First released in 2011, the Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar V6 engine has found a home over the last decade in some of the top Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles on the market. Most notably, the 3.6 Pentastar powers the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger/Challenger/Durango/Ram 1500, and Jeep Grand Cherokee/Gladiator/Wrangler. Depending on the vehicle, the Pentastar produces between 285–305 horsepower and 251–269 lb-ft of torque. While that is certainly enough to get around town, compared with the much larger HEMI V8s available in the next-level up SRT trim it is woefully underpowered. That’s why today we’re gonna look at the 5 best 3.6 Pentastar performance upgrades to add both horsepower and torque.
Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Engine Info
First, let’s take a look at the basics behind the 3.6 Pentastar. The Pentastar is a 3.6 liter (220 cid) V6 engine with an aluminum block and heads. It is naturally aspirated from the factory, and uses electronic port fuel injection. The block is open-deck, and is deep-skirt and die-cast for strength and reliability. Depending on the vehicle, the Pentastar produces between 285–305 horsepower and 251–269 lb-ft of torque.
For the valve train, the Pentastar uses a quad-cam dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) system with variable valve timing (VVT). There are four valves per cylinder (two intake/exhaust) for 24 valves total on the engine.
In 2016, Chrysler updated the Pentastar in a few areas. Most notably, the compression ratio increased, from 10.2:1 to 11.3:1, and the engine got a few more horsepower in some models. In addition, Chrysler also tweaked the VVT to make it more effective and efficient. The 2011–2015 3.6 Pentastar is capable of running E85 flex-fuel, but the 2016+ 3.6 Pentastar is not.
Overall, the Pentastar is considered a reliable engine. One driver even got more than 626,000 miles out of his Pentastar without needing a full rebuild. There have been a few common problems with the 3.6 Pentastar, including an issue with the oil filter housing. However, for the most part the Pentastar has proved to be solid and dependable.
Pentastar Block and Internals Power Limits
When looking at the best 3.6 Pentastar performance upgrades, it’s important to consider how much power the Pentastar cylinder block and internals (connecting rods, pistons, crankshaft, etc) can take before failing. While there is no magical number, most people would say that 450-500 horsepower is about the limits of the stock internals. At that stage, you will want to start thinking about forged pistons, rods, and head studs for reinforcement.
The block is likely good past that for another few hundred horsepower before seriously being jeopardized. However, most people who do go over 500-600 horsepower are either race teams with built engines or are using the larger HEMI V8 power plants. So you are in a bit of uncharted waters pushing that with the stock Pentastar. In addition, you’ll also need a custom blower kit, as all of the ones available max out around 450 horsepower.
5 Best 3.6 Pentastar Performance Upgrades
The top 5 Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Performance Upgrades are:
- Cold Air Intake
- Upgraded Exhaust
- Upgraded Coil Packs
- ECU Tuning
We’ll get more in-depth down below, but here’s a basic summary of the 5 best 3.6 Pentastar performance upgrades for your Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram.
Simple bolt-on mods like a cold air intake and cat-back exhaust are great first mods for a Pentastar build. They help improve airflow in and out of the engine while (slightly) improving gas mileage. The intake will add a little bit of power, while the cat-back is mostly good for making the engine louder.
Next up is going to be upgrading the 3.6 Pentastar coil packs. The stock coil packs are adequate, but adding upgraded units not only adds power but also gets your car ready to take on bigger mods, like a supercharger.
ECU tuning is our next recommended 3.6 Pentastar performance upgrade. While it might not seem important, tuning can make the difference between a good and great engine build. With tuning, you’ll be able to have optimized ignition timing and air-to-fuel ratios, as well as other parameters to help you take advantage of all your mods. If you’re going to be spending hundreds in bolt-ons, you’ll want to make sure to maximize your gains from them.
Finally, the last of the 5 best 3.6 Pentastar performance upgrades is going to be adding a supercharger kit. Adding a blower is by far the most cost effective way to get the 3.6 Pentastar past 400 horsepower without doing lots of internal work. We would suggest turbochargers too, but there are no reliable kits on the market as of now.
1) 3.6 Pentastar Performance Cold Air Intake
If you are just starting your 3.6 Pentastar build, one of the most common routes that people go first is to add a performance cold air intake. Installing a performance cold air intake will add ~5-15 horsepower and equivalent torque. It will also add some extra sound from your engine bay, and give you a slight improvement in gas mileage.
It’s important to note, most 3.6 Pentastar equipped vehicles already have cold air intakes stock. A cold air intake is an intake system where the engine filter is located away from the engine bay near or in the fender. This helps your engine draw in cooler and more dense air than normal, and the stock unit already does this. So, you’re not adding a cold air intake, but rather upgrading your stock unit to a performance cold air intake.
The difference in a performance air intake is the tubing and air filter are both larger and less restrictive. This allows more air to flow through faster, meaning your engine can make more power. The difference isn’t crazy, usually it’s about ~5-15 horsepower, but it is still noticeable for most people.
Top 3.6 MOPAR and Jeep Performance Cold Air Intakes
We have two recommendations for performance cold air intakes, depending on your vehicle. For those with either the Chrysler 300 or Dodge Challenger/Charger, the top option is the Mopar performance cold air intake. This is made by Mopar themselves, so you know that it’s a good product. They claim it increases airflow by 20%, and it uses an open-box design with a dry rather than oiled filter.
For our Wrangler and Gladiator drivers, we instead recommend the Volant Performance cold air intake. The Volant looks very similar to the Mopar, but locates the filter to the other side due to the different engine bays. In contrast with the Mopar unit, the Volant uses a closed-box design and an oiled filter. Both are solid units and will add ~5-15 horsepower and torque with tuning.
2) Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Upgraded Cat-back Exhaust
Next up is upgrading the 3.6 Pentastar exhaust with a cat-back. Normally, we would recommend replacing the exhaust manifold with long-tube headers, but that’s not an option on the 3.6 Pentastar. The engineers at Chrysler actually designed the exhaust manifold to be integrated into the cylinder heads. This means they cannot be upgraded (by themselves), though it may be possible to port them.
This leads to upgrading the cat-back as the only option to improve the exhaust. We’ll be honest, adding a cat-back will not do too much in the way of performance. At most, an upgraded cat-back will add 5 horsepower and torque – pretty much negligible. However, it will make your Pentastar sound much better and may offer a slight improvement in gas mileage (~0.5 mpg).
The difference between a cat-back and the stock exhaust is going to be the piping diameter and the muffler. Upgraded cat-backs will be slightly wider than stock to allow for better flow, and they will also have performance mufflers designed to sound good while maintaining air flow.
Top 3.6 Dodge and Jeep cat-back exhausts
For cat-backs recommendations, we have the RIPP cat-back exhaust systems from RIPP Superchargers. Though known for their blower kits, RIPP has quietly been manufacturing performance exhausts for a number of years now. They are mostly dual outlet exhausts made from T304 stainless steel. RIPP also sells an optional resonator to reduce drone.
RIPP offers exhaust systems for a number of 3.6 Pentastar powered vehicles, including the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger/Challenger, and Jeep Wrangler. They are well reviewed for both their quality and sound, and look very nice strapped under a Charger.
3) Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Performance Coil Packs
Our third recommendation for 3.6 Pentastar performance upgrades is to swap out the stock packs for performance coil packs. To be clear, the stock coil packs operate fine and do not need to be replaced. However, upgrading them does have some potential benefits.
The purpose of a coil pack is to take electric power from the battery and transform it into energy that the spark plug can use to fire the engine. The stock coil packs offer enough energy and power for stock performance, but as soon as you start adding mods (like a performance intake or ECU tuning) they can quickly become overmatched. This can lead to misfiring and other spark related problems.
Upgraded coil packs produce more voltage more consistently than the stock units. Even on a vehicle with no mods you will see an improvement of up to 10 horsepower and torque due to the upgraded voltage. If you are planning on supercharging your 3.6 Pentastar, these are practically a necessity. In addition to more power, you’ll also notice better throttle response and quicker starting, too.
Upgraded 3.6 Pentastar Performance Coil Packs
For 3.6 Pentastar performance coil pack upgrades, we recommend the RIPP performance 3.6 Pentastar coil packs. They are pretty reasonably priced, even when compared to stock units, and have gotten good reviews. They will also fit any 3.6 Pentastar equipped vehicle, meaning your Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram, will all be applicable no matter what. In addition, they do not require any tuning.
4) Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Performance ECU Tuning
Our next recommendation for the 3.6 Pentastar is to add performance ECU tuning. While older models might have used “chips” to add performance, the next age is all about ECU tuning. With just ECU tuning alone, you can add as much as ~50 horsepower and torque without any other hardware modifications.
ECU tuning is done by a professional calibrator, known as a tuner, who usually specializes in specific vehicles or engine platforms. They alter and modify the commands of the computer that controls the engine, changing parameters that control things like ignition timing, camshaft timing, air-to-fuel ratios, and boost pressure (on forced induction engines). By changing these components, the tuner can make the engine output more horsepower and torque than it did before.
Top 3.6 Pentastar Tuning Options
By far, the most widespread and go-to tuner of 3.6 Pentastar tuners is Livernois Motorsports. We’ve written about them before for other MOPAR performance parts, and they are definitely one of the more respected names in the industry. They are located in the heart of muscle itself, in Detroit, Michigan, and have been in business making quality parts for dozens of vehicles for years.
For the 3.6 Pentastar, they offer tuning solutions for the following vehicles: Chrysler 300; Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger, Dodge Durango, Ram 1500, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler/Gladiator. Depending on the vehicle, you can add as much as 50 horsepower with a Livernois Motorsports 3.6 Pentastar ECU tune.
For those with a 2018+ equipped Pentastar, it’s important to note you will need the powertrain control module (PCM) unlocked before you can proceed with any tuning. Livernois Motorsports offers a PCM Unlock system for 2018–2022 vehicles, which is necessary to get around it.
5) Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Supercharger Kits
Our final recommendation for upgrading the 3.6 Pentastar is adding a supercharger. If you want to push the Pentastar past 400 horsepower, you pretty much need to add forced induction – unless you want to start porting manifolds, cylinder heads, the throttle body, and pretty much everything else. Even then, 400 horsepower is about the limit naturally aspirated.
Adding a blower is by far the most cost effective way to add a lot of power. There are three types of blowers available for the Pentastar: Centrifugal, Roots, and Twin-Screw. The centrifugal kits will offer the highest amount of horsepower, though low-end torque will suffer a bit. Roots and twin-screw kits will offer a good combination of low-end torque and top-end power, though they won’t match the peak output of a centrifugal unit.
Your driving style and use of the vehicle will determine which kit is best. Previously, we looked at the 5 best 3.6 Pentastar Superchargers, so make sure to check out that article for a full and in-depth breakdown of forced induction on the Pentastar.
Recommended 3.6 Pentastar Supercharger Kits
You will have to check out our above article to see our full list of recommended supercharger kits, so for now we’ll just talk about the top option from RIPP Superchargers. RIPP offers superchargers kits for pretty much every 3.6 Pentastar vehicle on the market, from Chrysler, to Dodge, Jeep, and Ram.
Their kits mainly use centrifugal-style superchargers with a Vortech V3 Si Trim blower. Depending on the kit/vehicle, they output between 350–450 horsepower at the wheels, an increase of roughly 100–200 horsepower at the crank.
It’s a pretty big jump to slap on a supercharger to your Pentastar, so you need to make sure you upgrade your brakes and tires if you plan on installing a kit. The stock brakes and tires are not adequate for putting the power successfully to the ground and making the vehicle stop on time. You’ll probably want some more supporting mods – you can view our above article for more recommendations – but at a minimum you need to upgrade the brakes and tires.
Top Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Upgrades Conclusion
While the 3.6 Pentastar will never compete with the larger HEMI V8s in terms of power output, they are still capable of quite a bit of performance. Stock, the Pentastar is good for 285–305 horsepower and 251–269 lb-ft of torque, but they can make a lot more with some basic modifications.
Adding a performance cold air intake and cat-back exhaust are two of the most common mods that people start their builds with. They can add as much as 15 horsepower combined, and make the Pentastar sound a whole lot better. Upgrading the coil packs is also a good option, as it can add power to a stock vehicle and make it safer for adding more mods.
Our big two recommendations, ECU tuning and supercharging, are the ways to add the most horsepower and torque. ECU tuning can add as much as 50 horsepower with no other hardware changes. A supercharger can put the Pentastar up to as much as 450 wheel horsepower with our recommended kits.
If you’re serious, there is definitely some room to grow on the 3.6 Pentastar in terms of horsepower and torque. Let us know which mods are your favorite for the 3.6 Pentastar in the comments below!