BOTB’s Top 6 V6s {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

8 Feb 2017

To coincide with our V6 Special promo this week, Tim Oldland takes a look at the very best V6 engines!

The V6 is a wonderful engine, sonorous yet silky smooth and capable of great power. Most manufacturers have made one at some point or another, but which are the best? This is by no means a definitive list, but it’s a good start…

6 – Jag XJ220 ‘TWR JV6’

Okay, let’s deal with the disappointment first – the XJ220 concept had a 6.2 litre V12 (and 4wd) which the whole world fell in love with, but then the production version had a V6 much to everyone’s disappointment (including Jaguars, as sales flopped) – but what an engine it was. A 3.5 litre twin turbocharged V6, producing 540hp which in 1992 was a serious amount of power (even though that’s what most top end Jag saloons have now). It was raucous, had horrendous turbo lag and wasn’t particularly reliable, but it made a quite remarkable noise thanks to the huge turbos.

5 – Audi RS4 2.7tt

When Audi created the ‘B5’ RS4 they started a whole automotive segment without knowing it – the powerful AWD estate car – the performance car for all seasons and all situations and it was hugely successful. Key to that success was the engine, an upgraded version of the one in the S4 – a 2.7 litre twin turbo V6 producing 375bhp developed by Cosworth Technology. It featured enlarged intake and smaller exhaust ports on the two Cosworth cast aluminium alloy ALSi7mg cylinder heads, two parallel BorgWarner K04-series turbochargers, two larger side-mounted intercoolers, dished piston crowns, stronger connecting rods, larger intake ducting, enlarged exhaust system, and a re-calibrated engine management system and can be easily tuned to well over 600bhp with little reliability issues. Quite a lump!

4 – Ford Capri RS3100 ‘Essex’

This may not seem like a particularly impressive engine, with just 150bhp produced from a 3.1 litre V6, but the engine in the RS3100 was a throaty, great sounding V6 that in the race cars was able to be tuned to well over 400bhp. This was just one application of the ‘Essex’ V6 though, with capacities ranging from 2.5 to 3.1 litres in the Ford Capri, Granada, Zephyr and Police and Ambulance Transits, and numerous TVR and Marcos sports cars.

3 – Nissan GT-R ‘VR38DETT’

Starting out its life in 2007, the engine in the first ‘R35’ GT-R was a 3.5 litre twin turbo V6 producing 476bhp, but over the following 5 years it evolved into the 565bhp monster they use today. But of course that is assuming that the 565bhp quoted by Nissan is actually accurate, which it isn’t – many owners of totally standard cars have taken them to rolling roads and have said the number they see is much closer to 600bhp. The engine is such a wonderful thing to use, revving freely and catapulting the GT-R towards the horizon with such huge force it’s amazing the rest of the components stand up to the abuse. But that they do, and it’s a testament to the design that there are many cars with standard internals running very reliably at 800bhp with a simple ECU reflash and some trickery with the intake and exhausts.

2 – Honda NSX 3.0 ‘C30A’

When Honda decided to build themselves a supercar in the late 1980’s there was one thing they were clear on from the start – it had to have a bespoke engine that shared more with a racing engine than a road one. And so the NSX received one of the best engines ever created – a 3.0 litre naturally aspirated V6 with Honda’s patented VTEC (Variable valve Timing and lift Electronic Control) system producing 276bhp. It held the honour of being the world’s first production car engine with titanium connecting rods, forged pistons, and ultra-high-revving capabilities – the redline was at a lofty 8,000 rpm – all traits usually associated with track and race engineered motor cars. It was also very light for an engine of its size, helping the NSXs perfect weight balance and handling.

1 – Alfa Romeo ‘Busso’

In the early 1970s, Alfa Romeo engineer Giuseppe Busso was tasked with developing a new V6 engine that was modular and was capable of lots of capacity scaling, whilst also being powerful, sonorous and strong. The first application was as a 2.5 litre in the 1979 Alfa Romeo Alfa 6 where it produces 156bhp and had six carburettors.  From this many more were developed across the years from a smaller 2.0 litre V6 (to aid with Italian tax changes) to the biggest production version at 3.2 litres (though companies bore that out to 3.7 quite successfully). It was in the late 1980s that the Busso V6 came into its own though, in the Alfa Romeo 75 and later in the 155 that followed it. The most successful usage was with the 24v 3.0 litre V6 producing around 220bhp, which powered the more sporting Alfa Romeo models, including the stunning GTV and the 164 and 166 models. The final evolution of the Busso was arguably the best too, with the capacity stretched to 3.2 litres which produced 247bhp, looked stunning with the polished intakes and red lettering on the heads and sounded utterly incredible. It was used in the fantastic 147 and 156 GTA models, along with the run-out GTV and replacement GT model. It was replaced by a 3.2 litre V6 made from a General Motors unit, which is widely regarded as a much inferior unit – most simply say it has no soul. The Busso has soul to spare though, what an incredible engine.