Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

Republican U.S. senators who see nothing but failure when considering a government loan to General Motors Corp. clearly know nothing about engines.

If they did, they would give GM the props it deserves for engineering, manufacturing and selling a stellar direct-injection gasoline DOHC V-6 that rivals the world’s finest 6-cyl. engines.

For the second straight year, the 304-hp 3.6L “high-feature” V-6, which first appeared in the Cadillac CTS, finds itself on the Ward’s 10 Best Engines list for its dazzling throttle response, competitive fuel economy, laudable low-end torque, impressive specific output (84 hp/L) and effortless power delivery.

And once again, this V-6 continues to run on regular unleaded fuel, which most engines of this caliber are not designed to do. When gas prices rise again, which they inevitably will, this factor, alone, is bound to clinch a few sales in GM showrooms.

This V-6 is a perfect fit for Cadillac, proving that a quiet idle and smooth, everyday cruising can go hand-in-hand with a throaty exhaust note and neck-snapping torque at just about any engine speed.

Premium 6-cyl. engines have been fierce combatants every year in our perennial evaluation of powertrain excellence. This year, the GM V-6 makes the cut, alongside Honda Motor Co. Ltd.’s 3.5L V-6 in the Accord, BMW AG’s turbocharged 3.0L I-6 in the 135i coupe and Toyota Motor Corp.’s 3.5L V-6 in the Lexus IS 350.

They’re all great engines, but GM will top them most of them in ramping up production of the 3.6L V-6 to power the high-volume Lambda-platform cross/utility vehicles, including the new Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave and Saturn Outlook. It also will be the base engine in the new Chevrolet Camaro.

By 2010, GM says it will offer 18 models with DIG in North America, more than any other auto maker. Next summer, the ’10 Chevrolet Equinox CUV goes on sale with a choice of two new fuel-saving DI engines, a 2.4L I-4 and a 3.0L V-6, both of them eligible for 2010 Best Engines testing.

Derived from the 3.6L award-winner in the CTS, the 3.0L V-6 is rated at 255 hp and 214 lb.-ft. (290 Nm) of torque. The Equinox debuts at January’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Smartly, GM is betting big on DIG as a way to boost power and improve fuel economy and emissions. While critics suggest GM lags its competitors in embracing new technology, the 3.6L V-6 proves otherwise, already employing direct injection even though some competitors have yet to take the technology into production.

The 3.6L carries over its variable valve timing and phasing system on both intake and exhaust valves. New electronic controls improve the engine-management system and fuel-injection operation, while considerable effort has been paid to improving NVH characteristics, a trait that was praised last year.

Ward’s Dealer Business Editor Steve Finlay credits the V-6 in the CTS for “amazing performance. With engines like this, who really needs a V-8?”

If any gearheads win election to the Senate, maybe they’ll ask the same question.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com

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.