These days, with the exception of Ram’s mighty 6.7L Cummins turbo-diesel, inline six-cylinder engines are pretty much exclusively the domain of European luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but there was a time not too many decades ago when the I6 was all the rage in the U.S., too. It’s easy to understand why; inline-six engines are inherently well balanced, resulting in silky-smooth power delivery. And because, unlike in a V6, there’s only a single cylinder head, assembly is simpler and more straightforward.
The downside to all of this is packaging; I6 engines are much longer than V6 powerplants of similar displacement, meaning they’re not really suitable for transverse (front-wheel-drive-based) applications. That fact, more than anything else, likely explains why the I6 fell out of favor among American and Asian carmakers; FWD became the dominant car configuration, and today, transverse layouts are much more common in crossover utility vehicles than longitudinal (rear-wheel-drive-based) ones.
Regardless, Allpar now reports that Chrysler’s historic, well-regarded slant-six (1959-1983) could be reincarnated, in a sense, as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is believed to be working on an all-new in-line six petrol engine. If true, smooth, effortless power delivery befitting a premium European automobile is likely nigh, but that’s not why FCA has reportedly decided to develop such an engine. Instead, according to Allpar‘s sources, FCA sees it as a simple, cost-effective way to update its engine portfolio, as the automaker could very easily base the engine on its new four-cylinder Global Medium Engine.
There are limits to what parts the two motors could share, of course, but at the very least, extending the GME block and adding two additional cylinders might allow the automaker to bring out an all-new engine with some of the engineering work already taken care of. Reportedly, FCA could even reuse some of the same production tooling.
Where FCA’s rumored inline-six petrol engine – tipped to have a displacement just below 3.0 liters for European tax purposes – might be deployed is a mystery, but the premium Alfa Romeo brand seems like a safe bet, and Allpar points to the possibility that Ferrari might cook up a hotter version for Maserati. It’s reasonable to think the I6 could also find a home in Ram’s light-duty pickup trucks, and perhaps even the next-generation Dodge Charger and Challenger.
We’ll have to wait and see.