The V6 engine derives its name from two components. First of all, the V stands for the V-shape of the internal combustion engine. Second, the 6 stands for the six cylinders that it features. The V-shaped engine stands in contrast to the inline engine, where the cylinders are positioned in one straight line. Whereas on a V6 engine, there are two rows of three cylinders. A logical consequence is that a V6 engine is shorter and relatively more compact than an inline four cylinder engine.
Inline six engine compared to V6 engine layout
V6 engine History
The V-type engine first made its appearance in 1889 as a two cylinder V-twin, built by Gottlieb Daimler after a design by William Maybach. These men were so pioneering that their names are still alive in today’s automotive engineering. Obviously their groundbreaking product is also still around and even gaining importance in the V6 and V8 arrangement.
As soon as 1905, V6 engines started being used in automobile manufacturing. The first series-production V6 engine was introduced in 1950 by Italian car brand Lancia. Soon other car brands such as Buick and GMC followed in Lancia’s footsteps and powered their heavier duty vehicles with a V6.
Six cylinder inline engines do exist, but are uncommon to find these days. The inline six cylinder is nearly twice as long as the V6 and is hard to fit under modern day hoods. Especially since the pressure is higher to build compacter engines with more power output.
The V6 engine is a good compromise between being powerful while retaining agreeable fuel economy. The V6 is a great option for medium-sized cars that want to offer more power than the standard four cylinder, but don’t have enough room for a throbbing V8 engine. Because of that, the V6 engine is oftentimes offered as an optional engine on cars with standard inline four cylinders. Also, they usually come standard on vehicles where the V8 is an optional feature.