Kez Casey | Nov 1, 2016

Mercedes-Benz has dipped into the past to protect the future with a new family of fuel-efficient engines.

The German car maker has revealed details of its new modular engine family, which includes the return of a straight six cylinder configuration.

It will be joined by new four cylinder variants, a diesel six cylinder and petrol V8 that share a common architecture including 90mm bore spacing and can be paired with electrification systems ranging from 12 volt to 48 volt, opening the door to 'mild' hybrid options across the range.

A planned 2017 update to the S-Class range will see the new powertrain systems rolled out before spreading across the Mercedes-Benz vehicle line-up.

The new petrol six-cylinder engine, codenamed M256, sees a return to an inline-six format while introducing new technologies including a 48 volt electrical system which dispenses with the need for belt-driven engine ancillaries, replacing items like the water pump and air conditioning compressor to high-voltage electric control.

The engine also features an electric auxiliary compressor for the turbocharger to reduce turbo lag and improve performance, with Mercedes-Benz claiming it generates V8-rivalling performance - with outputs of over 300kW and 500Nm - with far better fuel economy.

Mercedes-Benz is also introducing its most powerful passenger car diesel engine with the new OM656 straight six diesel. Maintaining the same 500cc per cylinder capacity as the rest of the modular family, the new diesel delivers a 230kW output while using seven percent less fuel than the outgoing V6 diesel. Technical highlights include stepped-bowl combustion, two-stage exhaust turbocharging, Camtronic variable valve timing and Nanoslide-coated cylinder walls.

A new four-litre M176 V8 engine rounds out the range, with targeted outputs of 350kW (up from the 335kW output of the current 4.7 litre engine). With twin turbochargers mounted in the valley between the cylinder banks, cylinder deactivation for low-load driving (shutting down four cylinders when not required) and Camtronic valve timing for reduced pumping losses and greater efficiency.

Mercedes-Benz hasn't neglected its four-cylinder engine range either with the new M264 range targeting a 100kW per litre output, as well as being compatible with the new 48 volt electrical system, twin scroll turbocharging, and a new particulate exhaust filter, which will also appear on the other new petrol engines.

The new engine family represents part of an ongoing €3 billion (A$4.3 billion) investment in combustion engine technology by Mercedes-Benz, and is set to be joined by a range of electric options as part of Mercedes' upcoming EQ range of electric vehicles.

The new engines will be rolled out first in the updated S-Class range next year, and will spread through the range in a series of rolling updates.

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