I agree on many of your major points, Flowbee.
There are a lot of people out there who repeat what they see in corporate advertising. Low friction engine? What manufacturer doesn't seek to reduce friction? Sometimes they get it right, other times ring materials and tensions are too low and you end up with a chronic oil-burner (sound familiar to anyone?).
There has been very little transformative mechanical engine technology introduced in the past 30 years. The only exceptional thing that I can think of off the top of my head is BMW's magnesium & aluminum engine casting. The rest -- including critical engine tolerances -- isn't very much different than engines produced 10 or 20 years ago.
Sure configurations such as bore and stroke change, but this is mostly due to emissions requirements. Sure things like sintered metal matrices are used. Most of the time, these things are chosen and incorporated into new designs because they do the job at less cost to the manufacturer.
It's even a stretch to say that certain aspects of oil technology have changed for the better. Back in the days of SG and SH oils, additives such as ZDDP were used to impact some exceptional extreme pressure properties to motor oils. These were phased out over concern about catalytic converter poisoning. Not that that was such an issue, but it was that manufacturers wanted to use far less rhodium and platinum in catalytic converters in an effort to reduce cost.
: Being around "back in the day", I recall a landmark case between Mobil Oil and Castrol over what could be marketed as "synthetic". Mobil took the high ground (technically speaking) and insisted that truly a synthetic oil had to be engineered from at the molecular level. Castrol disagreed, seeking to formulate synthetic oil from conventional base stock (aka conventional oil). Castrol won the case, thereby allowing them (and others) to market less capable oils as "synthetic". Mobil, faced with competing on unequal terms (price-wise, due to the cost of what was then state of the art synthesis processes), switched most of its formulation to what then became the North American industry standard. (European Mobil, I understand, is still formulated the old-fashioned way which explains why its use is specified in very high performance applications.)
It all came clear to me after using Castrol back then. In like oil, out like water -- or so it seemed to me. In other words, the oil massively sheared back in viscosity. Fortunately, it was only in for one very brief period (I change my oil a lot). Sometimes you learn things doing a bit of research and having hands-on experience. Other times, you believe what the marketing guys say and learn the hard way. The choice is yours.
So newer isn't always better. Nor are the boasts of companies to be accepted on face value.
The issue of "thin oils" being all the rage is another example of corporate interests taking priority. Thin oils produce some very good EPA test results. Manufacturers say that their lower viscosities pump better at low temperature.
Any quality synthetic oil in the 5W30 or 10W30 range pours and pumps at incredibly low temperatures -- about the same as the zero-weight oils, plus or minus a few degrees. But many thin oils don't perform as well in extreme wear tests.
So unless you're operating your car in Kapuskasing (what has traditionally been the automotive industry's cold test location), zero-weight oils don't offer any practical value -- except, of course, to a manufacturer who is trying to squeeze an extra mpg out of its EPA test cycle.
Without a full understanding of the specs of these oils (especially extreme pressure and high temperature limits), owners subjecting their cars to hot conditions, towing, etc., are at a real disadvantage.
I'm not interested in debating this too much, as it is all available to those interested in doing the research themselves. What I will say, is that @FlowBee
make some very good points in their posts. Those who say that the 3.6 is a low(er) tech engine don't know much about engine technology. Those who say that "synthetic is synthetic" don't know much about how motor oil is actually formulated and why.