MERCEDES RECONFIGURES: The v6 is dead, long live the I6 LAUNCH DRIVES: Jaguar E-pace, Renault Kwid AMT, BMW M5
For Mercedes the V6 is all but dead. And I6 revived.
TWENTY YEARS AGO, Mercedes-benz seemingly ceded a crucial advantage to its arch rival, BMW, by abandoning Stuttgart’s revered in-line six ( I6) engine configuration. As Mercedes adopted the V6 to benefit from its packaging advantages and ease of manufacture, BMW was able to leverage the justifiable marketing lead of being the only German luxury car brand with an I6, the engine configuration which, despite its packaging issues, has always been unparalleled for smoothness.
Now Mercedes is returning to the I6 it abandoned in 1998 with a new engine, codenamed M256, and the question is why?
There are few manufacturers as meticulous in their planning, or more considered in their engineering details than Mercedes. The Stuttgart company spends more than R100 m on R&D per day and it benefits handsomely from being in a city which registers more mechanical engineering patents than anywhere else in Europe. An abrupt change of direction in engine design is not a decision lightly taken by Mercedes.
To understand why the I6 has returned, and is due to supplant all V6s, there are both fundamental engineering influences and business realities to comprehend. The business issue is perhaps more difficult for those obsessed with the pure mechanical engineering attributes of six- cylinder engines to understand. One of the original decision points in favour of adopting V6s was that Mercedes could build