The Pentastar V6 has served as a workhorse engine for Fiat Chrysler products for over a decade. It’s a middle-ground engine between their economic four-cylinders and powerful HEMI V8s. As such, it provides a good amount of power while still being fairly fuel-efficient.
This versatility means that it’s been used in almost every type of vehicle. From sedans, sports coupes, and crossovers to SUVs, minivans, and pickup trucks. Some of the most notable examples include the Jeep Wrangler, Ram 1500, and Dodge Charger.
Although there are other variants of the Pentastar V6, the 3.6L version is by far the most common in North America. There are 3.2L and 3.0L versions of the Pentastar engine, with the latter mostly being used outside of North America (primarily in China). The 3.6L engine had some moderate revisions in 2016. Apart from that, it’s been virtually the same since debuting in 2010 and has become well-known as an FCA signature.
Pentastar V6 Specs
The Pentastar is a 60-degree V6 engine, with a cast aluminum cylinder block and heads. It has dual overhead cams with four valves per cylinder (24 valves in total).
The Pentastar V6 was engineered to be lighter, more powerful, and more efficient than its predecessors. It used an aluminum block instead of iron to save weight. The engine also switched to a timing chain instead of a belt for longevity. Variable cam timing was added for better fuel efficiency. Compared to the older engines, NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) was reduced as well.
Additionally, the 3.6 Pentastar also switched over to a canister style oil filter in lieu of the former cartridge type system. It uses SAE 5W-20 to 5W-30 weight oil and has an oil change interval of every year or every 9,000 miles.
The 3.6 Pentastar uses an electronic multi-port fuel injection system, even as many competitors have switched to direct injection. Sticking with port injection means that the engine isn’t as fuel-efficient as a direct injection engine. But it can help avoid the carbon deposit build-up on intake valves that can cause issues for DI engines.
2020 3.6 Pentastar V6 Specs
|Specification||2020 3.6 Pentastar V6 Engine
||3.6-liter DOHC V6
||24 (four per cylinder)
||SAE 5W-20 (5W-30 if not available)
|Bore x Stroke
||96 mm x 83 mm
||Multi-Port Fuel Injection
Below are some examples of power outputs for vehicles that use the 3.6 Pentastar.
2020 3.6 Pentastar V6 Examples
|Vehicle||Power Figures with 3.6 Pentastar V6
|2020 Wrangler JL
||285 hp @ 6,400 RPM, 260 lb-ft @ 4,800 RPM
|2020 Ram 1500
||305 hp @ 6,400 RPM, 269 lb-ft @ 4,175 RPM
|2020 Dodge Challenger
||305 hp @ 6,400 RPM, 269 lb-ft @ 4,175 RPM
|2020 Chrysler Pacifica
||287 hp @ 6,400 RPM, 262 lb-ft @ 4,000 RPM
Pentastar Engine History
The Pentastar V6 debuted in 2010 for vehicles with a 2011 model year. It was first used in several Dodge and Chrysler vehicles, plus the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Volkswagen Routan (essentially a rebadged Dodge Caravan). The new Pentastar replaced some of Chrysler’s older engines, such as their SOHC 4.0L V6 and 3.8L EGH pushrod V6.
In 2018, FCA added their mild-hybrid eTorque technology to some Pentastar engines. It uses a belt-driven motor generator instead of a traditional alternator. This makes the engine smoother and more fuel-efficient.
The only vehicle that currently uses a full hybrid system with the Pentastar V6 is the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, which launched for the 2017 model year.
What Does Chrysler Pentastar Mean?
The Pentastar name originated from Chrysler’s five-point star emblem. While this might not be an especially interesting backstory, it shows the company’s confidence in the engine. They were willing to associate their entire brand with this V6 motor. It was also a clever choice, perhaps unintentionally, given that names are easier to remember than letters and digits. You'll hear more people talk about HEMI and Coyote engines than the EGH or M256, for example.
Where Are Pentastar Engines Made?
Pentastar engines are made in three locations. Two of the Pentastar plants are located in Michigan and one is in Mexico.
The Dundee Engine Plant in Dundee, MI and Trenton South Engine Plant in Trenton, MI are both about an hour south of FCA’s Detroit headquarters. The Saltillo South Engine Plant is located in Coahuila, Mexico. It’s just under two hours west of Monterrey, the state capital of Nuevo León.
Is There a Turbocharged Pentastar Engine?
While some manufacturers have turbocharged their V6 engines, FCA has not gone that route with the Pentastar. It remains naturally aspirated. There have been past rumors about a turbocharged Pentastar possibly making its way into the line-up. But those rumors faded around 2014, and it never made it to production.
Today, adding a turbo Pentastar seems extremely unlikely. Given the introduction of the four-cylinder turbo in the Wrangler JL and the shift towards hybrid-electric power, a V6 turbo seems improbable. For those wanting to give their Pentastar some forced induction, aftermarket turbo or supercharger kits are the only option.
List of Vehicles that Use the Pentastar V6
At the time of writing, the following vehicles all use the 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine. Note that the Jeep Cherokee uses a 3.2L version of the Pentastar V6. The Wrangler JL and Gladiator, plus the Chrysler minivans, Durango, and Grand Cherokee use the updated version of the 3.6 that was released in 2016.
- Chrysler 300
- Chrysler Pacifica
- Chrysler Voyager
- Dodge Challenger
- Dodge Charger
- Dodge Durango
- Jeep Gladiator
- Jeep Grand Cherokee
- Jeep Wrangler
- Ram 1500
- Ram 1500 Classic
- Ram Promaster
2016 Pentastar Changes
The Pentastar has received one revision during its lifetime, in 2016. The refresh resulted in improved engine reliability. Horsepower and torque output increased, while fuel consumption and emissions output decreased.
Two-Stage Variable Lift
One of the big ways these adjustments were made was through the implementation of two-stage variable lift. This allows for a more exact amount of fuel to be used at the appropriate RPM. Along with this, the Pentastar V6’s variable valve timing (VVT) was recalibrated.
Increased Compression Ratio
The compression ratio was raised from 10.2:1 to 11.3:1. This was made possible by a few knock reduction measures taken in the design of the engine. One of these was the liquid-cooled exhaust gas recirculation system.
Various Parts Improvement
There are a variety of other changes like a new plastic intake manifold runner, new valve springs, low tension piston rings, and eight-hole fuel injectors.
Pentastar Reliability and Problems
Even in an era where engines are very reliable, there will always be instances of problems and failures. Even still, the Pentastar stands out as a tried-and-true motor. In part, because FCA has had years to work out the kinks and perfect it.
Is the Pentastar a Good Engine?
Consumer Reports has given Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles that use the Pentastar V6 very high marks for engine reliability. In fact, they’ve all scored "Excellent" or "Very Good" ratings for Major Engine Problems reliability from 2013-2018 model years. They do nearly as well for Minor Engine Problems. The notable exception is the 2012 model year.
Overall, the Pentastar V6 has proved to be a solid and reliable engine. While FCA has had quality issues in other areas, the success of the Pentastar has been for good reason. Apart from the cylinder issue mentioned below, this has been a tried and tested powerplant.
Pentastar V6 Problems
Despite mostly solid performance, there have been some specific issues with the Pentastar. While the current iteration doesn’t have any known widespread issues, there are earlier problems that have since been patched out.
Cylinder Head Issues
On early Pentastar engines around 2011-2013, there were a number of problems pertaining to the left-side cylinder head. These could either manifest as a ticking sound, a check engine light, or simply poor performance. This problem affected around 0.5% of Pentastar engines at the time. That being said, there is an extended warranty for the left cylinder head on engines produced between 2011 and 2013. This is the reason for the "Poor" Consumer Reports engine reliability for the 2012 model year.
Pump and Radiator Clogging
Some owners have reported issues with clogged pumps and radiators. There are some engines that contain remnants of sand from the sand casting process that can, over time, continuously damage pumps. While this doesn’t seem to affect owners with the same regularity as the left cylinder head issues, it does appear to be a persistent problem rather than a one-off fix.
Dislike of Start-Stop System
While not a mechanical issue, some drivers complain about the slightly controversial auto start-stop system. This was introduced with the newer iterations of the Pentastar engine in 2018. While many drivers worry that the frequent restarting of their engine may wear it out, it is designed with this function in mind. The starters and alternators in cars and trucks equipped with auto-start stop technology are built to deal with the many off and on cycles it would be subjected to. An aftermarket tuning chip can be used to turn it off though.
Future of the Pentastar V6
The Pentastar is a solid engine, but it is getting on in years. Its horsepower and torque levels are still competitive with comparable engines. But even with the 2016 update, its fuel efficiency often falls just short of other alternatives. For example, the Wrangler’s turbo-four is more efficient than the Pentastar, while offering much better torque.
There are rumors, shared by AllPar, that FCA will be replacing the Pentastar with a new motor in the next 3-5 years. However, what’s somewhat surprising is that it may be a turbocharged inline-six. The inline-six offers advantages over the V6 configuration, but packaging can be awkward. We’ll see how this new potential engine fits into FCA vehicles. Perhaps they’ll even partner with Mercedes to use technology from the latter’s new mild-hybrid I6.
Sources: 2011 Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, and Jeep Vehicles are Updated and Show Promise, Consumer Reports | Phoenix: Chrysler Pentastar V6 Engines for 2010 and Beyond, AllPar | Chrysler 3.6L V6 Pentastar Engine Specs, Problems, and Reliability, Motorreviewer | Chrysler Pentastar Engines-Specifications, Pentastars
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