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by David Zatz
Rumors of a new inline six-cylinder have been flying around Auburn Hills and FCA plants for months. Referred to as “Tornado” (which won’t necessarily be its official name), the engine seems to be real — at least, if engineers’ resumés are to be believed.
Progress appears to be proceeding to durability testing, based on what engineers have put into their personal profiles; and it should be included in the Wagoneer, when it comes out.
A new straight-six would have to fit into some tight spaces, so it couldn’t be a “four-cylinder with two more holes tacked on.” Major design changes would be needed to keep the package from getting too long, and to keep the crankshaft at a reasonable length for high-performance variants.
Mercedes recently joined BMW in the straight-six club, making a new in-line engine more likely for Alfa Romeo and Maserati. Whether it hits Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram is still a matter for speculation.
The rumors claim that the engine will be just under 3.0 liters (the Hurricane Four is just under 2.0 liters), without iron cylinder liners; it would presumably use the “SmartSpray” plasma transferred wire arc process (PTWA) sold by FCA’s Comau division.
A Dodge/Ram/Jeep/Chrysler standard-performance version would have different heads than the Maserati/Alfa Romeo and SRT versions; the Italian premium companies would have changes to the block, too, if past experience is any guide. However, the main differentiator would likely be the heads and any forced-induction setups.
A space-saving design, patented years ago, might reduce vertical space.
We were unable to confirm that the American brands would see this engine at all — indeed, we could not definitively say that a straight six was in the works at all, at least not for the near future. Still, straight sixes are inherently smoother than V6s, and have a bit of snob appeal, given their use by BMW and Mercedes; and the company needs a V6 producing V8 power, at lower cost than the current Ferrari solution and with higher output than the Pentastar-based Maserati mill.
As for the Hemi, the rumor mill claims an update is in the works, but it’s increasingly going to be a niche motor rather than aiming for the mass market.
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