Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

Judges’ Remarks

Being a Ward’s 10 Best Engines judge is like being that guy on ABC’s The Bachelor.

(Yes, I admit watching a few episodes. My daughter kept hiding the remote, OK?)

On the show, this mimbo dates a different woman every night, gushes to each how he could spend his life with her and then gives roses to his favorites.

When he runs out of roses, he stands there like a dork – face to tear-streaked face with the women he spurned (usually toothy kindergarten teachers to whom he professed undying love 24 hours earlier).

Substitute the women for cars and you know how it feels to be a 10 Best Engines judge.

Too many engines, not enough roses.

For me, one of the toughest goodbyes was reserved for the Dodge Caliber SRT4’s turbocharged I-4. I mean, what’s not to adore about 285 hp that can inflict nearly 1G of lateral force for less than $23,000?

With its hair-trigger throttle and buzz-bomb exhaust note, this lively engine not only enhances the car – a key judging criterion – it delivers on the promise of Chrysler’s World Engine.

Developed with Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd., this high-volume architecture boasts advanced features such as variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust valves. But its tepid acceleration and lack of refinement left judges wanting last year.

Enter the engineers at Chrysler LLC’s Street and Racing Technology division, who performed a masterful makeover with an emphasis on heat management. They devised a specially machined aluminum block and cross-drilled cylinder head to optimize flow, while stuffing iron cylinder liners with unique cast pistons cooled by oil squirters.

Tack on the Mitsubishi TD04 turbocharger and huge 11-row intercooler, and the SRT4’s I-4 is a shining example of creative design.

So, why didn’t it get a rose? I just couldn’t see myself in a meaningful relationship with something so, forgive me, thrashy.

Flamboyant, over-the-top behavior is part of this engine’s charm, for sure. But if I have to spend time in a high-revving turbocharged 4-banger, I prefer the company of the Mazdaspeed3’s mill.

It’s all about degrees of refinement. But that’s just me.

emayne@wardsauto.com

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