Apparently not content to rest its vehicle lineup laurels on an already good engine, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is getting set to launch a heavily revised version of its ‘Pentastar’ V6; the new engine will debut this fall in the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The ‘new’ Pentastar will retain its 3.6L displacement, but gains a more sophisticated variable valve timing system, higher compression ratio, and a redesigned intake that helps boost torque output at low engine speeds, and improve fuel economy by “up to six percent.”
It’s that last item that stands out to us: the Pentastar is a sweet engine, but suffers from a lack of low-end grunt that most noticeable in FCA’s heavier vehicles, like the Grand Cherokee and Ram pickup. FCA says the new intake design–comprising a redesigned manifold with longer runners, and high-tumble intake ports–helps contribute to a 14.9 percent (we’d have said 15, but we appreciate the specificity, y’all) bump in torque between 1,000 and 3,000 rpm.
FCA doesn’t say whether that means the new motor makes more torque overall, or that more of the existing engine’s 260 lb-ft is available at lower speeds (in the current motor, torque peaks at 4,800 rpm), but whatever: we’ve maintained that all this engine needed was more power down low to make it truly suitable in FCA’s big crossovers and trucks, and this revision sounds like it’ll go a long way toward addressing that complaint. FCA’s press release does say that horsepower is up to 295, from 290, and that the new engine weighs “as little as 326 pounds” (about 148 kilos), depending on what vehicle it’s bolted into. Likewise, the actual improvement in economy will depend on vehicle application.
It’s what we don’t see mentioned here that surprises us: Chrysler is sticking with port fuel injection, rather than moving to direct injection. On paper, that sounds like a missed opportunity to further lower fuel consumption, but direct injection comes with its own long-term maintenance compromises–mainly, carbon deposits on the intake valves that get washed away in port-injection motors–that FCA was perhaps happy to avoid having to deal with down the road. That said, there are indications direction injection will come to the Pentastar eventually.
The new Pentastar hits the road this fall, when the latest Grand Cherokee reaches the marketplace. As for what the engine looks like, check out FCA’s photos, which look like high-res spy shots the company decided to release through their media website. Surprise: it looks so… mechanical!
FCA has also announced the new Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango will get the option of a forward collision warning and auto-brake system adopted from the Chrysler 200. As in the 200’s setup (and those of other manufacturers’), the big crossovers will automatically brake to reduce the severity of an impending crash if the driver doesn’t react to visual and audible warnings. For 2016, the system will be available in seven FCA models, including the Chrysler 200 and 300, Dodge Charger and Durango, and Jeep’s Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, and Renegade.
Finally, Automotive News is reporting that Jeep plans to add a pickup model, the news coming a decade after Jeep showed the Gladiator concept at the 2005 Detroit auto show. That mock-up wore Wrangler-esque styling, but was built on a Ram 1500 pickup chassis, but it’s possible a production model would be sized to compete with current mid-size trucks like the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon, and a possible future Ford Ranger reboot. That makes the most sense to us, as it would get FCA into what has quickly become a very hot slice of the pickup segment.