Hooniverse Asks: Do we still need inline six-cylinder engine options?

This past week, I’ve been driving a 2020 Range Rover Sport HST. Those three letters on the end signify a unique powertrain setup under the hood. This Rover is fitted with a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. It’s paired with a turbocharger and a 48V mild-hybrid setup as well. The output is 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. Not bad, right? Additionally, Land Rover says it’s more balanced than the prior V6, while also being more responsive and burping out less CO2.

But did it really need to be an inline engine?

There’s some great tech packaged around and inside this Ingenium engine family member. Some of it borrowed from its 2.0-liter four-cylinder sibling. Yet I can’t help but think Land Rover went with the I6 just to be a bit different. To lean on some past notions of straight-six nostalgia.

Listen, I like a good inline engine. And the one in the nose of this Rover works rather well. The start-stop system is actually quite unobtrusive. Power delivery is smooth. And I only find myself wishing for a V8 with respect to the noise produced by Land Rovers packing more potent powerplants.

On the flipside, this engine leaves me worried. There are so many things working here that a minor issue with any one of them could render the whole setup useless. Re-read the bits relayed in that image above. And then wonder if a more standard real hybrid setup might not be better, and paired with an already tried-and-true V6? Or even as an option on the V8.

I like the Range Rover HST. I like that it’s well under $100k too (just under $90k as-tested/starts at $82k). But I’m not sold on the fact that it needs to have this engine. Why isn’t anyone else making use of the I6 anymore? Should it make a comeback? Should others adopt it where packaging allows?

Am I wrong?

Let me know below…

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32 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: Do we still need inline six-cylinder engine options?”

  1. outback_ute Avatar

    Looking at the list of features, I can’t imagine an offset crank being easy to implement in a vee engine

  2. Kamil K Avatar

    The inline six is fine. In fact MB has recently switched to them and BMW will not quit them for some time to come. They are smooth and balanced. Their biggest issues to date was packaging; they’re longer. Something about crumple zones and pedestrian safety.

    What you’re worrying about here are bits of fine British electrical engineering and historically significant build quality.

  3. caltemus Avatar

    “Why isn’t anyone else making use of the I6 anymore? Should it make a comeback?”

    This confuses me. Three big european companies have just developed new I6 engines. Toyota is selling one of them in the Supra. If anything, the I6 is doing better now than it has in decades.

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      Fair point. But it feels like everyone touted the I6, but then goes back to work on more V6 options throughout the rest of the respective lineups.

    2. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      Fair point. But it feels like everyone touted the I6, but then goes back to work on more V6 options throughout the rest of the respective lineups.

  4. Zentropy Avatar

    I feel like you’re intentionally trolling with this one. But it worked… I’ll bite.

    The inline six is my favorite engine configuration, period (followed by the V8). They’re smooth as silk because of inherent balance, and many have a reputation for longevity (I think) because they don’t naturally try to shake themselves apart. In my opinion, the six-cylinder option of any RWD vehicle should be inline. Fours should be flat, and eights should be 90-degree Vs.

    Admittedly, the inline-6 design is relatively tall and long, which can make packaging a challenge. Slanting it can help with fit, but they’re particularly difficult to set up transversely (as in FWDs). I think the only reason the 60-degree V6 exists is because of packaging, because otherwise, it’s riddled with balance issues.

    Inline sixes tend to be under-square, because big bores mean adding length to an already long engine. Long piston strokes limit engine rotation speeds. This arrangement is good for torque (which people actually like but think is irrelevant) but not so good for high-end horsepower (which some think is all that matters). Personally, I like torquey engines, so the straight six has always appealed to me.

    The Jag/LR engine isn’t alone. Mercedes Benz has brought back their inline six, and I’m thrilled to hear that Mazda is working on one. It’s about time!

    1. SeattleCurmudgeon Avatar

      Well and eloquently put. I agree.

    2. SeattleCurmudgeon Avatar

      Well and eloquently put. I agree.

  5. Maymar Avatar

    I think the recent revival of the I6 is a tacit admission that the V8 is slowly going away. I’m excited for the revival because of the I6’s character, but realistically, I think it’s that it’s easier for an I4 and I6 to share architecture (moreso than an I4 and V6), and working the packaging of various lengths of inline engine is likely easier than accommodating both an inline and V-engine. With the I4 being more and more the volume engine choice even in higher end cars, it makes sense to use that to spin off a larger engine, rather than going clean slate for a low volume option.

    1. Tiller188 Avatar

      Hadn’t really even thought about the “common platform” aspect of it, but that makes a ton of sense — I was wondering why M-B, Mazda, and JLR were all of a sudden bringing out new I6s when it was starting to look like BMW was going to be the last bastion of that layout. Not complaining, regardless.

  6. fede Avatar

    I read somewhere some time ago that the I6 was coming back because with downsizing and all, it makes more sense to make it modular with an I4, than a v6 that is modular with a v8. the reason being the v8 will be less and less used as time goes by.

    I wish I could remember where it was.

    But I’m sure at least some of it, however small, is marketing. Heritage and all that. Everyone who is doing the new I6s has used them in the past. Also, appearing to do something new and different.

  7. danleym Avatar

    Let me know when they bring back the Straight 8.

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      Straight 16 or GTFO

    2. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      Straight 16 or GTFO

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        In what is that engine installed??? Never seen such a thing before.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          Looks like one of the later Franklin engines, so call it early 1930s.

        2. Batshitbox Avatar

          Franklin Olympic. I never would have known about them if I hadn’t seen one for sale in upstate New York almost 30 years ago. Never seen or heard from since.

  8. outback_ute Avatar

    Looking at the list of features, I can’t imagine an offset crank being easy to implement in a vee engine

  9. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    i have no insight into how the industry works, but i suspect the resurgence of the straight-six is a packaging question more than a nostalgia thing. the move for the last decade, with ever-stricter efficiency requirements, has been to chop two cylinders off your previous big motor and put a turbo on it. since luxury cars ten years ago all had V8s, they’re all sixes with turbos now. chances are those sixes will never be sold in a naturally-aspirated configuration, as even base models get little turbos these days. manifolding, turbo mounting, and exhaust piping is simpler for an inline engine than a V, so it’s not crazy to see them coming back.

    packaging was probably the same thing that drove carmakers to V6s instead of inline engines all those years ago. you could have better aerodynamics and better crash safety with a V6 than an I6, and you could stick it in an FWD car without much trouble. the efficiency benefits of the turbocharger maybe balance out the aero benefits, and now that we can get enough power for transverse-engined FWD luxury cars out of turbo 4s, that benefit is gone too. safety benefits i can’t address. maybe the advent of high-strength steels and freakin knee airbags in cars over the last 10-20 years have made having a javelin pointed at the firewall less of a threat to passenger safety.

    most people don’t give a shit how their engine is shaped, as long as it feels fast and has enough cylinders to keep up with the joneses. preferring the I6 to the V6 is an enthusiast thing and nobody makes cars for enthusiasts these days. technologies and priorities have shifted, and i think the switch back to the I6 is rooted in legit engineering trades.

    to me the real question is: will IC engines stick around long enough to see another form factor change?

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      I think the reason inline sixes are coming back is as a new generation of engines are needed, the cost to do a clean-sheet V6 is higher than basing an I6 off the 4-cyl engines, and they can be built on the same line. Turbo V8’s all seem to be hot-vee (turbo mounted in the vee) so presumably the same could be done for V6’s.

      I have heard the stats (but can’t find a reference) for different cylinder counts and 4-cyl engines are something like 75% of all sold worldwide.

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        The heat management is one reason to go inline. There is a hot side and a cold side, making cooling of the high pressure fuel system less of a problem. Hot V V*S put all the hot bits up on top of the engine making engine bay cooling and thus reliability of electronics and hoses etc easier and adding to long term reliability.

        1. wunno sev Avatar
          wunno sev

          these are all excellent points! i didn’t even think about scaling up 4 cylinders and heat management.

  10. mdharrell Avatar

    I want to see more I6s for the sake of their good primary and secondary balance and more 60° V4s to keep the engineers from growing too complacent about primary and secondary balance.

    1. kogashiwa Avatar

      Strongly in favour of more V4s 👍

    1. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

      All you need is money, BMW has had the K1600 I-6 for several years now


  11. kogashiwa Avatar

    They work poorly in a mid-engine layout so I’m contractually obligated to not care.

      1. kogashiwa Avatar

        The brilliant exception that proves the rule.

  12. Fuhrman16 Avatar

    Yes, we need all the straight sixes. Especially if they sound like this.

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