2017 10 Best Engines: Separated at Birth

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The trio of 2.0L, direct-injected turbocharged gasoline engines that power the Audi A4, Mercedes C300 and BMW 330i could have come from the same mold.

Except they didn’t, and there are some subtle differences.

Audi puts the accent very much on performance, with its 4-cyl.’s output of 252 hp and 273 lb.-ft. (370 Nm) of torque the highest-rated of the three. Coupled with a reactionary throttle, the Audi 2.0L delivers its power in a brutally efficient manner, giving the A4 the edge in off-the-line jump.

But the BMW doesn’t lack in the sporty driving department either. Punch the accelerator and the 330i’s 4-cyl. elicits a satisfying growl and quickly spools up the turbo to access its more-than-adequate 248 hp and 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) of torque.

What’s surprising is it does so without guzzling the gas. Among the three performance sedans, the 330i is the most fuel-efficient by far. Rated at 25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km) overall by the EPA, we manage an economy-car-like 28.0 mpg (8.4 L/100 km) with multiple drivers over more than 400 miles (644 km) of mixed driving during our 10 Best Engines testing. That easily surpasses the 21.3 mpg (11.0 L/100 km) we register in the A4.

The C300, meanwhile, aims squarely at the Goldilocks Zone, succeeding in striking a near-optimal balance between performance, luxury and efficiency. The Mercedes 2.0L is last among the three with a rating of just 241 hp. But its 273 lb.-ft. of torque matches the A4’s, and we find, on the road, this engine punches way above its weight class.

Although fuel economy falls a tad short of the 330i’s, we still net an impressive 26.4 mpg (8.9 L/100 km) in the C300.

Our test cars were priced less than $7,000 apart, ranging from just over $47,000 for the BMW at the low end to just under $55,000 for the Mercedes at the top.

All three turbo-4s are amazingly refined, and only the finer points separate these three luxury sedans in the powertrain department. So take your pick; it’s impossible to go wrong.

dzoia@wardsauto.com @DavidZoia

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Jan 18, 2018
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