3.6 Pentastar cold air intake
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5 Best 3.6 Pentastar Performance Upgrades

Chandler Stark

Meet Chandler

Chandler is an automotive expert with over a decade of experience working on and modifying cars. A couple of his favorites were his heavily modded 2016 Subaru WRX and his current 2020 VW Golf GTI. He’s also a big fan of American Muscle and automotive history. Chandler’s passion and knowledge of the automotive industry help him deliver high-quality, insightful content to TuningPro readers.

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. 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 it is woefully underpowered. That’s why today I’m going to look at the 5 best 3.6 Pentastar performance upgrades to add horsepower and torque. 

Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Engine Info

First, let’s take a look at the basics behind the 3.6 Pentastar. It’s 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 Pentastar is considered a reliable engine. However, 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 engine has proven 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
  • Supercharger

Throughout the rest of the article I’ll run through each of these upgrades including benefits, power gains, and other considerations. That said, let’s jump in and discuss the above performance mods for the 3.6L Pentastar.

1) 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. 

2) 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. 

3) 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. 

4) 3.6 Pentastar 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) Supercharger Kits

Best 3.6 Pentastar Performance Upgrades
Credit: Sprintex

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. We also have a Pentastar turbo guide for those looking to go a different forced induction route.

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 in the comments below!

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6 Comments

  1. I recently acquired a 2012 grand cherokee (Laredo) to combat Canadian winters (my ’15 charger RT kept getting stuck in the driveway). This thing feels like a boat with an over-sized anchor. Are these upgrades worth the investment for an all year daily driver?

    1. Kyle, that all depends on your personal preference and what you’re looking to get out of the Jeep. If it feels sluggish and you care about power and performance then it seems the upgrades would be worth the investment. Even just starting with the basics like a tune and cold air intake can make all the difference on the 3.6 Pentastar.

      Regards,
      Zach

  2. one easy mod I did on my 2015 Challenger SXT was to remove the plastic engine cover on the 3.6 and put a hellcat bottom half air box connected to the air intake on the blinker after I popped out the black center cap. it is like ram air and makes the car sound mean as hell and I actually gained 2 mpg.

  3. Ok, so, I have a 2015 town and country I want to upgrade but I can’t find a T&C on RIPP or Mopar, lol. am i really the only one who wants a badass mini van?! lol

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