Why the straight-six engine is making a comeback

The V8 engine has long ruled the world of luxury cars, thanks to glass-smooth grunt and a delicious howl under duress. But tightening fuel-economy regulations are encouraging the use of smaller piston counts, and on the standardized tests that automakers use for fuel-efficiency ratings, the average downsized, turbocharged V6 uses less fuel than an equally powerful V8. That may seem win-win, but don’t be won over. Engineers don’t fantasize about V6s—accountants do. The V6 layout has proliferated because it “packages well,” a sexless industry term that’s code for “easy to…

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