There won't be many more significant car launches in 2022 than the 718 GT4 RS. Porsche RS cars tend to be superb, and regular Caymans ain't half bad either; bring the two together and brilliance is virtually guaranteed. Obviously the model's 4.0-litre flat-six is integral to this prowess - as you might have guessed from Matt's enthusiastic video - but Porsche isn't alone in celebrating the cylinder count. Earlier this month, Ferrari launched its first V6 in forever courtesy of the 296 GTB, there's a McLaren to rival it just round the corner, and, just yesterday, Stellantis announced a 500hp straight-six to replace umpteen V8s in North America.
What better time then for a Six of the Best homage to the increasingly ubiquitous half dozen? And while we don't like to be accused of flogging a dead horse, you can't start such a list without namechecking the past master. Porsche's heritage with six horizontally opposed cylinders now stretches back more than half a century - and none exceeds the influence of the legendary Mezger; once destined for the 911 GT1 race car, and the unit which became synonymous with GT3s.
Probably the ultimate example - for many the ultimate 21st century 911 - is the 997 GT3 RS 4.0. Just 600 were made in 2011, pumping the flat-six out to 4.0-litres and a nice, round 500hp. It only came with a manual gearbox, too, which looked even more remarkable when the PDK-only GT3 arrived not long after. And the 4.0 was, of course, epic. You might have heard. So they've always been expensive - it's hard to believe those first owners parted with a mere £128k. This one is intriguing not just for the colour (it's white under the wrap) but for its mileage, having accrued a healthy 17k. Which does mean it sneaks in below £300k, when some still command much more. But the best never did come cheap; and they really don't come much better - for Porsches, for 911s, or for six-cylinder engines - than the GT3 RS 4.0. JJM
When the 3.5-litre supercharged Toyota V6 appeared in the Series 3 Lotus Exige, it wasn't revolutionary, nor did it scream to nearly 9,000rpm like some others here. It was nabbed from the Evora S that appeared two years earlier, as was most of the underpinnings that the S3 Exige was based on.
But it was a significant step in the evolution of the Exige - now you had a car that was more useable everyday and would terrify supercar owners on track, too. With 350hp and a kerbweight of 1,125kg, you'll never find yourself wanting for more power on the road. It sounds fantastic too.
This 2018 example looks utterly fantastic in Empire Green and is all the supercar I'd ever need. Lotus has been known for strong residuals for a long time, however, and now you can no longer buy a new Exige, so my actually ownership prospects don't look like changing anytime soon. Boo. BL
We couldn't have a six-cylinder celebration without BMW's S54 featuring in there somewhere, could we? And much as I adore a Porsche flat-six - and I mean adore, more than air I think - I would have to plump for the straight six as my overall favourite engine configuration. If only because they look great when you open a bonnet and see that long block, whereas those flat motors are largely hidden from view. But also because I like that, in engineering terms, the straight-six is the most balanced configuration.
And in the E46 CSL it was in a beautiful and beautifully balanced car. One with much sharper responses than the standard M3 thanks, in part, to its 110kg weight reduction. Yet the highlight was always that engine. Yes, it came fitted with an SMG gearbox that, by today's standards, is slow and clunky. Please don't let that put you off, though. It's not enough to diminish the engine.
Here, the S54 manages 360hp and 273lb ft, which is great, but it's the way it revs that makes it so special. You won't find the limiter until that lengthy crank is spinning at a scintillating 8,000rpm, and, just like the GT4 RS and GT3, it's in the last couple of thousand where its true power lies - and its wonderful noise, too. If anything is guaranteed to send shivers through your spine, by crikey it's that. JH
When I put forward my suggestion this week the whole team all agreed you couldn't do this article without including a Busso, so here it is! Er, hidden beneath a slightly underwhelming 166. Perhaps it's middle age, but whilst the 166 was never the most conventionally pretty Alfa ever its unfussy shape holds a certain appeal now. I really like the idea of packing the family in and wafting up to Scotland for a long weekend; I'm sure we'd enjoy every minute. Or I would.
With only two owners and 22,000 miles to its name, this 166 looks totally pristine. I'd go out on a limb and say the rear seats have never been sat in as they look factory fresh. It comes with what looks to be a comprehensive history along with the upgraded heated front seat option, which is a big plus point.
So while it isn't going to be the fastest, prettiest or even most reliable on this list, but it still has its charms - especially when it comes to the soundtrack. And all for less than £10,000. Which makes it the cheapest of this bunch by a substantial margin... SL
You know it's a good six when people know the engine code and fewer than 200 cars were sold in Britain. But rather like the 2JZ found in the Supra, the RB26 found under the bonnet of Nissan Skyline GT-Rs during the 1990s - also a twin-turbo straight six, like the Toyota - became as iconic as the car it powered.
As standard, the RB looked cool and sounded good. But the reputation developed from its formidable tuning potential, companies liberating wild power outputs from this massively overengineered straight-six. Back when a Ferrari 550 Maranello produced less than 500hp, there were people out there making Nissans with 50 per cent more power. And that was pretty cool. Especially when you heard about them through magazines or VHS tapes, like they came from another planet.
Now, of course, it's those GT-Rs that haven't had their full potential exploited that are most desirable. Values of the R32 have climbed with their eligibility for US import and the maturing of the Gran Turismo generation; the demise of the R35 will surely help their cause, too. Not so long ago a good, early Skyline would have been half this one's £45k, if not less. But now the world has woken up to what a seminal performance car the GT-R was - and what an engine the RB26 will always be. MB
Though Honda is best known for its VTEC four-cylinders - B18 and K20 can join the Nissan in the internal combustion hall of fame - it would be remiss not to mention the NSX's V6 in this list. Especially given the NSX in question looks fantastic: Formula Red, manual, bronze Volk TE37s and just 31,000 miles of use in 31 years of driving.
The spec of the NSX's 3.0-litre, all aluminium 24-valve V6 reads near perfectly for a sports car; it must have looked almost unbelievable from Honda so long ago. Japan just didn't make cars (or engines) like this back then, which is why the NSX remains so significant. A relatively short stroke (78mm) in relation to its bore (90mm) meant the V6 really revved, making its peak of 270hp at 7,100rpm and going all the way to 8,300rpm. In 1990!
But as became clear soon after launch, the NSX was about so much more than a remarkable six-cylinder engine, and that's why it became such an icon. It was stylish, usable and dependable on top, as proven by the cars out there still happily motoring with six-figure mileages. And there aren't any Ferrari 348s doing that. Quite why buyers weren't keen in 1990s remains unclear - but one this nice will cost £80k in 2022... MD
1 / 6