Of all engine configurations, it’s probably the V6 which stands the best chance of disappointing. Why not the inline-four? Well, expectations are never high with a four-pot, but switch the cylinder count up to six, and you’ll inevitably anticipate a jolly nice din emanating from under the bonnet.
More often than not, it doesn’t work out that way. There are countless dull, droning V6s out there, and even in performance applications, the potential for disappointment doesn’t go away. Just take the Nissan 370Z as an example. The Audi/Porsche 2.9-litre twin-turbo engine meanwhile is impressive in most areas, but it’s weirdly quiet in cars like the Panamera and Macan. It’s not much more exciting in the noise stakes in Audi applications like the RS5, either.
It hasn’t been available for a while, but I’ll never forget how underwhelmed I felt when I first put my foot down in the Vauxhall Insignia VXR. On paper it sounded great, but in reality, the car’s GM ‘High Feature’ engine was tragically dull.
On the UK market, there are some exceptions, one of which will hopefully be Aston Martin’s all-new V6, which will power the Valhalla hypercar. But which of the current crop is the most pleasant to the ear?
I reckon it comes down to two: Alfa Romeo’s 2.9, and the 3.0-litre M276 used in most of Mercedes-AMG’s ‘43 range of cars. From a technical standpoint, the Alfa engine wins by a country mile. It’s much more powerful, it’s revvier, and there are the Ferrari origins to consider (Ferrari nor Alfa Romeo has confirmed the link, but the world knows otherwise).
The M276 is a much older engine than the Alfa lump. Mercedes may have given it a few updates over its life (the current version is referred to as ‘DE30’), but it’s been kicking around in one form or another for nine years. With the more efficient M256 inline-six making its way through the range, it’s surely not long for this world.
But, with some astute exhaust tuning, Mercedes-AMG has managed to give the old dog a new voice. A very pleasant one at that, which is just a little sweeter than the more aggressive note belted about by the Alfa Giulia and Stelvio Quadrifoglios.
As I’ve found with the C43 Estate we’re running as a long-term test car, there’s just the right about of rasp, a decent but not ridiculous volume level, and some wicked ‘thwack’ sounds on each upshift.
As far as modern, stock V6s still sold on these shores go, I think its soundtrack is unbeatable.
Go on: try and convince me otherwise…