VW’s Narrow-Angle VR6 Engine Turns 30, But The Concept Is Almost 100 Years Old

What are the commonalities between the Bugatti Chariot, Bentley Continental W12, the 1991 Passat, and the Chinese-market VW Talagon?

Although all four of them are members of the VW Group empire they also use the same version of narrow-angle VR engine technology that VW introduced 30 years back in the Corrado coupe and B3 Passat sedan.

It is simple and smart. Straight-six and straight-eight engines are long, and while traditional vee engines are usefully shorter, they’re often impractically wide. It is possible to pack many pistons in a small area by creating a vee-engine with such an angle that they all appear in one bank.

After introducing the concept in a VR6, and fitting it to every Golf, Sharan minivan and Porsche Cayenne, VW cut off one cylinder to make a V5, and that sounded great.

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It also packed two short banks of four cylinders together to make the hideously unreliable engine for the Passat W8, applied the same thinking more successfully in Bentley’s W12, and of course topped the lot with a W16 for Bugatti.

VisioRacer’s video explains that the idea of a narrow angle vee-engine goes back to 1991. Actually, it was Lancia that pioneered the concept in 1922 for the V4-engined Lambda, an incredibly sophisticated (even if it doesn’t look it) sedan whose other innovations were independent suspension and unitary chassis construction.

VW has eliminated many VR engines from its cars in the last few years. These include the VR6 engined Golf R32 and the turbocharged four cylinder Golf R32. Also, the need to reduce CO2 emissions means that big W12 and W16 motors made by Bugatti and Bentley will soon be replaced with electric ones.

They are still available, however, on the Chinese market, the VR6 is still in production. It displaces 2.5-liters and has a single turbo. The VR6 makes 295 horsepower in the VW Talagon, while the Passat’s naturally aspirated Passat made 172 horsepower in its debut in 1991. There’s plenty of things we’ll miss about ICE engines when they’re gone, and quirky engineering solutions that help differentiate one car from another is definitely high on the list.

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Author: Brandon Park