15

The term "W-16" seems to imply some sort of configuration that resembles the letter W, which implies three banks of cylinders with one sharing a common cylinder head. In fact, the Bugatti W-16 in the Veyron is probably more accurately a double-V-16, with the two V's having different angles. So...was there any reason someone (possibly the Volkswagen group) decided to call this configuration a W-16?

Edit: The connecting rod configuration of the Veyron W-16 from the front looks something like this:
W-16 Configuration
Not much like the letter W.

  • It is just like two V8s strapped together. Two engines in a V configuration (i.e. V V) make a W shape with the cylinders. – Max Goodridge Jan 20 '16 at 18:15
  • See...that's what first confused me about the "W" designation; I thought the apex of the middle of the "W" represented another cylinder head, so three in total. I think double-V would be less confusing, but that's just me. – BillDOe Jan 20 '16 at 18:21
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    The letter "W" is only called "Double-U" in English. Other languages, such as French, Spanish, and Italian, call this letter "Double-V." – Ben Miller - Reinstate Monica Jan 20 '16 at 18:32
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    That's quality trivia @BenMiller :-) I hope I don't sound like I'm minimizing it by calling it trivia either. Love factoids like that. – DucatiKiller Jan 20 '16 at 18:35
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    +1 DucatiKiller for finding a reasonable way to use the word factoid twice in one post :-) – cdunn Jan 20 '16 at 21:57
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I'm by no means an expert, but found an interesting article on Wikipedia about the W engine that indicates the W being a relatively recent addition to the automotive world, but not the aircraft/motorcycle worlds: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W_engine

Three different configurations have been called W engines:

  • Three banks of cylinders sharing a common crankshaft, a configuration also known as broad arrow configuration due to its shape resembling the British government broad arrow property mark.

  • Four banks of cylinders sharing a common crankshaft, also called a 'double-V'.

  • Two banks of cylinders with two crankshafts.

[...]

The classical W engine uses three banks of cylinders, all connected to one crankshaft.

[...]

One of the first W engines was the Anzani 3-cylinder, built in 1906, to be used in Anzani motorcycles.

[...]

The 1917 Napier Lion aircraft engine was an early W12 engine.

Most of the rest of the article calls that the W engine, and calls the Veyron engine a double-V (specifically a double-VR6) engine.

Looks like double-V started becoming known in the 1930-40 range. There's a mention in that article of a couple double-V (W12 and W24) aircraft engines becoming known about then(in addition to DucatiKiller's mention of the Auto Union Type-C).

That Anzani 3-cylinder is the first mention that I could find of a W. As far as that W engine, it does look like what you were mentioning (3 cylinder banks) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anzani_3-cylinder_fan_engines. The Napier Lion looks like that too.

  • Winner winner chicken dinner :-) Great research, great answer. – DucatiKiller Jan 21 '16 at 7:03
13

I think I know

If you want citations, I have already failed you.

You Asked

Was there any reason someone (possibly the Volkswagen group) decided to call this configuration a W-16?

Answer

Maybe.

Looking at this picture you can see the various designs and names of ICE platforms created by VW.

If you take a V and push into another V it looks like this.

VV Which looks like a W, hence the name.

enter image description here

Trivia

The oldest W-16 configuration that I can find is the Auto Union Type-C from 1936. Auto Union was one of the founding components of Audi AG. Here it is.

enter image description here

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