Gallery of Enigmatic VW W10 Engine Prototype Surfaces on Facebook

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By Car Brand Experts

Allow me to pose a query: Are you familiar with the concept of a W10 engine? Not a V10 or a W12, but a W10. Reportedly, Volkswagen crafted a few experimental models many years ago. Unexpectedly, a prototype of the elusive W10 engine has suddenly emerged, and its possessor is keen to unravel its past and explore mechanisms to set it in motion. However, they’ve encountered a roadblock, and their optimism is pinned on the hope that someone out there possesses the knowledge they are seeking.

Having delved into the depths of the internet and contacted VW for any potential information on this enigmatic W10, I believe I have formulated a rudimentary understanding of the engine’s purpose and the requisites for its functionality. Nonetheless, let us not jump to conclusions prematurely.

Unveiling the backstory of the W10 entails rewinding the clock all the way back to 1991, to the genesis of VW’s VR6 engine.

3.2-liter VW VR6 engine
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3.2-liter VW VR6 engine. Volkswagen

In essence, the VR6 represents a six-cylinder engine that is shorter than an inline-six, yet slimmer than a traditional V6. This is attributed to its configuration as a V6 compressed into a 15-degree cylinder bank, necessitating just a solitary cylinder head. This design enables more cylinders and displacement to be housed within a compact engine bay, rendering the VR6 more suitable for smaller vehicles than a conventional V6, thereby optimizing the packaging for a high-performance automobile.

Subsequently, VW expanded on this concept with the W engine, uniting two VR engines at the crank to birth W8, W12, and even the renowned W16 engines of Bugatti. However, the inception of the W10 marked a deviation; a shift towards downsizing.

Building upon the VR6 foundation, VW crafted a pint-sized 2.3-liter VR5, manufactured from 1997 to 2006. These five-cylinder powertrains featured iron blocks and aluminum heads, initially sporting two valves per cylinder, subsequently upgraded to four alongside variable valve timing. Powering models like the Golf, New Beetle, Passat, and Bora, they churned out 168 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, albeit exclusively in select markets, within a decadal timeframe. The rationale appears evident: modest power output in relation to engine displacement, yet intricate, thus complicating maintenance. (It held the second briefest lifespan among the VR and W engine lineup, second only to the W8, which endured for three years.)

Prior to discontinuing the VR5, VW concocted a W engine derivative—the W10. Vestiges of the W10 conjecture can be found in a VW service training manual from August 2001, Self-Study Programme 248: The W Engine Concept. It posits “a W10 engine comprised of two VR5 engines” as a plausible scenario.


The document elaborates on the merits specific to a 72-degree W10, highlighting its absence of crankpin offset to maintain a synchronized firing sequence. VW thought it necessary to include these passages in a U.S. reprint of the document in February 2002. The motive behind VW deeming it crucial for technicians to grasp this concept potentially ties back to talks of a variant of the Phaeton luxury sedan purportedly in the works at that time.

While the original narrative has faded into obscurity, an archived forum post from May 2003 on VW Vortex cites details from The Detroit News, reporting on a potential elongated Phaeton model. Allegedly, one of the powertrain options consisted of a W10 engine, alongside a V12 (although the final selection for the Phaeton was a W12). These powerhouses were earmarked solely for automatic transmissions, propelling both extended-wheelbase and extravagant stretch limo variations.

Evidently, no W10 Phaetons were ever presented, and the Phaeton has been inactive for years – the W12 recently united with it. Nevertheless, VW seems to have prepared the foundation for a W10 Phaeton as one of its experimental engines (or at least most of its components) is still in existence today.

The sole recognized VW W10 engine known to exist is currently in the possession of a skilled VW technician in Germany, who recently posted images of the dismantled engine on the internet.

Instagram. Ari, known by this name, informed me that he obtained the engine back in 2011 from a customer who asserted that they had rescued it from being “destroyed” in Wolfsburg (where VW has its headquarters). As per Ari’s information, his engine was one of three, while the fate of the remaining two engines remains unknown. Regrettably, that’s the extent of the knowledge available on the W10 model.

“It’s extremely challenging to locate any details about the W10 on the [internet],” shared Ari. “The unfortunate aspect is the absence of spare components for it,” he remarked, expressing his desire to see it operational once more.”

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