Welcome to Pop The Hood, a weekly autoMedia.com feature that examines the industry’s latest innovations and what makes them tick. We’ve poked around inside the Scion FR-S, Ford Shelby GT500, BMW 335i, Buick Regal GS,and Audi S6. Today, let’s peer into the Chrysler Pentastar V6 engine.
The Pentastar V6 engine had been run through the ringer before it ever turned the wheels on a single car. Stuck with a V6 that wasn’t very well liked, Chrysler began the process of designing a new version in 2004. Various setbacks, plus the automaker’s bankruptcy, pushed the debut date all the way back to 2009. But the story seems to suit the Pentastar, perhaps the most versatile engine on the market today (more on that below), powering vehicles of all shapes and sizes across the Chrysler lineup. Here’s what makes it special.
1. Power Ready: The Pentastar V6 actually produces less power than the previous generation V6 under 1,400rpm, but after that, the power comes quickly and consistently with a nearly flat torque curve from 1,600-6,400rpm – thanks to concepts like dual independent cam phasing, a high-flow intake and exhaust ports. In fact, more than 90% of the torque is available in that range.
2. Versatility: The Pentastar is currently used in a full one-third of all Chrysler vehicles, and rumors persist that it may even enter a Maserati one day. And why not? It already powers everything from Ram and Wrangler to Challenger and Cherokee, with a few Fiats and Lancias thrown in for good measure. It can adjust, too, producing 260hp in the Wrangler and 305hp in the Challenger. It’s greatest feat may be in the Chrysler 300, a 4,000 lb. sedan that achieves 292hp and 25 overall mpg. For the Ram, the only adjustment the Pentastar needed was a new intake manifold. It’s a workhorse engine for a good ‘ol American automaker.
3. Eco-Friendly and Wallet-Friendly: Gadgets and gizmos like Variable Valve Timing and piston-cooling jets keep the Pentastar working 15-20% more efficiently than the V6 it replaced. There’s even a variable-displacement oil pump that adjusts below 3,000rpm to ensure excess oil isn’t being wasted. But the Pentastar is also efficient for the sake of the environment, and not necessarily mpg. Chrysler is very proud of its paper oil filters that can be incinerated rather than tossed in a landfill. All this efficiency, plus long life spark plugs and high-energy ignition systems mean fewer costs for the owner, and Chrysler saves money on production because they…
4. Don’t Get Fancy: Chrysler needed to drastically improve their fuel economy, and they certainly did with the Pentastar, which returns a 15-20% improvement in efficiency and 30-40% in power. Even more impressive is that it has made that leap without some of the tricks that other engines need, like Direct Injection and Exhaust Gas Recirculation. The Pentastar is good enough on its own merit to achieve impressive figures, but that just means we can be more excited for…
5. The Future: The Pentastar doesn’t have Direct Injection, Cylinder Deactivation or a turbo, but it is set up to potentially handle all three. If Fiat and Chrysler continue to develop the Pentastar V6 with these and other technologies, it could see whole new levels of performance and efficiency. They may be waiting for the price to go down, and since the Pentastar already helps them meet 2015 CAFE standards there’s no rush. But the sky is the limit for the already impressive Pentastar, and we can’t wait to see what else is in store. Maybe an appearance in the new Alfa Romeo Spider?
Pentastar Equipped Vehicles (standard or optional):
Chrysler Town & Country
Dodge Grand Caravan
Jeep Grand Cherokee
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What does the future hold for Chrysler's versatile Pentastar V6 engine? Tell us in the Comments.