The Volkswagen VR6 has been an incredible addition to the vast timeline of automotive engines. It saves space like an inline 4-cylinder, yet allows for increased power and torque production like the V-6 that it always has been. It made its debut before the days of mass-market turbocharging, and, at the time, the VR6 was the hottest of engines from VW.
However, as time marches on, engines are becoming smaller and increasingly feature more forced induction from turbochargers. It's led to the death of many V-6 engines and the VR6 is likely on its way out, too. In this video, Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained teams up with the Humble Mechanic, aka Charles Sanville, to discuss why the Volkswagen VR6 engine is probably not long for this world. Bottom line, the blame can be pinned on turbocharging of smaller-displacement engines and efficiency.
About efficiency: it's a no-brainer that a smaller engine is more efficient. Any 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder is going to be more frugal than the thirstier VR6 engine. So, that's one strike against the VR6 mill.
Secondly, a turbocharged 4-cylinder delivers a much flatter, more consistent torque curve. As Jason shows, VW's modern turbocharged inline-4 delivers more peak torque at an earlier point in the powerband than the current VR6 engine. Strike two.
It's also expensive for any automaker to offer a wide selection of engines and produce each at great high volumes. Consolidation of powertrains has occurred over the past few years in the industry, and it's the reason why so many brands feature similar engines with slightly different tunes. If VW's inline-4 can provide better torque and performance than the VR6 at a lower cost, it's not personal, just good business. Strike three.
Finally, even though the VR6 takes up relatively little room, a smaller inline 4-cylinder not only saves weight and space in the car, it's easier to work on and keeps maintenance costs down. Going back to the powertrain consolidation, when a company only makes one or two engines, it means many parts are shared across the product lineup. Strike four.
It will likely be some time before we say goodbye to the VR6 engine, but there's no denying modern technology is making its existence harder to justify. With that said, the VR6 is still an amazing feat by Volkswagen, and the Humble Mechanic is rebuilding the one shown in the video for his personal car.