DETROIT — Ward's editors always hate to part with our 10 Best Engines long-term test vehicles, because that means we're parting with one of the year's 10 Best Engines.

Audi AG's 2001 A4 Avant and its sparkling 1.8L turbocharged DOHC I-4 will be particularly missed, though: After logging a grand total of 38,567 miles (61,707 km), the entire Ward's staff is universally delighted with Audi's brilliant 1.8T engine.

The tiny 1.8T's 170 hp and snappy 166 lb.-ft. (225 Nm) of torque just never seemed to stop coming. Combined with smart gearing from the 5-speed manual transmission and the light-pressure turbo, the 1.8T always delivered satisfying thrust — an attribute we seldom apply to small-displacement engines, turbocharged or not.

“The power's always ready when you are,” writes one editor in the A4 Avant's logbook. “Particularly in high elevations, where this car leaves almost everything else behind.”

Although the small displacement meant the 1.8T sometimes cruised at high rpm — 85 mph (137 km/h) chalked up around 3,800 rpm on the tach — the engine never emitted excessive vibration or buzziness, despite the fact that with Audi's unique 5-valve/per cylinder valvetrain, there's a lot of reciprocating action in that cylinder head.

The only real driveability problem of consequence came from the fact that at higher road speeds, the higher engine speed typical of the 1.8T meant that the engine was unnaturally sensitive to throttle inputs. We understand this likely will be eradicated when the Volkswagen/Audi brands upgrade to 6-speed manuals across the board, beginning sometime next year.

2001 Audi A4 1.8T Avant quattro
Engine: 1.8L (1,781 cc) turbo-charged DOHC I-4; iron block/aluminum head
H.P. (SAE net): 170 @ 5,900 rpm
Torque: 166 lb.-ft. (225 Nm) @ 1,950 rpm
Compression ratio: 9.3:1
Specific output 94 hp/L
Date delivered: 4-11-01
Total miles/miles covered in this report: 38,567/9,307
Overall MPG: 27.2
Total maintenance cost: $0

Nobody's complaining about the 27.2 mpg (8.6L/100 km) fuel economy in nearly 40,000 miles (64,000 km), either. Many editors consider the 1.8T's fuel economy as a bonus, considering its stout performance.

And to round out a rewarding year with a remarkably versatile engine, Audi's 3-year/50,000-mile (80,000-km) “Advantage” warranty paid for all routine maintenance costs. The only warranty work required was the replacement of a single bulb in a taillight cluster. So Ward's ran this car for a year and 38,567 miles and paid for nothing except fuel. Good deal, we figure, particularly considering that the long-term A4 1.8T Avant, with its standard quattro all-wheel drive and a few other options, carried a highly reasonable MSRP of $29,265.

Not once in a year's worth of driving did the 1.8T engine expel a drop of fluid or even insinuate that anything was other than totally in order. Nothing broke. The engine — and the car — ran with the absolute perfection one comes to expect of premium machinery.

The Audi 1.8T — a three-time 10 Best Engines winner — proved to be just that.