Has BMW ever made a V6 engine? No, BMW has never mass-produced a V6 engine or mated a V6 engine to any of their cars. The Bavarian manufacturer has a well-deserved reputation for building great inline-6 engines, which dates back to the 1930s when they started producing the M78.
Reportedly, BMW regularly develops and internally tests V6 engines but none have made it to production. Are we ever going to see a BMW with a V6? Most likely not in the near future.
Why doesn’t BMW use V6 engines?
According to some speculation, V6 engines don’t meet BMW’s standards for noise, vibration, and harshness. It makes complete sense as a V configuration for 6 cylinders is inherently unbalanced. However, we also have to remember that BMW transitioned its mid-range lineup powertrain from a naturally aspirated I6 (N52) to a turbocharged I4 (N20), which can have even more vibrations than a V6.
BMW has a long tradition of mating making front-engine rear-wheel-drive sport luxury cars. There is arguably no better engine for this configuration than an inline-6. Sure, a V8 can be more powerful and a V12 is smoother but inline-6 engines are simple, efficient, smooth, and can make impressive power with the use of forced induction.
Using a V6 has advantages for manufacturers that use it for FWD platforms or FWD-based all-wheel-drive systems due to its compact size and ability to being mounted transversely, but using a V6 on a BMW platform would have more drawbacks than advantages.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of a V6 configuration compared to the one typically used by BMW:
V6 vs Inline-6
Advantages of the V6 configuration
- A smaller package that can fit many vehicles
- Leaves more room in the engine bay
- Lower center of gravity
Disadvantages of the V6 configuration
- Needs counterweights as it is inherently unbalanced
- More costly to build and maintain
- Less efficient due to counterweights and extra camshafts and valves
Is the V6 engine inferior to Inline-6 engines?
No. V6 engines are incredibly versatile, dependable, and just as tunable as BMW inline-6 engines can be. Some applications absolutely require a V6 as any other engine configuration simply wouldn’t fit in the engine bay or work with the drivetrain application.
However, for BMW’s use case an inline-6 engine is superior as it can easily fit into virtually all of the manufacturer’s lineup. Almost all BMW models have a relatively long nose, have RWD-based traction, and need a smooth refined drivetrain.
Almost the entire BMW lineup is the perfect use case for the straight-six configuration and we don’t see signs of BMW moving to the V6 configuration any time soon. BMW perfected the naturally aspirated I6 and although the early turbocharged I6’s like the N54 suffered from reliability issues, the new B58 has shown once again that the Bavarians can make a solid, modern, and powerful turbocharged inline-6.