These 10 Best-Sounding Straight-Sixes Will Blow You Away

Gotta Love That Straight 6 Engine Sound!

Updated October 31, 2018

It might not be a V8 roar, but six cylinders do know how to sound menacing. Not only that they sound right due to the lack of internal dissonance, they also throw in power, smoothness and simplicity into the mix. That’s pretty much exactly what you’re going to get with more or less any straight-six mill. Their only downside is the skinny, yet long demeanor which makes them complicated to fit into the engine bay.

This time we emphasize on the crispy straight-six buzz whether all natural or with the forced induction. Here are the ten straight-six engines we found produce the most amazing noise, complete with at least one of their applications over time.

Mercedes-Benz M198

Application: Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was one of the first (if not “the” first) supercars ever made. Meticulous design cues and gullwing doors made it an instant classic, but that’s far from everything. Robert Bosch’s M198 version of Mercedes’ own 3.0L M186 engine featured the world’s very first direct injection. That was back in 1954, mind you. The installation used Daimler-Benz 601 direct injection which first powered the WWII Messerschmitt Bf 109E fighters. It raised the output of up to 222 horsepower which allowed for the top speed of 160 mph. And the sound! Check for yourselves.

BMW M88/1

Application: BMW M1

BMW is considered the champion of straight-six powertrain layout, and with good reason at that. When they introduced what would become their first and only shot at the supercar market, they had only one engine configuration in mind. They used the M88/1 version of the 3.5L dual overhead camshaft straight-six which delivered 273 hp and sounded magnificent. The video below should describe what word’s can’t, and that’s BMW M1’s sophisticated hum.

Volvo SI6

Application: Volvo S60 T6

As of 2011, 3.0L turbocharged Volvo straight-six mill can be found across most of the Swedish maker’s lineup, but we have chosen the entry-level luxury S60 application for this list. In S60 T6, Volvo’s SI6 powerplant generates as much as 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of twist. Nicely rounded off figures are going hand in hand with the Swedish pragmatism. Maddening sound that this engine produces isn’t something Swedes like to boast about, though. Or, maybe it is. In any case, check it out for yourselves.

Jaguar XK6

Application: Jaguar E-Type

The original Jaguar E-Type was in production between 1961 and 1975. For the first three years, it had the 3.8L straight-six engine making 265 horsepower thanks to the straight port cylinder head setup. In 1964, it was replaced with the 4.2L XK6 mill which generated 265 hp until 1968 and 246 hp from 1969 due to emission restrictions. Both engines were equally amazing though, and they all sounded great. E-Type with 4.2L XK6 in the video below was tuned to 300 hp, but its sound is definitely worth checking out.

Ford Barra Engines

Application: Ford Falcon

Although range of Barra engines appears in the Fairmont, Fairlane and Territory SUV, Falcon (BA) is where this Australian straight-six masterpiece had begun its journey. Naturally aspirated Barra 182, 190, and 195, or the turbocharged 240T, 245T, 270T, 270T FG, 310T FG or 325 FGX Sprint. Doesn’t really matter, they all sound incredible. Moreover, their power outputs range from 244 hp to 436 hp respectively. Sadly, 4.0L straight-six Barras are being canceled as you’re reading these lines. At least we can enjoy their swansong. Here’s one Falcon XR6 Turbo with the 270T Ford FG Barra engine.

Aston Martin Straight-Six

Application: Aston Martin DB5

The Aston Martin DB5 was one of numerous British maker’s models that had made an appearance in a James Bond movie (Goldfinger). This is only one of the reasons it’s known for. Sublime design and refinement, and off course, that straight-six roar coming from under the hood are others. 4.0L DOHC unit from this iconic car delivers 282 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Check its engine note below.

Nissan RB26DETT

Application: Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32, R33, R34)

All three of the latest generations of the Nissan Skyline GT-R had featured the same exact engine. If that doesn’t tell you enough about it, maybe the engine’s sound will. 2.6L RB26DETT twin-turbo straight-six had been around from 1989 to 2002. It generated between 313 and 330 horsepower even though it was usually advertised with 276 ponies due to the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” between the Japanese automakers.

TVR Speed Six

Application: TVR Sagaris

Yeah, TVR Sagaris didn’t enjoy that long of a lifespan, being produced only in 2005 and 2006. What it did have, though, was one of the most amazing straight-six notes you’ll be able to hear on this planet. 4.0L TVR Speed Six powertrain was good enough for 380 horsepower but the car itself couldn’t pass the safety regulations. It even came without the ABS and airbags, so the lack of advanced electronic safety systems like stability and traction control doesn’t really come as a surprise. It was intended for endurance racing to be fair, though. Here are its acceleration sounds.

Toyota 2JZ-GTE

Application: Toyota Supra (A80)

And while the naturally aspirated 2JZ-GE I6 was one capable and loud engine, its twin-turbo cousin 2JZ-GTE I6 was even better. 3.0L buzzers make 220 and 276 horsepower respectively. Pay attention to the 276 figure again as the turbocharged Toyota Supra actually made even more than that. Let’s not waste any more space on this iconic engine. Let the sound do the talking.

BMW S54B32

Application: BMW M3 (E46)

Well, we’ve practically already crowned BMW the champion of the straight-six game, so it shouldn’t surprise you that another one of their installations makes the list. S54B32 is best-known for its role in fourth generation M3, but it made an appearance in Z3 and Z4 coupes and roadsters as well. 3.2L unit from M3 generated a healthy 333 horsepower and left a slightly sweet, oily note with sharp finish. See for yourselves.


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Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much.

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