I just dug up some Whirlpool documentation that indicates that the 3 pad design is a "better" design. It states:
3-PAD CLUTCH BAND A design change to the clutch band assembly is being made on all direct drive washers, beginning with code date CG14 (April 1998). This change will reduce the number of friction pads from six (6) to three (3), and also change the clutch spring rate for some models. The change will provide a higher and more consistent torque to the clutch housing, which will minimize the time for the washer to obtain full spin speed, and reduce the potential for “squealing noise” complaints. The new part consists of a three (3) pad clutch band assembly, and a new (red) spring for all current and previous extra capacity washers and 27-inch laundry systems. The current (black) spring will continue to be used for large capacity washers and 24-inch laundry systems. The old and new parts are interchangeable when the correct spring is used. Service kits will include both the red and black springs and an instruction sheet. The new 3-pad clutch will be substituted as soon as the service parts for the 6-pad clutch are gone.