Offering the best of all worlds where sports cars are concerned, the six-cylinder powerplant is capable of producing power and torque rivaling V-8 engines, while imposing less weight and complexity. Further, a six-cylinder engine typically returns better fuel economy than its V8 counterpart.
Another distinctive aspect of the six-cylinder engine is the broad variety of configurations in which it can be employed. Whether inline (all six cylinders arrayed in a straight row in the engine block), a V-6 (two sets of three cylinders on opposite sides of the block arrayed in a 90 degree or less V formation), or the flat (horizontally-opposed) configuration in which the six cylinders essentially lie on their sides three opposite each other in the engine block.
Aided, in no small manner by the recent advances in computer control cam timing and fuel injection systems, the six-cylinder engines on our list of the best six-cylinder sports cars routinely produce between 300 and 620 horsepower.
That they can do this while maintaining the relatively light weight that makes sports cars so much fun is a definite plus. Oh, and did we mention the gloriously mellifluous exhaust note of a nicely-tuned six? The next time you see a Nissan 370Z going down the street, pay attention to the way it sounds, you’ll be mesmerized.
What follows is our list of the Best Six-Cylinder Sports Cars for 2012.
The BMW Z4 has come a long way since its four-cylinder powered Z3 predecessor appeared in the 1995 “GoldenEye” James Bond movie as the first non-British Bond car. However, reflecting the old adage; “The more things change the more they stay the same.” the BMW Z car has gone full circle after a succession of six-cylinder powered models to once again offer a four-cylinder engine for 2012. However, this is a list of six-cylinder sports cars and yes, the Z4 still definitively qualifies. In fact, it qualifies twice, as there is a pair of inline six-cylinder powerplants available for the rear-drive folding hardtop roadster. The Z4 sDrive35i is powered by a turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline-6, good for 300 horsepower and 300 ft.-lbs. of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment. A seven-speed automated dual-clutch manual transmission (known as DCT in BMW-speak) is optional. The Z4 sDrive35is gets a version of the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 tuned to produce 335 horsepower and 332 ft.-lbs. of torque. At full throttle, the engine is also capable of an overboost function, which increases torque to 369 ft.-lbs. for short bursts of acceleration. The DCT is the sole transmission pairing for the Z4 sDrive35is.
Yes folks, there is a Hyundai on the list of best six-cylinder sports cars. Things change folks and the car company known as Hyundai is living proof of this fact. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 delivers aggressive handling, determined braking and sharp steering. In other words, the fun to drive quotient is quite high. The car is remarkably good looking too, with a very handsome wedge-shaped profile. The V-6 models come in three states of trim; 3.8 R-Spec, 3.8 Grand Touring and 3.8 Track. R-Spec and Track models are the most performance oriented, while the Grand Touring model features more luxurious accoutrements. However, all three use a 3.8-liter V6 engine capable of generating 306 horsepower and 266 ft.-lbs. of torque. A six-speed manual is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional.
A genuine mid-engine exotic sports car, albeit one with a price tag under $100,000, the Lotus Evora is something of an anomaly on our list of the best 6-cylinder sports cars. In addition to its extraordinarily reasonable price, the Evora is also the only mid-engine sports car on the market capable of seating four people. That’s right, the Evora has a pair of back seats. A 3.5-liter Toyota V-6 capable of producing 276 horsepower and 258 ft.-lbs. of torque powers the Lotus Evora. The output of the engine is routed to the rear wheels by way of a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. A push-button six-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles mounted on the steering column is available as an option. The more powerful Lotus Evora S adds a supercharger to the V-6, which increases its output to 345 horsepower and 295 ft.-lbs. of torque.
For years, the people in charge of such matters at Mercedes-Benz have struggled to truly define the SLK. As the smallest roadster in the Mercedes lineup, its cuteness, along with its affordability made it highly appealing to a female demographic. This, in and of itself is not a bad thing. However, there is a belief in the auto industry that women will buy cars designed to appeal to men, but men won’t buy cars designed to appeal to women. Thus, a feminine aura is thought to be something to be avoided. With the 2012 SLK Mercedes-Benz product planners sought to strip that aura away with beefy, mini-SL styling. Whether this will be successful or not, only time will tell. Still, the SLK 350 makes our list of the best 6-cylinder sports cars. Its 3.5-liter V6 produces 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic is standard equipment with that engine.
Perhaps the most affordable two-seat sports car on our list of the Best V-6 Sports Cars is Nissan’s 370Z. The Z car has it all, a long heritage, rakish good looks, outstanding dynamics, a buttery smooth engine with a delightful exhaust note, and a convertible iteration to boot. Further, the Z-car’s shark-like profile looks equally handsome in coupe or convertible configurations. The 2012 Nissan 370Z is rear-drive and powered by a 3.7-liter V6 with 332 horsepower and 270 ft.-lbs. of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment. Sport package models of the Z come with the SynchroRev Match feature for the transmission, which matches revs on downshifts automatically. The optional seven-speed automatic transmission with steering-column-mounted shift paddles offers rev-matched downshifts as well. The even more aggressive 370Z Nismo model’s version of the V6 produces 350 horsepower and 276 ft.-lbs. of torque. It gets the six-speed manual transmission with SynchroRev Match—period.
One of the most powerful and best-performing cars on our list of V-6 sports cars for 2012, the Nissan GT-R enjoys legendary status. There are very few cars on the road today capable of out running Nissan’s GT–R. So prodigious is its prowess, in popular culture its nickname is Godzilla. A twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6 engine generating 530 horsepower and 448 ft.-lbs. of torque powers the 2012 Nissan GT-R. A six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission routes this power to the ground through a highly competent performance-oriented all-wheel drive system. The GT-R will go from 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds and routinely pulls in excess of 1.0 g on the skidpad. That all of this performance can be had for under $90,000 is nothing less than absolutely amazing.
Hallowed by automotive enthusiasts since it was introduced back in 1964, the Porsche 911 occupies a rarefied place in the minds of the motoring public, as well as a spot at the top of our list of best six-cylinder sports cars for 2012. An evolutionary design, rather than reinventing the 911 every five years, Porsche does updates, fitting the car with the latest developments in automotive technology. Thus, today's Porsche 911 represents the culmination of everything the company has learned about building sports cars since 1963. There are many different variations of the 911, all of which are based around the horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine. Variants of this engine as applied to the Porsche 911 range in power output from 350 horsepower to 620 horsepower.
Easily one of the (if not THE) most delightful cars on our list of best 6-cylinder sports cars, the lineage of the Porsche Boxster’s lineup goes all the way back to the exciting Porsche 550 Spyders of the 1950’s. (Yes, the sports car behind the wheel of which iconic actor James Dean met his tragic fate.) For 2012, the Boxster is offered in base, S, Black Edition, and Spyder trims. Qualifying the Porsche for our list is a 2.9-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder (flat-6) engine that produces 255 horsepower and 214 ft.-lbs. of torque. This engine powers the base Boxster. All Boxster models use rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. A seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission referred to as PDK in Porsche-speak (an abbreviation of Porsche DoppelKupplung), is the optional gearbox. The Boxster S uses a direct-injected 3.4-liter flat-6 good for 310 horsepower and 266 ft.-lbs. of torque. The 2012 Porsche Boxster Spyder and Black Edition get an up rated version of that engine, producing 320 horsepower and 273 ft.-lbs. of torque.
While the Cayman might be the newest sports car in Porsche’s lineup, its roots actually go all the way back to the 1950s—before the company’s ubiquitous 911 model was even conceived. The modern interpretation of the Porsche 550 racing cars, the Cayman is a true mid-engine sports car and arguably the purest Porsche model. This entry on our list of the best 6-cylinder sports cars is offered in three different iterations for 2012; they are—in order of increasing performance—the Base Cayman, Cayman S, Cayman S Black Edition, and Cayman R. The Base Cayman uses a 2.9-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder producing 265 horsepower and 221 ft.-lbs. of torque. Cayman S gets a direct-injected 3.4-liter flat-6 with 320 horsepower and 273 ft.-lbs. of torque. Cayman S Black Edition and Cayman R get a version of the S engine tuned to produce to 330 hp. Every Cayman is rear-drive and gets a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. A seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission is available as an option.