2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is First to Get Chrysler’s New V6
By Chris Haak
Lost in the news about this week’s unveiling of the all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the news that Chrysler’s new V6 engine family, previously known as the “Phoenix V6”, will make its debut in the Grand Cherokee. Chrysler was unable to trademark the Phoenix name, so it decided to name the engine family the “Pentastar V6.” I’m guessing that they already owned the trademark to ‘Pentastar.’
The new engine family will find its way throughout the entire Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep lineup eventually over the next few years in a variety of configurations and displacements. In fact, according to an excellent summary on Allpar, there will be ten variants of this engine family, in displacements of 3.0, 3.3, and 3.6 liters, plus two marine-only 4.0 liter versions, and a V8 version displacing 4.7 liters at some point down the road. Some future variants will have direct injection, cylinder deactivation, hybrid applications, and more. The Pentastar V6 replaces seven current V6 engines, which not only will provide customers with a more powerful and fuel efficient engine, but should also save Chrysler a ton of money by simplifying its engine lineup (and therefore making manufacturing much simpler).
Specific to the 2011 Grand Cherokee, the engine displaces 3.6 liters and produces 280 horsepower at 6,400 RPMs and 260 lb-ft of torque at 4.800 RPMs. It also runs on regular unleaded fuel and provides an 11% fuel economy improvement over the Grand Cherokee’s current 3.7 liter V6 (with a 33% horsepower increase and 11% torque increase). It has a 7,200 RPM redline, is capable of running on E85, and is classified as a PZEV (partial zero-emissions vehicle), meaning the exhaust coming out of the tailpipes is cleaner than the ambient air in a smog-filled big city.
By 2015 when the Pentastar engine is installed throughout the lineup in all V6 applications, it will have improved Chrysler’s CAFE mileage by two miles per gallon on its own, not counting improvements the company is seeking elsewhere (such as an infusion of Fiat’s small cars and improvements to the V8 lineup’s fuel economy).
Supposedly the engine is very smooth and refined, and it’s also lighter than GM’s comparable 3.6 liter V6, and probably cheaper to build. According to Allpar, other innovations to be found n the engine include:
- All accessories bolted directly onto the block to avoid vibration and noise
- Exhaust manifold apparently integrated into the head itself
- Oil to antifreeze oil cooler in the “V”
- Canister-free oil filter element — prevents landfill, allows incineration; also eases DIY oil changes and prevents ham-fisted oil change places from “holing” or over-tightening the filter
- Very lightweight block — saves on aluminum and reduces overall vehicle weight (improving balance, too)
- High-pressure die-cast blocks save on labor, have thinner walls, and are 20 pounds lighter than GM’s V6 blocks, saving around $40 per engine on aluminum and contributing to much lower build costs than GM’s engines.
That all sounds great to me. I can’t wait to test a Chrysler, Jeep, or Dodge vehicle with this new engine to see how it stacks up against the competition. There’s a lot of opportunity for Chrysler to leapfrog the V6-powered competition; just from personal experience, the GM 3.6 DI, Ford 3.5, and Nissan VQ are somewhat unrefined, the Toyota 3.5 (non-DI) has valve noise before it’s warmed up, and the Honda 3.5 V6s sound great but are lacking torque.
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