Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

Audi AG’s 2.0L TFSI turbocharged 4-cyl. has had little trouble in the past winning over Ward’s 10 Best Engines judges, garnering a spot on the list each of the last three years.

However, with the introduction of the all-new ’09 A4 range, the auto maker tempted fate by trying to improve upon what already is one of the best I-4s in production.

Fear not, as the revised TFSI turbo-4 once again fortifies Audi’s pioneering spirit in direct-gasoline injection and variable-turbocharger technology by claiming its fourth-consecutive 10 Best Engines award.

While the aforementioned injection/induction systems, along with variable valve timing, a 2-stage intake manifold and electric-like throttle response, made last year’s winner hard not to love, various improvements seriously up the ante for this mighty little 4-cyl.

Although the new engine eventually will work its way into numerous Volkswagen AG and Audi models, it currently does battle in a premium segment dominated by larger, more-powerful 6-cyl. mills.

For that duty, its 211 hp (at 5,300 rpm vs. last year’s 5,000 rpm) comes up a little short. Yet, with modifications (including an optimized turbocharger; variable exhaust-valve-lift technology; revised electronic controls; a lower compression ratio (9.6:1 vs. 10.3:1); and refined internal components), torque jumps significantly to 258 lb. ft. (350 Nm) and comes in 300 rpm earlier.

That’s an improvement of 11 hp and 51 lb.-ft. (69 Nm), with peak torque staying tabletop-flat from 1,500 to 4,200 rpm.

Several Ward’s judges chide Audi for being lazy in the area of initial turbo response and not delivering the best fuel economy.

In its defense, however, the engine is hitched to a torque-converter automatic transmission, and efficiency usually takes a back seat when exploring a turbocharger’s performance.

In the end, praise for the old engine rings true for the new: highly advanced development, a sporty, yet efficient, character and the ability to mimic the dynamics of a much larger powerplant.

“If this is the future; I’m on board,” says Drew Winter, editor-in-chief of Ward’s AutoWorld magazine.

And that very well may be the case, what with virtually every auto maker closely watching engine-downsizing trends as smaller cars and fuel-economy concerns become more relevant than chest-pounding horsepower figures.

With this second-generation TFSI engine, Audi shows its ability to lead by example, an example that portends the life still to be harnessed from the internal-combustion gasoline engine in the face of serious advancements in clean-diesel and hybrid-electric technology.

Ward’s 10 Best Engines is a copyright of Penton Media Inc. Commercial references to the program and/or awards are prohibited without prior permission of Ward’s Automotive Group.