3.6 Pentastar engine
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Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Engine Guide

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 for the 2011 model year, FCA Stellantis’ 3.6 Pentastar engine has been one of their most solid offerings for the last decade. The V6 engine can produce north of 300 horsepower, while still delivering decent fuel economy and solid reliability. FCA Stellantis has put the engine inside numerous Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles, where it has performed remarkably well.

It has been named winner of Ward’s 10-Best engines several times, and also boasts best in class performance numbers in several categories. Since their introduction, Chrysler has sold more than 10 million Pentastar engines worldwide. This article will cover everything related to the 3.6 Pentastar engine, including its history, specifications, vehicle applications, engine design, common problems, and performance upgrades.

Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Engine History

As we mentioned, FCA Steallantis (Chrysler) released the Pentastar engine series for the 2011 model year. The first Pentastar was a 3.6 liter V6, and since then there have also been 3.2 liter and 3.0 liter V6 variants. Chrysler and Dodge were the primary users of the 3.6 Pentastar, but Jeep also used it in their Grand Cherokee, and the following year they put it inside the Wrangler.

Chrysler and Dodge primarily used the engine as a mid-tier option, making it available most often in the SE, SEL, SXT, Limited, and Touring trims. Depending on the model it’s in, the engine makes between 283-305 horsepower and 251-269 lb-ft of torque. It has widely been considered a sturdy and reliable engine since its debut, and continues to be used in new vehicles today.

In 2016, FCA released an updated version of the 3.6 Pentastar. This version only makes a little bit more power, but has lots of internal upgrades that allow for more efficiency and longevity. FCA has largely used the engine in the United States, but it has also found its way to the Asia and European markets through the Lancia and Volkswagen brands.

FCA manufactures the 3.6 Pentastar at three main plants, two of them in Michigan. One is the Trenton Engine Complex in Trenton, Michigan, and the other is the Mack Avenue Engine Plant in Detroit. They are also made at the Saltillo South Engine Plant in Saltillo, Mexico.

As of 2023, FCA Stellantis has shown no signs of stopping production on the engine, and it is currently being used in several vehicles for the 2023 model year. Though Dodge and others under FCA have been vocal about the switch to electric power trains, the Pentastar has not been retired, yet.

Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Engine Specs

Engine 3.6 Pentastar 3.6 Pentastar Updated
Family Pentastar Pentastar
Model Years 2011-2015 2016-present
Displacement 3.6 liter (220 cid) 3.6 liter (220 cid)
Aspiration Naturally Aspirated Naturally Aspirated
Configuration V6 V6
Compression Ratio 10.2:1 11.3:1
Bore and Stroke 96mm x 83mm 96mm x 83mm
Valve Train Design DOHC, VVT DOHC, VVT
Valve Train 4v/cy, 24V total 4v/cy, 24V total
Fuel System Port Injection Port Injection
Head/Block Material Aluminum Aluminum
Horsepower 285-305 horsepower 285-305 horsepower
Torque 251-269 lb-ft 251-269 lb-ft

Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Vehicle Applications

The Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar engine has appeared domestically in the following vehicles:

  • 2011–2017 Chrysler 200
  • 2011–2023 Chrysler 300
  • 2011–2016 Chrysler Town & Country
  • 2011–2014 Dodge Avenger
  • 2011–2023 Dodge Challenger
  • 2011–2023 Dodge Charger
  • 2011–2023 Dodge Durango
  • 2011–2023 Dodge Grand Caravan
  • 2011–2023 Dodge Journey
  • 2011–2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2011–2015 Ram Cargo Van
  • 2011–2014 Volkswagen Routan
  • 2012–2023 Jeep Wrangler
  • 2012–2023 Ram 1500
  • 2013–2023 Ram ProMaster
  • 2016–2023 Chrysler Pacifica
  • 2020–2023 Chrysler Voyager
  • 2020–2023 Jeep Gladiator

Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Engine Design

According to Stellantis media guide, the Chrysler 3.6 liter Pentastar engine is a V6 engine with an aluminum head and block. The cylinders sit at a 60° angle, and the block is open-deck, deep-skirt, and die-cast. The engine has a structural windage tray to help complement the stiffness of the block, and it also reduces oil splashes on the crankshaft. Chrysler also gave it a structural aluminum oil pan. The cylinder head is aluminum and has a contoured composite nylon cover.

Chrysler also made the intake manifold out of nylon composite, which reduces weight and also helps with low-rumble tuning. The exhaust manifold is integrated into the cylinder head for weight reduction and to eliminate parts. The incinerable oil filter is located on the top of the block, for easy access, and also is supposed to eliminate oil spills. The engine’s firing order is 1-2-3-4-5-6.

The pistons have polymer-graphite-coated piston skirts and are select-fit. The connecting rods are forged steel, and the pistons also have oil squirters for cooling. The crankshaft is made from nodular iron.

Additionally, the unique design of the Pentastar allows it to fit in just about any drivetrain and transmission configuration you want. It can be used in both longitudinal and transverse orientations, as well as with FWD, AWD, and RWD drive-systems. It can also be used with both manual and automatic transmissions, ranging from 6 to 9-speeds.

The first generation of the 3.6 Pentastar engines were able to run on either E85 or gasoline. Drivers could even use 87 octane with any performance degradation on most models.

The exhaust manifold on the 3.6 Pentastar is actually integrated into the cylinder heads itself. This helps to reduce weight, save on costs, and does not adversely hurt performance.

The Pentastar Engines and NVH

Notably, reducing NVH was a significant goal of the design, so it has a “silent chain” timing drive. It uses inverted teeth to reduce sprocket noise and improve sprocket engagement, and is very effective. The non-traditional design also uses a total of four timing chains. One of them drives the oil pump, while the other three control the cams.

Pretty much all accessories are mounted directly onto the block which also serve to reduce NVH. This includes the A/C compressor and alternator, which helps increase stiffness.

The drivetrain is a dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) design, with four valves per cylinder for 24 valves total. It uses roller rocker arms and hydraulic lifters. The engine uses Chrysler’s variable valve timing (VVT) for improved fuel economy and power.

2016 Pentastar Updates

Beginning for the 2016 model year, Chrysler gave the 3.6 Pentastar engine some serious updates. They increased fuel economy and made peak torque available much earlier, and gave some models minimal horsepower increases. The VVT system was redesigned and upgraded to a “two-speed” system that can run in low-lift or high-lift modes. This helps optimize fuel economy and horsepower/torque.

Chrysler also introduced a redesigned intake manifold with longer runners and different valve timing. They raised compression from 10.3:1 up to 11.2:1, allowing again for better fuel economy and performance. All of this was done without adding any weight to the engine, which is already considered lightweight due to its aluminum block and head. Notably, the second generation 3.6 Pentastar is no longer flex fuel compatible, and can only run on blends of up to E15, in addition to gasoline.

The 3.6 Pentastar Hybrid

Beginning for the 2017 model year, Chrysler introduced the Pacific Hybrid, which features a 3.6 Pentastar as part of the drivetrain. This version of the Pentastar has a higher compression ratio (12.5:1), and runs on an Atkinson combustion cycle. This gives it improved gas mileage compared with other 3.6 Pentastars. Connected to the engine is a big plug-in lithium-ion battery and dual-electric motors, which can also power the wheels.

How Reliable is the 3.6 Pentastar V6?

The Pentastar engine series is widely considered to be extremely reliable. Chrysler has put it into more than 20 different models worldwide, and the fact that they are refining and improving it with upgrades shows they probably intend to keep it around for a while.

Incredibly, one driver managed to get a whopping 626,000 miles out of his 3.6 Pentastar before it needed a rebuild. When the engine was broken down, the internals showed some wear and tear, but not nearly what you would expect from something of that mileage. The only failure point was the plastic chain guides, which broke down, along with failed tensionsers. The engine skipped timing, but internally had still been holding up very well for the most part.

While we’re not suggesting every Pentastar 3.6 can go to that mileage, it is an indication of their longevity. These engines are easily capable of sailing past 150,000 miles, and 200,000 is not out of the question. Obviously, proper and timely maintenance is most important, but these engines can definitely take a beating.

Still, the engine is not without any issues at all, though they are relatively isolated and minor for the most part.

The 5 Most Common Pentastar Problems

Previously, we wrote a guide on the 4 Most Common Chrysler 3.6L Pentastar Problems. We’ll go over all of these problems here, as well as add one more, but if you want a little deeper detail be sure to check out the guide.

The most common 3.6 Pentastar engine problems are:

  • Cylinder Heads (only 2011-2013)
  • Rocker Arms
  • Cooling System
  • Oil Pump
  • Oil Filter Housing

The 5 most common 3.6 Pentastar engine problems are with the cylinder heads (2011-2013 only), rocker arms, cooling system, oil pump, and oil filter housing.

The problem with the cylinder heads was only on early Pentastars and primarily affected the left bank. The valve seats on the #2 cylinder would overheat and prematurely fail. Chrysler rectified these with harder valve guides in 2013, and also increased warranties to make up for costly repairs. These primarily affected Jeep Pentastar 3.6Ls.

The second issue was with the rocker arms. The problem was with missing or worn needle bearings that would cause them to collapse. Chrysler has since issued an updated part that is harder to collapse.

Cooling system-wise, the radiator and water pump are at times prone to failure. Apparently, sand deposits can build up in the system, leading to premature failure. This won’t apply to all climates and locations, but those with lots of sand (near beaches) might want to keep an eye on it.

Pentastar Oiling System Failures

The final two problems relate to the oiling system. First, the oil pumps can experience unexpected pressure loss at times, which can be a serious problem. Second, the oil filter housing has been known to leak. The incinerable oil filter is supposed to prevent this, but it has happened to many people anyways.

Most think it’s due to the plastic material used for the housing, which doesn’t hold up the best to repeated heat cycling. The gasket separating the filter from the aluminum block is what usually fails, and unfortunately there isn’t really a way to stop it from happening, other than replacing it when it fails.

Is the Pentastar reliable?

Even with these problems, we still consider the 3.6 Pentastar to be a very reliable engine. Don’t let these minor issues fool you, the Pentastar is capable of going for a lot of miles with proper maintenance and care. Not every Pentastar is going to hit the mark, but more often than not, you’ll see minimal repair costs in the long run on a Pentastar engine.

Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Engine Performance and Mods

3.6 Pentastar engine
Credit: TTTNIS/Wikipedia

From the factory, the 3.6 Pentastar isn’t exactly potent, but it’s definitely not anemic either. FCA rates the Pentastar at 283-305 horsepower and 251-269 lb-ft of torque, depending on the model. While that isn’t going to compete with the much larger 5.7 or 6.4 HEMI V8s, it is still a good number for 2023. However, if you really want to take your Pentastar powered Avenger, Charger, Challenger, Wrangler, Gladiator, or 300, to the next level, there are plenty of mod upgrades available.

The top 5 Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar mods are:

  • Upgraded Cold Air Intake
  • Upgraded Exhaust
  • Coil Packs
  • Tuning
  • Forced Induction

By far the most common upgrade and easiest way to add a little bit of power to your 3.6 Pentastar is an upgraded cold air intake. The factory location of the intake makes the stock airbox technically a cold air intake, but there are also aftermarket options. These options increase the filter size and reduce restriction, allowing for smoother and increased air flow.

Another common 3.6 Pentastar mod is upgrading the exhaust. On most naturally aspirated engines, upgrading the exhaust header(s) is the best option. But, the Pentastar engines have the exhaust manifold integrated into the cylinder heads. This means you can’t fit a new one on, but instead have to upgrade past the manifold where it meets the rest of the exhaust. However, replacing the stock catalytic converters with high flow cats or a catless exhaust will net some horsepower gains, as well as increase the exhaust volume.

Coil packs are also a common upgrade. Coil packs add horsepower by increasing the amount of energy used in the spark. They are typically better at heat resistance and increase horsepower, improve gas mileage, and make the engine more responsive. RIPP Superchargers makes one of the most recommended Pentastar coil packs on the market.

3.6 Pentastar Tuning

By far the best way to add lots of power to your 3.6 Pentastar is through ECU tuning and forced induction. ECU tuning is incredibly important, as it will also allow you to get the most gains out of your other bolt ons, like an upgraded intake and/or exhaust. Unfortunately, in order to do any tuning on the Chrysler Pentastars you need an unlocked PCM (powertrain control module), as Chrysler locks it from the factory. However, many tuners will supply an unlocked PCM as part of their tune.

For early Pentastars from 2011-2014, the best option is the Livernois Motorsports Throttle Enhancer. While this isn’t a full tune, it does allow for remapping of the throttle to make it more aggressive. These PCMs are harder to unlock, and thus a throttle enhancer is usually the easiest option for getting better response, though it won’t add horsepower.

For 2015-2022 3.6 Pentastars, you can get a Livernois Motorsports Custom Tune. This tune comes with an unlocked PCM and is also CARB certified with a registered EO ID number, making it 50 States emissions legal. Custom tuning is the best way to add power to your car without making hardware changes, and with the Livernois tune you should see increases of at least 20 horsepower and torque.

3.6 Pentastar Superchargers and Turbochargers

Finally, if you really want to take your 3.6 Pentastar to the next level, forced induction is the only way to go. Naturally aspirated, the engine will struggle to add more than 30-40 horsepower, even with full bolt-ons. If you want to put your Pentastar past 400 horsepower, you’ll need supplemental air induction.

Most people opt for the RIPP Supercharger Kits, which use centrifugal superchargers. These kits are very popular and well reviewed in the Pentastar community, and for good reason. They are very well engineered, reliable, and at a pretty competitive price point for their quality.

However, turbocharging is also an option. Actually, Chrysler was considering introducing both single and twin-turbo versions of the 3.6 Pentastar, but the plans never came to fruition. Still, the Pentastar has shown that it does well with boost, and you’re looking to make more than 500 horsepower, a turbo (or two) is probably a better option than a supercharger on a smaller engine like the 3.6 liter.

Whichever you choose, expect to easily make 400 horsepower with a small blower, and upwards of 500-600 horsepower with something bigger that is running more boost. At that point, you’ll want to look at upgrading other pieces like the pistons, and potentially look into things like head studs for better long block longevity.

Also Read: Problems with Chrysler 2.4 Tigershark World Gasoline Engine

Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar Engine Legacy

Overall, the Chrysler 3.6 Pentastar V6 engine is a very solid piece of engineering. It is reliable, makes good horsepower, has minimal maintenance and repair costs, and gets pretty good fuel economy. There is a reason FCA has put the 3.6 Pentastar into more than 20 models worldwide, and have sold more than 10 million of them worldwide.

There are a few common problems with the Pentastar engine, but most of them were resolved by the second generation, with the exception of the oil filter housing, which is still only a minimal issue. For the most part, the engine can be considered very reliable and meant for lots of mileage. And if you want to add mods, the Pentastar can definitely handle them, too. Even if you want to throw a big blower on there and shoot all the way to 500 horsepower, the Pentastar will willingly oblige.

Do you own a 3.6 Pentastar V6 engine? Let us know about any problems you have with them, or alternatively what your 3.6 Pentastar build looks like, in the comments below!

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  1. Quick question. I own a 2021 Grand Cherokee Overland High Altitude, 4×2, with the 3.6 V6. The HA has dual exhaust and appears to have true duals, but I haven’t looked under carefully. The window sticker notes that the engine is 3.6L V6 24V VVT Engine Upg 1 w/ ESS. Can you advise what the Upg 1 designates? Upgrade 1? Which tells me not a lot. I’ve researched but have been unable to determine what exactly test means. Thanks!

  2. Niles,
    From what I have researched, it appears that “UPG 1” refers to “Upgrade 1” and means the engine is the updated Gen 2 Pentastar. The ESS stands for “Engine Start-Stop,” which refers to the automatic shutting off the engine at times to save gas mileage.

    All the Best,

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