How sad, the decline of the naturally aspirated V-6. For years the lifeblood of American motoring, this workhorse has been sent to pasture to nibble carrots and walk a circle with snot-nosed kids in the saddle.

Oh, there are lots of naturally aspirated V-6s still in service today, such as General Motors’ 3.6L, Toyota’s 3.5L and Nissan’s 3.5L and 3.7L VQ, which collectively have won 20 Ward’s 10 Best Engines trophies since 1995. The VQ made the list a stunning 14 years in a row but has received only moderate tweaks along the way. The last clean-sheet VQ engineering came when George Bush was in office – the first one.

Chrysler probably gets credit for the most recent ground-up V-6 program, the Pentastar, which won 10 Best Engines honors in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Yes, GM gave us the 4.3L last year, but that was derived from the small-block V-8 program for pickups. It doesn’t quite count.

So why isn’t the industry giving us fantastic new naturally aspirated 6-cyl. engines? Blame CAFE. Engineering budgets can stretch only so far, and automakers have discovered a turbocharged 4-cyl. can deliver the same, if not better, performance.

Which brings us to our case study, Honda’s supremely capable 3.5L SOHC V-6, which has made our list the past two years. Earlier versions earned trophies in 2005, 2008 and 2009. Even without direct fuel injection, which is sweeping across the industry in nearly all new engine programs, this V-6 has dazzled us with supreme smoothness, cool confidence and serious-as-a-heart-attack midrange.