Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800. - CamaroZ28.Com Message Board


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Old 11-07-2010, 04:31 PM   #1  
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Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

I've been driving our 56K mile 2000 LeSabre for the past couple of days. It's been in our family since new, and now is used by my son for school/work.

Anyway, I got a chance to get reaquainted with it's admirable Buick 3800 V6 again. Such a sweet motor, in some respects more pleasant than the 3.6 in my CTS.
Smooth and full of low end torque. Feels alittle like a smaller displacement TPI smallblock. Sure, it doesn't have anywhere near the techology of a new 3.6 - no DI, no DOHC, no 4 valves, no variable cams. But it's got smooth, low end grunt.

I wonder though, if GM had continued the 3800's development, with new heads, direct injection, aluminum block, variable cam phasing, DoD, etc., what it might feel like. I betcha great....and for dirt cheap compared to a HFV6.

Last edited by Z284ever; 11-07-2010 at 04:40 PM.
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Old 11-07-2010, 04:39 PM   #2  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

I wish they would have, the 3800 was pretty much bullet proof. If they would of only developed a better intake design and heads it would of been even better
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Old 11-07-2010, 04:51 PM   #3  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

If they went that far (new block, new heads, etc.) they'd have a new engine anyway.

Plus a 90 degree V angle (a result of it being derived from an old Buick V8, much like the 4.3L V6 from the old SBC) is not ideal for balance / smoothness. Hence the balance shaft. (Though I was surprised to read that the Porsche Panamera just got a new 90 deg V6 based on its V8.)

The 3800 is smooth and torquey, but I'd much rather have a new cammer V6. They still make plenty of torque down low, and they also have the ability to spin to 7000 rpm, give or take, and make some nice horsepower (and sounds).

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Old 11-07-2010, 04:52 PM   #4  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

Why did GM ditch the pushrod V6? Buyer perception that a cam-in-block pushrod V6 would have been somehow inferior? I think a pushrod V6 based on LSx tech but using a 60 degree bank angle would have been pretty cool.
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Old 11-07-2010, 05:08 PM   #5  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

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If they went that far (new block, new heads, etc.) they'd have a new engine anyway.

Plus a 90 degree V angle (a result of it being derived from an old Buick V8, much like the 4.3L V6 from the old SBC) is not ideal for balance / smoothness. Hence the balance shaft. (Though I was surprised to read that the Porsche Panamera just got a new 90 deg V6 based on its V8.)

The 3800 is smooth and torquey, but I'd much rather have a new cammer V6. They still make plenty of torque down low, and they also have the ability to spin to 7000 rpm, give or take, and make some nice horsepower (and sounds).

All good points Joe. And true about 90* vs 60*, but with the balance shafts, it just plain works. You're also right about the revs, the 3800 is all in by 5000 RPM, where the 3.6 has a couple more thousand RPM's in it's range. The problem with the 3.6 is, that yes, you can rev it, but it doesn't make you feel like it likes being revved.
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Old 11-07-2010, 07:05 PM   #6  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

I'm with you, Charlie...I love 3800s. Yes, they have all the aural attractiveness of a washing machine...but the damn motors just work. I will admit to prematurely wearing the tires off my wife's GTP by having too much fun with the L67

Then again, based on my sig its pretty obvious that I'm attracted to simple, proven technology. I agree the balance shafts quiet it, the design makes it nice and torquey, the MPG is strong, and with an s/c it hangs with most anything modern.

Ours has 42k on it. Other than replacing a seeping intake gasket, I can't see having any other issues with it for years to come...
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Old 11-07-2010, 07:12 PM   #7  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

I had a 3800 for a while when I owned my 2000 V6 Firebird. It was a torquey motor and has some nice kick off of the line. However, it felt like it fell flat on its face around 4500 RPM. It did pretty well as far as gas mileage went, especially back in the day. Too bad it sounded horrible with an exhaust, although I was young at the time and threw on a Borla Cat-back anyway. It sounded decent until about 3000 RPM, then it got raspy and just crappy sounding .

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Old 11-07-2010, 08:22 PM   #8  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

Yeah, when I owned my '01 GP GT, the last thing I ever planned to do was a catback. I've NEVER heard a good sounding 3800!
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Old 11-07-2010, 08:41 PM   #9  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

3800 was a great engine. I wish they used it instead of the 3.4L in the 05-09 Equinox.
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Old 11-08-2010, 10:40 AM   #10  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

Best car I've ever owned was my stipped down 3800 powered 5 speed 01 Camaro. Got me through college when I was commuting and driving over 400 miles a week. I've never been a fan of OHC engines. I'd have loved to see the 3800 reworked and kept around.
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Old 11-08-2010, 01:13 PM   #11  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

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I had a 3800 for a while when I owned my 2000 V6 Firebird. It was a torquey motor and has some nice kick off of the line. However, it felt like it fell flat on its face around 4500 RPM. It did pretty well as far as gas mileage went, especially back in the day. Too bad it sounded horrible with an exhaust, although I was young at the time and threw on a Borla Cat-back anyway. It sounded decent until about 3000 RPM, then it got raspy and just crappy sounding .
Ditto. Even though redline was 6000RPM, the torque and power were dropping off up there. It was somewhat undercammed, and needed an update to the heads and the intake manifold. However, the biggest problem going forward would have been the 90* angle... requiring the split pin crank and balance shaft. Doesn't really make sense to keep a 90* V6 around when you have 60* motors.

I think the 3.6L is a lot better than the 3.8L. Sometimes I am nostalgic for it, but I would rather have the 3.6L. Adding all of that technology to the 3800 wouldn't have made much sense economically, and they would have been crucified for the NVH.
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Old 11-08-2010, 01:32 PM   #12  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

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The problem with the 3.6 is, that yes, you can rev it, but it doesn't make you feel like it likes being revved.
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I think the 3.6L is a lot better than the 3.8L. Sometimes I am nostalgic for it, but I would rather have the 3.6L.
I've driven a 3.8L Series II, a 3.8L Series II S/C and a 3.8L Series III in GPs and the 3.0L and 3.6L in the newer CTSs.

The Series III 3.8 (and newer Grand Prix) felt numb and dead behind the wheel. The earlier 97-04 bodystyle is much more alive, and while the GTP I still own has plenty of low end oomph, it isn't a really refined engine. I do enjoy it greatly, and mpg is respectable. I'd love to swap an L67 into a lot of different vehicles.

However, between the newer 3.0L DOHC and 3.6L DOHC, I'd almost rather have a slightly smaller [lighter] car and the 3.0L. The 3.6L just seems like it revs cause you order it to, where the 3.0L just revs fast and hard because it wants to. I have yet to find a pair of 3.6L and 3.0L cars with manual transmissions to drive around back to back, but I had the chance to drive both with automatics and the 3.0L was my favorite. I didn't even know which engine was which when I made that decision.

Does anyone else feel the same way? While we're talking 60 degree engines in GM's current lineup...
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Old 11-08-2010, 01:39 PM   #13  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

Seems to me that the sound quality of some engines can vary from application to application. In one car, reviewers will praise an engine for its sewing machine smoothness. In another car, the same engine will be criticized for being gritty.

One engine that does seem to get a lot of flack for sounding coarse at higher revs is the Nissan VQ, though even that one is sometimes lauded by a reviewer here and there.

I've seen the GM ecotecs praised and panned, depending on the vehicle (and / or the reviewer). I personally find them to be very smooth 4 cylinders, easily nicer than the 4 cylinder in the Prius I drove a while back, while perhaps not as nice as some of the Honda 4s I've driven.

I've driven the 3.6L in a few applications, though it has been a while for most of them. I don't remember anything objectionable when I drove a Malibu with the 3.6L / six speed, and it left an overall positive impression on me (but I don't remember feeling one way or the other about its sound). I do know that I thought it sounded pretty solid and refined (and felt ballsy) in the 5th gen Camaro I rented a few months ago.

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Old 11-08-2010, 02:10 PM   #14  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

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Originally Posted by Z284ever View Post
Anyway, I got a chance to get reaquainted with it's admirable Buick 3800 V6 again. Such a sweet motor, in some respects more pleasant than the 3.6 in my CTS.
Smooth and full of low end torque. Feels alittle like a smaller displacement TPI smallblock. Sure, it doesn't have anywhere near the techology of a new 3.6 - no DI, no DOHC, no 4 valves, no variable cams. But it's got smooth, low end grunt.
I regularly drive both my 2000 Bonneville (with the 3800) and my 2009 Aura (with the 3.6), and I couldn't agree more with this analysis. The Aura is a fine car, and it's easily the faster of the two cars (weight is similar in both, ~3600), but the Bonneville's low-end torque and smooth delivery make it a pleasure to drive.

I'd love a modernized 3800 paired with the 6-speed auto from the Aura.
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Old 11-08-2010, 02:14 PM   #15  
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Re: Modern 3.6 vs the venerable 3800.

I'd bet that the 3.6L makes more low end torque (except perhaps from idle to, say, ~1200-1500 rpm) than does the 3800.

I know what you guys mean, though. A coworker has an early- to mid-'90s Olds 88 for a butt hauler, and it is still a commendably smooth, pleasant package with 170k+ miles. I'd still rather have the 3.6L.
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