It's 10 Best Engines time again, readers, this time with a twist: the best engines with which to start a new century.

Okay, those who are wrapped too tightly insist that Jan. 1, 2000, isn't the start of a new century, so we're not going to beat the Y2K pony any further. Let's just say that it certainly seems like a new era is at least approaching - heck, a production hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) was barely nudged out of a place on this year's 10 Best Engines list!

This is the sixth year for the annual Ward's 10 Best Engines awards and the rules haven't changed. To be eligible, an engine must be in a regular production vehicle available in the U.S. with a base price of less than $50,000. Six Ward's editors "nominate" engines they believe stand out from the everyday crowd of car-movers, then that group of nominees is judged head-to-head to derive the 10 Best. No categories, no in-class comparisons, no quarter asked, none given. It's every engine for itself.

For 2000, whittling the list of 33 nominees to just 10 seemed more difficult than in the past. Ward's 10 Best Engines judges found the "performance" (for lack of a better term) gap between merely good and supremely great engines to be ever-narrowing.

This Years 10 Best Engines

* Audi AG 2.7L Twin-turbo DOHC V-6

* BMW AG 3.2L DOHC I-6

* DaimlerChrysler AG 3.2L SOHC V-6

* Ford Motor Co. 5.4L Triton SOHC V-8/5.4L supercharged

* Ford Motor Co. 3.9L DOHC V-8

* General Motors Corp. 3.5L Twin Cam V-6

* Honda Motor Co. Ltd. 2L DOHC I-4

* Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. "VQ" 3L DOHC V-6

* Porsche AG 3.2L DOHC H-6

* Toyota Motor Corp. 4L DOHC V-8