10 Types of Car Engines (For 2021)

Car engines differ in many ways since they also vary in capabilities. There are different types according to engine layout and cylinder configurations. In total, we can sum it up into ten types.

The ten types of car engines fall into two categories. Straight, Inline, Flat, and V Engine are the different types according to the layout. The other six types are according to cylinder configurations. They are Twin, Three, Four, Five, Six, and Eight Cylinders and above.

In this article, we’ll walk you through each of these ten types of car engines. This way, you’ll understand their characteristics and know how they work.

Types of Car Engines

What Are Types of Car Engines?

There are two categories where we can differentiate each car engine. They are engine types according to layout and cylinder configuration.

Here is a rundown of all ten car engine types:

Type of Car Engine according to layout

  • Straight Engine
  • Inline Engine
  • Flat Engine
  • V Engine

Type of Car Engine according to Cylinder Configuration

  • Twin Cylinders
  • Three Cylinders
  • Four Cylinders
  • Five Cylinders
  • Six Cylinders
  • Eight Cylinders and Above

Whether you’re a car enthusiast who wants to know more about each engine, or you’re simply a regular car buyer who wants to know which car suits you best, this article will give you the information you need.

Let’s get into it!

Types of Car Engines According to Layout

When it comes to modern combustion engines, they usually have similar essential parts. Thus, you may see parts such as chambers, spark plugs, pistons, etc.

However, such parts would differ in location, as they are in different places according to the layout.

The engine layouts usually differ depending on the car’s goal. For instance, smaller cars will need an engine that takes up less space.

Below are the four different car engines according to the layout.

Straight Engine

In this layout, all the cylinders are in a linear place. Further, the engine is parallel to the car’s length.

In short, the engine goes from the front of the engine bay to the back. In this layout, the engine can have more cylinders.

Such a layout is usually applicable in more powerful sedans. One thing to note is that some people think of the straight engines as the same with inline.

Straight Engine

Inline Engine

In this layout, cylinders appear in a straight row. Thus, it begs similarity with a straight engine.

The difference between the two starts is in the placement. While it’s also straight, it doesn’t go from front to back.

Instead, it is perpendicular to the car. Thus, it goes from the engine bay’s left side to the right. Some users might describe the cylinders as side by side.

Such a layout is applicable for engines purposely built to be small. Moreover, it frees up a larger space around the engine.

As a result, it gives space for components like the cooling system and the car battery. You can find such an engine layout in hatchbacks and family cars.

Inline Engine

Flat Engine

Flat engines come as flat as possible. Sometimes, users call it a boxer engine due to its cylinders laid flat in both directions.

Further, both sides will have cylinders positioned in a way that the pistons are outwards.

As a result, it keeps the car’s center of gravity low. Thus, it makes the car much easier to handle.

Flat Engine

V Engine

The V engine has its cylinders arranged in a V-shape. In a way, this option is to combine the benefits of the layouts we stated above.

The V layout enables the car to fit more cylinders despite a smaller space. For this reason, the V engine usually appears in luxury high-performance vehicles.

Now that we tackled the four types of engines according to layout let’s go into the types according to cylinder configurations.

V Engine

Engine types according to Cylinder Configurations

The number of cylinders affects the engine’s power output and fuel efficiency. With this in mind, car enthusiasts look thoroughly at this component.

Below is the list of the few standard engine cylinder configurations.

Twin Cylinders

The twin cylinders are typical for four-wheeled vehicles, and it’s more like the basic engine. While there are engines with only one cylinder, these are likely the scooters and motorcycles.

When it comes to cars, the twin cylinders are like the basic types. Since it’s the most basic, you’ll find these engines with meager power in output.

Twin Cylinders Engine

Three Cylinders

A three-cylinder engine is also another type found in smaller cars. Some manufacturers add an extra to a twin-cylinder engine as a turbocharged version.

One of the cars that have this engine is the Ford Focus. It has a higher power output than a regular three-cylinder engine. Moreover, it maintains excellent fuel efficiency.

Three Cylinders Engine

Four Cylinders

The four-cylinder engine is one of the most common cylinder configurations in the current market. In general, these four cylinders appear in an inline type.

This kind of layout allows the engine to take up lesser space. As a result, you’ll see such an engine type in economical car designs. These cars are the ones that balance size and power for daily and casual usage.

Four Cylinders Engine

Five Cylinders

This type of engine is a little rare. However, it’s famous forconsider having a unique sound that it produces as it runs.

For instance, some people describe it as having a warbling sound. It comes as a result of having five cylinders firing in an unusual order.

This type of engine is rare, and so you may only find it in specific makes and models. Among the brands that make such models are Audi and Volvo.

If you want to hear a five-cylinder sound, a quick trip to youtube will give you an example.

Five Cylinders Engine

Six Cylinders

Like the previous engine, the six-cylinder engine also makes a unique sound. However, the sound it makes is high-pitched, kind of like the sound of race cars.

This type of engine usually appears on high-end vehicles. Moreover, all the six cylinders might be in a straight layout. However, you can also find it in V Engines.

Six Cylinders Engine

Eight Cylinders and Above

If you don’t notice yet, having more cylinders means more power or higher performance. Further, you’ll see that the cars with more cylinders are getting pricier or on the luxury side.

For this reason, having eight cylinders or more would mean higher performance. Thus, you’ll usually see eight or more cylinders in racing cars and supercars. You can even find it in luxury sedans.

Eight Cylinders Engine


In a nutshell, we can take a look at every type of car engine by layout or by cylinder configuration.

If you look at car engines by layout, you’ll see four different types. They are Straight Engine, Inline Engine, Flat Engine, and V Engine.

If you will consider the cylinder configuration, you’ll find six car engine types. They are the twin, three, four, five, six, and eight or more cylinders.

Note that the type of engines depends on the function and purpose of the user. If you’re looking for a car, it would be best to know your preference first before choosing a car’s engine.

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Image credits – Canva

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My name is Hank, and I've been in the automotive industry for 27 years. I've been working in my own auto repair shop for the last 13 years, and now I want to help you here, on my blog. Let me know if you have any questions. Read more