I am back from my family emergency so posts should be regular from here on. During the things that went on, we rented a 2012 Chrysler Town & Country and the 3.6 V-6 in it got me thinking more about modern engines. I know a minivan isn’t a muscle car, but it does have a nice engine in it, that definitely contrasts with the engines in the old muscle cars.
I know there are many articles out there with details about the V-8 engines in the Challenger, Mustang and Camaro. However, The V-6 engines that are the base engines in these cars are probably more improved over the base six cylinder engines of the 60’s and 70’s than the V-8 engines are.
While I have experience with the 3.6 in the minivan, it is basically the same engine in the Challnger, just with a slightly different power rating. In the Challenger, it is rated for 305 horsepower at 6350 RPM and 268 lb-ft of torque at 4800 RPM. To put that into perspective, the 340 four barrel in 1968 was rated for 275 horsepower at 5000 RPM and 340 lb-ft of torque at 3200 RPM. While you need to keep in mind the differences between the older more optimistic gross horsepower ratings and the newer more realistic net ratings, as well as the fact that many muscle car engines were given a lower than realistic power rating either to keep the insurance rates down, or to try to get an advantage in a specific racing class, they still match up pretty well for horsepower. Torque is a different story, with the 340 having an advantage there, at least with peak torque.
I say with peak torque since the rated torque figure for both is just one point of info, and only useful at that engine RPM. When looking at the specs for the 3.6, it looks like it is a high winding motor, that would have little or no power at low RPM. It does have a trick up its sleeve, variable valve timing or VVT. It changes the valve timing on both the intake and exhaust cams (I touched briefly on this before). This allows the engine to have 90% of peak torque available from 2000+ RPM (some places I looked said from 1600 RPM, so pick the one you like more). That means that while it does make power higher in the RPM band, it does make usable power at lower RPMs as well.
In looking at a new Challenger with the V-6 and an automatic (there is no manual option with the V-6) it moves the approximately 4200 pound Challenger from 0-60 in 6.3 seconds and through the quarter mile at 14.7 seconds (taken from this site). That seems pretty close to the performance of an entry level muscle car in the 60’s. Granted, it has the advantage of 50 years of tire technology to help get the power to the ground. Imagine it in something like a Dart or a Duster. Guestimating the weight at around 3200 pounds (since the aluminum V-6 is lighter than the iron 340) and using the rule of 100 pounds is worth a tenth of a second in the quarter mile for a street car, we could have a car that is in the 13 second range from a V-6.
To put that into perspective, the 3.6 has a displacement of 220 cubic inches. Imagine a 225 slant six with 300 horsepower, then realize how far things have come. And then also realize how much better gas mileage the 3.6 Challenger gets, it is rated for 27 MPG highway. I don’t know that it would do any better in a Dart or a Duster, since they are probably not as aerodynamic, but it probably wouldn’t do any worse.
A modern V-6 in a compact lightweight rear wheel drive platform is a car I would like to see. I don’t think it will happen though. Most if not all compact cars now are front wheel drive. It does have packaging advantages, but it isn’t as fun to drive, all else being equal.
Also, with all the safety standards that cars have to meet, as well as all the convenience options they have that people want, I don’t think cars will be getting any lighter any time soon. That is too bad, as lighter weight would be an easy way to increase performance and fuel economy. But with the added metal and air bags to meet all the crash standards weight keeps going up. It would be possible to meet crash standards, as well the cool toys features, but it would cost more, so unless things change, that won’t happen.
While it would lack the V-8 sound, rumble and loping idle, and wouldn’t look as cool, I think it would be fun to swap the 3.6 with a manual into a Dart or Duster. The 3.6 is available with a manual in the Jeep Wrangler, so it is theoretically possible. I am not sure I would want to see the wiring involved to make it work however. Still, it would be a fun setup, especially with some suspension upgrades and the lightweight engine up front, it could be a good handling car as well.
Maybe after I get my Charger, that could be my next dream car…