The second best selling engine configuration on the market today, the six-cylinder powerplant is powerful, versatile, fuel-efficient and light weight—particularly when compared to its V8 and V12 rivals. For these reasons, six is typically the go-to cylinder count when most manufacturers spec their entry-level and increasingly, their primary luxury coupe offerings.
A unique aspect of the six-cylinder engine is the broad variety of configurations in which it is available.
Most manufacturers employ the V-6 configuration (two rows of three cylinders set at a 90 degree angle or less to each other in the engine block) because it is easiest to package. The V-6 block’s main advantage is that it is shorter and therefore more compact than the other arrangements. This gives a stylist a broad variety of options when penning the car.
However, if ultimate smoothness is what a builder is after, the inline six-cylinder engine has but one parallel—the V12. Six cylinders in a row in an internal combustion engine achieve a balance no other configuration can approach. These engines are seductively silken in operation.
However, there’s a reason BMW models tend to feature the long nose/short rear deck styling architecture. That inline six needs more room under the hood to comfortably reside. So, while it is exceptionally smooth, deploying an inline-6 does entail packaging considerations most manufacturers sidestep with the V6 configuration.
Regardless of configuration however, the power produced by six cylinders can be quite prodigious. These days, while most six-cylinder engines produce output in the 300 horsepower range, with turbocharging, variable cam timing and direct fuel injection, builders can reliably get as much as 620 horsepower from it. This offers the potential to endow a given luxury coupe model with more than adequate performance, while avoiding the excessive thirst for fuel imposed by their V8 alternatives.
What follows is our list of the best six-cylinder luxury coupes for 2012.
A choice of two inline six-cylinder engines is available for the entry-level BMW 1 Series Coupe, earning it a spot on the list of the best six-cylinder luxury coupes. The 128i uses a 3.0-liter normally aspirated powerplant capable of producing 230 horsepower and 200 ft.-lbs. of torque. This engine is offered with a choice of a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. The “big” engine option, (big more so because of output than size) is the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six fitted to the 135i. This variant produces 300 horsepower and 300 ft.-lbs. of torque. BMW’s seven-speed dual clutch automated manual transmission can be had with the turbo, or a traditional six-speed manual. As you might imagine, placing an engine this potent in a car as small as the 1 Series BMW makes for some pretty rousing performance.
One of the most highly regarded automobiles on the road, BMW’s 3 Series Coupe is both luxurious and sporty and definitely rates mentioning in any list of the best six-cylinder luxury coupes for 2012. It can be had with either rear- or all-wheel drive powertrains, two different inline six-cylinder engines, and a choice of six-speed manual, six-speed automatic, or BMW’s seven-speed automated dual-clutch manual transmission. The base 3.0-liter normally aspirated inline six-cylinder engine fitted to 328i models produces 230 horsepower and 200 ft.-lbs. of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual are standard; a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are optional. The twin turbocharged inline six fitted to the 335i models generates 300 horsepower and 300 ft.-lbs. of torque. As with the 328i, rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual are standard; a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are optional. The even more sporting oriented 335is has a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder good for 320 horsepower and 332 ft.-lbs. of torque. There is also a temporary overboost function that bumps its maximum torque to 370 ft.-lbs. for short bursts. A six-speed manual transmission is standard for the BMW 335is, the seven-speed DCT is optional.
Completely redesigned for the 2012 model year, the BMW 640i is the newest entry on the list of six-cylinder luxury coupes for 2012. Stunningly beautiful, the 640i is the essence of what owning a luxury performance coupe is all about. Dynamic styling, capable handling, powerful acceleration and braking, along with remarkably obedient steering combined with an outstanding array of luxury features and equipment, make the BMW 640i one of the most desirable cars in the world. The 2012 BMW 640i is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six, producing 315 horsepower and 332 ft.-lbs. of torque. Rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission are standard. For 2012, BMW’s engineers have fitted an automatic start/stop system, which shuts down the engine when the 640i is stopped to save fuel.
With its muscular and angular styling, the Cadillac CTS Coupe attracts attention like few other cars can, making it a shoo-in for our list of best V-6 luxury coupes. Looking for all the world like a concept car that escaped from an auto show, the Cadillac CTS Coupe is exceptionally dynamic and an exciting performer. The 2012 Cadillac CTS Coupe is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 318 horsepower and 275 ft.-lbs. of torque. While rear-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard equipment, all-wheel drive is an optional feature. Building upon the Art and Science styling language established with the Cadillac Evoq concept car from the 1999 North American International Auto Show, the Cadillac CTS Coupe reminds the world there is indeed a pulse at America's finest automaker.
It takes a lot of confidence for an automaker to build a car aimed specifically at BMWs omnipotent 3 Series luxury coupes. And while many have tried to best the Bavarian two-door, no one has come closer to duplicating the magic of Munich than Nissan with the Infiniti G37 coupe. Its front mid-engine design gives the Infiniti coupe exceptional balance and remarkable agility. Nissan’s VQ series V-6 engine has been recognized as one of, if not the smoothest V6 power plants available. This, when combined with the very generous array of standard luxury features contained within the Infiniti G37 easily earned it a place on our list of the best V-6 coupes. The 2012 Infiniti G37 coupe is powered by a 3.7-liter engine delivering 330 horsepower and 270 ft.-lbs. of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are the standard configuration. The all-wheel drive model is designated G37 X, while the more overtly sporting-oriented G37 S features an optional six-speed manual transmission.
An all-new model for 2012, the C-Class Mercedes coupe, listed here in the form of the Mercedes-Benz C350, gives the Stuttgart manufacturer a credible challenger for BMWs highly vaunted 3 Series cars and an additional entry on our list of the best V-6 luxury coupes for 2012. The C-Class coupes can be had with a six-cylinder engine paired with either rear- or all-wheel drive. Powering the six-cylinder equipped Mercedes-Benz C350 coupe models is a 3.5-liter V6 good for 302 horsepower and 273 ft-lbs. of torque. Rear-wheel drive is the standard powertrain configuration (naturally). When fitted with all-wheel drive, the model designation becomes the C350 4Matic coupe.
The only car on our list of the best V-6 luxury coupes for 2012 to offer a diesel engine, the six-cylinder powered Mercedes-Benz E350 coupe is also easily one of the best looking cars on the road. Flaunting the traditional pillarless profile that makes two-door Mercedes-Benz models so intriguing to look at, the graceful lines of the Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe are singularly captivating. The E350 coupe models come with a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 302 horsepower and 273 ft.-lbs. of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment, as is rear-wheel drive. The diesel powered E350 Bluetec features a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6, whose mere 210 horsepower of output deceptively belies its absolutely amazing ability to generate 400 ft.-lbs. of torque.