Could a smaller version of Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine be on its way? That seems to be the case. Two sources familiar with plans of a new 3.2-liter version of Chrysler’s award-winning Pentastar V-6 engine told Automotive News it’s less than a year away from becoming a reality. The smaller Pentastar engine would be mated to the new nine-speed automatic transmission built by ZF Friedrichshafen AG in an effort to boost fuel economy figures without shorting consumers on power. Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne has hinted about a smaller Pentastar engine in the past when asked about how the automaker is going to boost its overall fuel economy figures.
“You should not underestimate the weight of transmissions [to improve fuel efficiency]” Marchionne told Automotive News and other reporters at the Geneva auto show this month. “If we had known the eight-speed [automatic transmission] was coming, we would have made the [3.6-liter] Pentastar a 3.2-liter [engine].”
Marchionne isn’t the first Chrysler employee to spill the beans about a new, smaller Pentastar engine either. Chrysler first spoke of building a smaller engine in its five-year product plan back in November of 2009. While Fiat’s MultiAir technology was not believed to be incorporated into future engines at the time, that appears to have changed in recent months. MultiAir technology works by using small hydraulic pumps and a computer to control when air enters the engine to improve fuel economy. No word yet on when/if that will join Chrysler’s latest Pentastar engine.
As for when the new engine will be available to the public remains a mystery. We expect the 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 engine to debut in the Jeep Liberty replacement at Detroit’s 2013 North American International Auto Show next January. Marchionne has already said the Liberty’s successor will officially bow at NAIAS next year.
Where the new Pentastar engine is to be built is coming into focus faster than when it will debut. Bruce Baumhower, president of UAW Local 12 in Toledo, Ohio- where the current Liberty is assembled- also believes the smaller Pentastar engine will receive the nine-speed automatic gearbox. Chrysler has already started working to improve the Toledo North Assembly facility in preparation to build the Liberty successor. The facility is expected to go dark for five months starting in August of this year as the groundwork begins. The Detroit-based automaker has invested $500 million into the Toledo North facility in order to properly equip it to build the Liberty successor.
Chrysler uses the current Pentastar in 11 vehicles across the various brands, including the Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, Jeep Wrangler, and both the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine is configured differently depending on which vehicle uses it, and horsepower numbers fluctuate between 283 and 305 ponies.
The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine is currently assembled at the Trenton South facility in suburban Detroit and at its twin plant in Saltillo, Mexico. As it stands now, the two facilities are struggling to keep up with the demand for engines. Both facilities are designed to produce 440,000 engines a year but Chrysler needs 1.2 million to quench the demands. Trenton South assembled the one millionth Pentastar engine on January 27 of this year, only 18 months after the introduction into service.