power, capabilities, and overall performance. However, modern turbocharged V6 engines are capable of V8-like performance.
How is it Different Than a V8?
The difference between a V6 and a V8 is simple. A V6 has six cylinders, and a V8 has eight cylinders. Both engine designs have their cylinders arranged in a V-shaped formation. In general, a V6 is more efficient, and a V8 is more powerful.
What Type of Cars Have V6 Engines?
V6 engines are most commonly found in family-oriented midsize SUVs like the Toyota Highlander and minivans like the Chrysler Pacifica because of their balance of power and efficiency. V6 engines are also common in pickup trucks, usually as the base engine in full-size trucks like the Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500. It’s starting to become a typical base engine for midsize trucks as well, like the Honda Ridgeline and Nissan Frontier.
V6 engines also have performance applications. A V6-powered sedan like the Nissan Maxima or Dodge Charger is usually a performance-oriented practical car compared to a more subtle 4-cylinder sedan. Turbocharged V6 engines can produce V8-like performance in vehicles like the Nissan GT-R and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.