VR6 Engine Review: Problems, Specs and Reliability

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VR6 and subsequently VR5 are internal combustion engines, first released in 1991. They are known for narrow-angle (10.5 or 15 degrees) V shape. Having 6 cylinders, VR cylinder block contains 2 cylinder banks (left 1-3-5 and right 2-4-6), covered by sole cylinder head cover.

R32 is a famous representative of EA390 series. This VR6 3.2L naturally aspirated gasoline motor was employed for Volkswagen Golf R32 mk4/5 in addition to being a part of some other Volkswagen and Audi automobiles.

The motor features grey cylinder block of cast iron with an angle of 15 degrees between cylinder banks. Cylinders have been relocated by 12.5 mm from the die-forged steel crankshaft center. It results in a 120 degrees firing interval between cylinders. Crankshaft keeps 7 main bearings.

Because of narrow-angle, separate cylinder heads for each cylinder bank become unnecessary. R32 features aluminum head and dual overhead camshafts. Gaining a simple timing chain, this motor owns 4 valves for each of 6 cylinders. As camshafts have 12 cam lobes, front camshaft manages intake valves while back camshaft controls exhaust ones.

The valve mechanism is provided with roller finger cam followers with reduced friction, having automatic hydraulic valve clearance settings. Besides, VR6 motors feature VVT-i for camshafts: 52 degrees on front intake camshaft and 22 degrees on back exhaust camshaft.

Having electronically managed twin-path variable intake manifold, motor features classic sequential multi-point fuel injection with 6 injectors, located on intake manifold ports and concealed by intake manifold top. Engine’s backside contains 2 cast iron exhaust manifolds. Additionally, this 3.2L motor gained electronic ignition system with separate spark coils for every cylinder plus wire throttle body electronic control. Engine control unit Bosch Motronic ME 7.1.1 controls motor functioning.

Volkswagen VR6 Engine Specs

Manufacturer Volkswagen AG
Cylinder block material Cast Iron
Cylinder head material Aluminum
Fuel type Gasoline
Fuel system Multi-point fuel injection
Number of cylinders 6
Valvetrain layout DOHC
Bore, mm 84.0 (3.31 in)
Stroke, mm 95.9 (3.78 in)
Displacement, cc 3,189 (194.6 cu in)
Compression Ratio 11.3:1
Power, hp 235-250 (173-184kW)/ 6,200-6,300
Torque, lb ft 232-236 (315-320 Nm)/ 2,500-3,000
Firing order 1-5-3-6-2-4
Engine oil weight VW 504.00; SAE 5W-30
Oil change interval, mile 9,000 (15,000 km) or 12 month



The VR6 engine is currently used by Volkswagen in:

  • Volkswagen Passat NMS
  • Volkswagen Atlas

The VR6 engine was used by Volkswagen in:

  • Volkswagen Golf Mk3
  • Volkswagen Golf Mk4
  • Volkswagen Golf Mk5
  • Volkswagen Vento/Volkswagen Jetta Mk3
  • Volkswagen Bora/Volkswagen Jetta Mk4
  • Volkswagen New Beetle RSi
  • Volkswagen Passat (B3, B4, B6 and B7 chassis)
  • Volkswagen Sharan
  • Volkswagen Phaeton
  • Volkswagen Caravelle/Multivan/Eurovan T4 and T5
  • Volkswagen Eos
  • Volkswagen Passat CC
  • Volkswagen Touareg
  • Volkswagen Passat

The VR6 was also used in other Volkswagen Group products, namely:

  • Audi A3 Mk2
  • Audi TT Mk1 and Mk2
  • Audi Q7 4L
  • Porsche Cayenne E1 and E2
  • SEAT Alhambra
  • SEAT León
  • Škoda Superb (B6, 3T)

The VR6 is also used by other manufacturers, namely:

  • Artega GT[9]
  • Ford Galaxy (first generation)
  • Mercedes-Benz V 280
  • Winnebago Rialta, Vista and Itasca Sunstar

Engine Modifications

173 kW (235 hp) at 6,200 rpm, 232 ft lb (315Nm) at 2,950 rpm. This is engine for the Volkswagen Transporter T5.

BFH – 177 kW (241 hp) at 6,200 rpm, 236 ft lb (320Nm) at 2,500-3,200 rpm. Application: VW Golf Mk4 R32 for the US market.

BML – 177 kW (241 hp) at 6,250 rpm, 236 ft lb (320Nm) at 2,800-3,200 rpm. Application: Australian VW Golf Mk4 R32 engine.

BDB, BHE, BMJ, BPF, BUB – 184 kW (250 hp) at 6,250 rpm, 236 ft lb (320Nm) at 2,500-3,000 rpm. This engine has a lower compression ratio 10.85:1 and different intake manifold. Application: Audi A3, Audi TT, VW Golf Mk5 R32.

VW 3.2 VR6 EA390 Engine Problems

R32 motor is rather reliable and doesn’t have many disadvantages. Its weakest point is a serpentine belt tensioner. Motor stammering may be caused by a broken coil pack while flywheel bolts are easily broken or can unscrew due to strong pressure or high rpm. Besides, this motor consumes much fuel.

However, in total, VR6 engines are rather enduring and don’t cause many troubles. They can run for more than 150,000 miles (250,000 kilometers) with no faults. They provide no noise and operate calmly.

Being now employed for Volkswagen Atlas SUV, Passat and Porsche Cayenne, this motor will probably be discontinued soon.

Volkswagen builds a straight-4 motor with turbocharging, which is more lightweight, compact and consumes fuel more rationally while having the same output. Being constructed before it became possible to create efficient 4-cylinder turbo motors with great endurance and almost no malfunctions, VR6 seems to be rather outdated now.

For instance, being utilized for Volkswagen Atlas, VR6 fails to provide significantly more torque than a 4-cylinder turbo engine. Moreover, it features a smaller power range. Now, it’s impossible to acquire a new brand’s vehicle with this motor in Europe.

VR engine parts

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Dan Hoffman

Dan is a co-founder of Engineswork. He knows everything about internal combustion engines. Ask your questions in comments down below this article - he will be glad to help you anytime.

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