I Am In Love With Volkswagen's Oddball Engines
Making a case for why the VR/W series engines should have had more success, and why they were so much fun!
In the 90's Volkswagen came up with the weird idea to try and fit big engines in small cars to make their lineup more exciting. They did this by making engines with the V at a much steeper angle almost as if it's inline but staggered. This technology was originally used in some iconic hot hatches like the Golf VR6 and Corrado VR6 but would later make it into possibly the most polarizing hypercar of all time!!! This is the history of Volkswagen's VR engine series and why I am mesmerized by it!
The VR6 was designed to be a 6 cylinder engine designed to fit in the same space as a 4 cylinder. They made the cylinder banking so steep that it only needed one head to cover both banks. As you can imagine this engine looks incredibly weird, we always joke about people not knowing the difference between an inline 6 and V6 well this literally is an Inline V6. This engine was featured in some awesome cars as well, the Corrado VR6 and Golf VR6 both are now considered classics and what makes them so special is this incredibly weird and incredibly fun engine. The VR6 at it's best made 300hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, which in a little car is absurd!
Now we get even weirder as Volkswagen actually made a V5! How weird is that! Audi and Volvo have made inline 5 cylinder engines for years and have had loads of success with them, but Volkswagen stepped outside of the box on this one and created something previously unheard of. The VR5 like the VR6 had two 15 degree cylinder banks that shared one head instead of two meaning that it was about the same size as a 3 cylinder. Volkswagen's reasoning behind this oddball design was to have more power than the 4-cylinder but less than the VR6. So they did what any reasonable person would do and create a V5 (That was sarcastic). How did they manage to pull this off? Well because it only had a single head they had to deal with only one intake and one exhaust manifold on the engine, so they flipped the intake and exhaust ports on each side of the head in order to line them up. They also had to balance the crankshaft to overcome having an extra cylinder on one side of the engine. Now the VR5 in it's most powerful version made about 170hp which is meh, but the engineering behind it is what intrigues me.
Now we come to what might be my favorite out of Volkswagen's misfit engines the W8. Used in the Passat and Phaeton the W8 was a V8 that could fit in the same place as a V6. What I really loved about these is that they sound amazing, completely different than any other engine! Just the other day I heard this incredibly loud noise, didn't sound like a truck or a muscle car, I looked back and it was a Passat wagon! How cool is that, it was a real sleeper! The W8 basically is two VR4 engines joined at the crank. The VR4 like the VR5 and VR6 is two cylinder banks at a 15 degree angle, hence why the W8 was called the W8 because it was in a W shape.
The W12 is made up of two VR6 engines and like the W8 is called that because it is made up of two V6s. Now I love the VR6 on it's own but combining two of them to create this amazing, powerful and smooth W12 is on another level of cool. The W12 powered two of the most well loved and revered luxury coupes of the past two decades the Phaeton and the Continental. But this wasn't the only time Volkswagen combined their quirky engineering masterpieces to power a supercar...
Think about this the most iconic, over the top, exciting, fastest, masterpiece of our generation has an engine made from four VR4 engines out of a Volkswagen Golf! How crazy is that! Of course all joined together with four massive turbos it now makes 1,600hp so it's a little more than your average Golf makes. The engine itself is massive and sucks in a whopping 13,000 gallons of air every minute while at full throttle. But that's the kind of craziness you'd expect from a 3 million dollar record breaking hypercar.
So why do I love these oddball engines?
Simple they are weirder, more interesting, sound better, more unique and exciting than any other engine series. They are engineering masterpieces, which deserved a lot more success then they did. Sadly most of them have been killed off due to us now being able to get more power out of smaller turbocharged three and four cylinder engines. Let's be honest these were not smart or reasonable ideas but they sure were fun and honestly that's all I care about. these were exciting, bonkers creations that captured our hearts and minds for years.