Occasionally, a nominee finds itself in the running for a Ward's 10 Best Engines award for reasons that extend well beyond the spec sheet. If the competition simply were a horsepower race, then several other high-output engines would have made the list.

The “package” must make sense from a cost and manufacturing perspective, and extra points are awarded if an engine turns an auto maker's powertrain strategy on its ear, for the better.

Chrysler Group LLC's all-new 3.6L Pentastar 60-degree DOHC V-6 is a perfect example. There are similarly sized V-6s making more horsepower, but few of them match the Pentastar's versatility in powering so many existing and new vehicles that are critical to Chrysler's future.

For its amazing utility, supreme NVH and smooth power delivery, the Pentastar V-6 wins Ward's 10 Best Engines honors in its first year of eligibility.

Starting with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, by the end of 2011 the Pentastar will power 10 vehicles, from sedans and coupes to minivans, SUVs and cross/utility vehicles, both rear- and front-wheel drive. By 2013, that number will grow to 13.

Says Editorial Director David Zoia: “The Pentastar is the refinement champ in its class.”

The Pentastar is the best modern engine Chrysler has produced.

DISPLACEMENT (CC): 3,605

BLOCK/HEAD MATERIAL: ALUMINUM/ALUMINUM

BORE × STROKE (MM): 96 × 83

HORSEPOWER (SAE NET): 283 @ 6,350 RPM

TORQUE: 260 LB.-FT. (353 NM) @ 4,400 RPM

SPECIFIC OUTPUT: 79 HP/L

SPECIFIC OUTPUT: 10.2:1

ASSEMBLY SITE: TRENTON, MI; SALTILLO, MEXICO

APPLICATION TESTED: '11 DODGE AVENGER

EPA CITY/HIGHWAY (MPG):: 19/29