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The VW VR6 Engine Is Officially Dead in America

The VR6 has officially come to an end in America. It powered more cars than you may know.

The arrival of the 2024 VW Atlas signals the departure of one of Volkswagen’s legacies. After more than 30 years, in almost every Volkswagen Group brand you can name (and probably some you can’t), the VW VR6 engine is on its way out of the U.S.

Volkswagen’s narrow-angle V6 made its way into some unexpected products, too. It was the base Porsche Cayenne powertrain for a while, which prompted some to ask if a V6-powered SUV with a 0-60-mph time of “eventually” with a VW lump under the hood still counted as a “Porsche.” (The answer could be found in Porsche’s swollen bottom line.) The VR6 powered the last camper van sold in the U.S., too. The next camper van? Not so much. 

The VR6 could be found in the snouts of a Passat (I owned one of those, too) and Audi Q7, VW Corrado, and a Phaeton, too. It even showed up in the Mercedes-Benz Vito, and when VW bolted two together, it was a W12 found in Bentley (and the Phaeton, which was every bit as luxurious and costly as a Bentley with all the prestige of a VW). A derivative of the VR6, the W8 it created powered Passats for a time—and fueled nightmares—and a derivative of that derivative is planted midship in a Bugatti as a W16. Minus one cylinder, the VR5 powered Jettas, New Beetles, and Passats. 

“One reason it was so long-lived was it was one of the most compact V6s around and could be used in many of our FWD-based vehicles,” VW spokesman Mark Gillies told The Drive. “For a long time, it offered a compelling blend of power and torque and compactness, basically.”

The compactness was the point. Instead of splaying two banks of three cylinders 60 degrees, the narrow 15-degree angled banks gave it a tighter block that could fit where four cylinders could only go before. Transverse, longitudinal, or nearly anything else, the VR6 could probably bolt into it. It was a one-engine-fits-all approach that VW has used since. 

“Going forward, yes, these multi-purpose powertrains will still be important. Just look at the EA888 four-cylinder turbo that is used in vehicles in the US from Golf GTI to Atlas. In other markets, we use this engine as part of PHEV and HEV powertrains,” Gillies said. 

The VR6 wasn’t without its issues, however. Ignition coils or packs are finicky, water pumps come and go, and if you don’t have a warm stall, do you really own a VR6? Nonetheless, it’s the end of one of the most prolific engines from one of the most prolific automakers. So long, narrow-angle V6. Your reach was far wider than your cylinder banks. 

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