Know your engines: In-line, V and W


Whenever we go out to car-shopping or, search a car out of curiosity on the web, we come across the power output of the car. Every time. Everyone is interested in how much ponies that sweet powerplant makes. Whenever you ponder upon the power section of the car you might’ve come across terms like “in-line 4”, “V4” etc. You also must’ve searched for Bugatti Veyron or the Bugatti Chiron. These are the fastest cars produced to date. The Veyron held the World’s Fastest Car for several years at stretch. These cars use an engine known as the “W16”. Confused? There are a lot of engines variations used on a lot of cars but the basic structure is one of these 3 structures: In-line, V and W.

In-line configuration

Inline 6 EngineAn in-line engine has a basic structure where in the all the cylinders are aligned in a row and there is no offset. All the cylinders are placed back to back and none of them is violating the ‘queue’ of cylinders. This type of engine has been used in many areas such as cars, aircrafts, trains etc.

This engine configuration is famous amongst manufacturers due to the following basic reasons:
  • It is comparatively easy and cheaper to build than the other types
  • Any manufacturer can build an engine with odd number of cylinders (3/5)
  • The engines are not very complex and require lesser balancing components
  • There is very low amount of vibrations.

An in-line engine can be at most be built for 6 cylinders. Not that an in-line 8 or in-line 10 isn’t possible but it doesn’t make any sense because the more the cylinders there are, the more space the engine will take inside the hood thus increasing the hood size of the car. Cars like the Suzuki Swift, Hyundai Venue and even popular cars like Toyota Fortuner use in-line engines.

V Configuration

V8 EngineA “V” shaped engine has a basic structure where the pistons are slant at an angle on either side. The most common angles are 45, 60 and 90 degrees. This configuration is seen in cars which have higher number of cylinders (8/10/12/16).

This engine configuration is better than the in-line because:
  • the engine is compact and can be it in a compact hood
  • the design is more rigid than the in-line ones
  • it produces torque at lower RPMs than the in-line motors

A V12 can comfortably be fit in a housing required for an in-line 6 hence proving how compact the configuration is. There are disadvantages though. There is an increase in weight of the car due to additional moving parts and with more parts come more complexity in repairing. These engines are found in cars honing higher displacement like Ford Mustang GT, Audi A6, Ferrari 488 etc.

W Configuration

The “W” shaped engine has a structure where a single crankshaft is used by 3 or 4 cylinder banks which helps this engine configuration to utilise 3/8/12/16/18/24 cylinders. The only company to have use this type of engine on road cars is the Volkswagen Group. The first car to use a W12 engine was Audi’s 2001 A8. This layout is still being used by Bentley in the Continental series of cars and the Bentayga.

Some advantages of the W configuration are:
  • It is more compact as compared to the “V” configuration. Where the “V” banks at an angle of 45 degrees at minimum, a W engine banks at 15 degrees.
  • The lesser space taken up by the “W” configuration means that there is space for having an AWD system in the car.

The “W” configuration has been used in the Bugatti Veyron (W16) as well as is being used in the Chiron, both of which are one of the fastest cars in the world. Adding an extra cylinder bank again leads to increased parts and complexity.

Indian Scenario

The most commonly used engine configuration in India is the in-line configuration owing to its easy serviceability. Technicians across the country have claimed that the in-line 4 is easy to service and the engine construction isn’t very complex as compared to the other configurations. In a country where “kitna deti hai?” is the most crucial question among the Indian buyers, the in-line 4 configuration is an easy answer for the companies as the mileage in such configuration is superior than the others. Many smaller cars such as the Maruti Alto and Hyundai Santro use the in-line 3 configuration which is even more fuel-efficient than the in-line 4s found on bigger hatchbacks.

Automen Verdict

Automen recommends going for cars which have an in-line four layout if you are looking for good mileage and easy maintenance. If you are looking for performance, then Automen recommends opting for V and W layouts! Doesn’t matter what type of engine your car is running, a bad engine does no good. Know more about elongating your engine’s life here.