Mercedes developing 3-cylinder engine, only for hybrids

Mercedes-Benz will soon jump on the three-cylinder engine bandwagon and introduce its own ultra-compact unit in the near future. The engine family will only be used in the company’s upcoming hybrid front-wheel drive models.

Peugeot three-cylinder engine

So far, Ford, BMW, Peugeot, Volkswagen, GM/Opel, and Nissan have all recently developed a small-capacity three-cylinder in the fight against fuel consumption and emissions. Unlike these companies though Mercedes-Benz will be adopting the layout only to save space and weight in hybrid versions of its future compact front-wheel drive models.

Head of powertrain development at Daimler AG (Mercedes parent company) Bernard Heil said in an interview with Automotive News four-cylinder units have their limitations in hybrids. However, engineers are apparently not convinced that three-cylinder motors are the best option by themselves.

It’s understood the company will continue to use four-cylinder engines in future hybrid versions of the C-, E-, and S-Class models, all of which use a longitudinal rear-wheel drive layout.

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Rival company BMW has a 1.5-litre TwinPower turbo three-cylinder, but unlike Mercedes, it is not only used in the electric-based i3 and upcoming i8, it’s also available in the 1 Series (overseas markets) as a sole source of power.

Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost has garnered the attention of experts and has been well-praised since its debut over a year ago. The engine was awarded International Engine of the Year two years in a row. It currently powers the EcoSport compact SUV and versions of the Fiesta, with impressive power and torque outputs.

There’s certainly no denying the potential of the three-cylinder engine; BMW’s 1.5 produces up to 170kW in the i8, while Nismo recently announced a 1.5 with up to 298kW, although it is for racing applications only at this stage.

Brett is the editor and founder of PerformanceDrive. He's obsessed with driving, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After initially working as a mechanic, Brett earned a degree in journalism and entered media as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine. He then worked at CarAdvice. His dream is to live next door to the Nurburgring in Germany.