The Ward's list of 10 Best Engines has been around for 18 years. Some consider it to be the benchmark for judging a vehicle more so than lists like North American Car and Truck of the Year, which are little more than popularity contests influenced by OEM launch programs and hype than how a vehicle really runs.
Well, Ward's list really looks at what drives a car. The list recognizes the latest powertrain technologies that are affordable to most consumers, boost horsepower and torque, sound appeal and pair up well with their respective vehicles. WardsAuto editors chose the winners after spending October and November driving 36 vehicles with 34 acquiring new or significantly upgraded engines in their routine daily commutes around metro Detroit.
This year's winners and the applications tested:
- 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V-6 (Audi A6)
- 2.0L N20 Turbocharged DOHC I-4 (BMW Z4/528i)
- 3.0L N55 Turbocharged DOHC I-6 (BMW 335i coupe)
- 3.6L Pentastar DOHC V-6 (Chrysler 300S/Jeep Wrangler)
- 2.0L EcoBoost DOHC I-4 (Ford Edge)
- 5.0L DOHC V-8 (Ford Mustang Boss 302)
- 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC I-4 (Buick Regal GS)
- 1.6L DOHC I-4 (Hyundai Accent/Kia Soul)
- 2.0L Skyactiv DOHC I-4 (Mazda3)
- 3.5L DOHC V-6 HEV (Infiniti M35h)
Car manufacturers quickly jumped on the designations. Chrysler crowed that its V-6 Pentastar, now standard on the Chrysler 200, 300 and Town & Country; Dodge Avenger, Challenger, Charger, Durango, Journey and Caravan; and 2012 Jeep Wrangler, was a repeat winner.
Mazda, which won for its Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine (pictured above) that features the world's highest compression ratio for a mass-produced vehicle at 14:1, (on par with the world's highest-performance racecars) touted the engine's EPA-estimated fuel economy is rated at 28 city/40 highway/33 combined.
Its fuel economy that is dominating the list with seven of the 10 engines having integrated state-of-the-art direct fuel injection, demonstrating the rapid pace of technology development as auto makers downsize their engines in anticipation of strict U.S. fuel-economy rules, according to a news release made available to TorqueNews. Drew Winter, editor-in-chief of WardsAuto World magazine, said, "With so many engines featuring gasoline direct-injection and forced induction, we're pleased to have a list that is rich in technology. Additionally, every engine reinforces the idea that even fuel-efficient vehicles must be fun to drive."
Sometimes, though, even less fuel efficient vehicles are fun to drive, which is why it's great to see the 5.0-liter, dual overhead cam V-8 from the Ford Mustang Boss 302 included on the list. More aggressive control calibration yields 440 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque for the Boss 302 engine compared to the Mustang GT.
The only hybrid engine to make the cut is the 3.5L dual overhead cam V-6 HEV offered in the Infiniti M35h. Offering 360 horsepower and 32 miles per gallon highway fuel economy, the Infiniti M Hybrid system utilizes an advanced 1-motor, 2-clutch parallel hybrid design and high-speed motor control technology to enable seamless transitions between the combustion engine and electric motor.
It could be compared somewhat to that Boss 302 engine at least in the hybrid world. It can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in under 6.0 seconds and is capable of driving at speeds of 62 miles per hour in pure electric mode.
The Ward's 10 Best Engines will be presented in Detroit during the North American International Auto Show. Complete stories and videos about the Ward's 10 Best Engines will be featured Jan. 3 on WardsAuto.com and in upcoming issues of WardsAuto World digital magazine and Ward's Engine & Vehicle Technology Update newsletter.
Keith Griffin has been writing continuously about new cars since 2002. He used to be the guide to used cars at former About.com as well as a contributor to The Boston Globe and Automotive Traveler. He is the founder and president of The Internet Car and Truck of the Year, where "Internet Pros and Average Joes" pick the car and truck of the year. Currently, Keith is the managing editor for American Business Media. Follow Keith at @indepthauto on Twitter.