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Mercedes set to ditch V6 in favour of straight-sixes

Historically, the straight-six has been a cornerstone of Mercedes models, including the legendary 300SL Gullwing.

Contrasting with the industry-wide shift to more compact V-configuration six-cylinder engines, Mercedes-Benz is reportedly planning a return to the straight-six arrangement for future large models.

The straight-six was a cornerstone of Mercedes models until its replacement with V6 engines in the mid-90s, but UK magazine Autocar reports that a straight-six will sit atop a new family of modular engines under development, which will include smaller three and four cylinder versions.  

Despite the demonstrated packaging advantages of a more compact V6 engine, reduced production costs through increased parts commonality between piston counts is likely to be driving the shift.

The new engines are expected to make their debut in the next-generation E-Class in 2016, before filtering down to the C-Class in 2017 as part of the upcoming new model’s mid-cycle refresh. The three and four cylinder engines are also likely to see duty in the smaller A and B-Class models.

Also expected for the 2016 E-Class is a new ‘Autobahn Pilot’ function, which is said to expand Mercedes’ semi-autonomous technologies with guidance for overtaking situations.

In the meantime, sources have confirmed that the AMG versions of the upcoming C-Class will use a twin-turbo 4.0 litre petrol V8 with a seven-speed auto and the availability of 4-Matic all-wheel drive in right-hand drive for the first time. A sports-tuned Speedshift version of the recently-announced nine-speed auto is expected to arrive with the 2017 refresh. 

At the more frugal end of the spectrum, the upcoming plug-in hybrid version of the C-Class is reportedly nearing the end of its development, with a targeted C02 figure of 60g/km suggesting a combined fuel figure in the vicinity of 2.6L/100km.

This reporter is on Twitter: @Mal_Flynn