Take a good look at my picture and name, because I probably won't be back as a 10 Best Engines judge.
I can hear my co-judges saying in unison: “You-are-the-weakest-link, goodbye.”
I didn't mix with the voting pattern. Some of my picks were brutalized, which gives you an idea how serious and competitive the contest is. But I got it bad this year, folks. So bad that Editor Drew Winter thought I was this year's rookie judge. (Nope, that was last year.) I was torched by speed demon Senior Technical Editor Bill (Vukovich) Visnic for liking a certain V-8 engine. Senior Editor Tom (Prius) Murphy, who recently adopted a fuel-efficient engine as his third child, mocked me for some small-displacement selections. My choices were even questioned by Asia Editor Katherine Zachary — and she owns a Saturn S-Series. So how did I respond? Well, I put Motor Co.'s 2.3L DOHC I-4 and DaimlerChrysler Corp.'s 3.7L Powertech V-6 in my top 15.
(Pause here if needed for laughter.)
No other judge cast a single ballot — or breath — for the powerplants. My engine-evaluation ability shouldn't be doubted, however.'s I-4 and DC's V-6 are good engines in the wrong vehicles. Initial applications should've been in compact or midsize cars. Liberty weighs more than 2 tons (4,115 lbs./1870 kg). Yet the Power-Tech V-6 provides brisk acceleration, a nice gear whine and can tow up to 5,000 lbs. (2,300 kg). Its weakness is beyond half-throttle or so, when it goes soft.
As for Ford's 2.3L I-4, it's in a vehicle that needs a makeover as badly as Dennis Rodman. Why did Ford choose Ranger for this I-4's debut? It does give consumers more bang for their bucks by fitting a 2.3L where an ancient 2.5L I-4 once was, while posting similar fuel economy ratings. Ford's also going to get its money's worth by using the powerplant across vehicle lines in parts of the world where they don't care that the speedometer tops out at 90 mph (144km/h). It will be interesting to see how it does in the all-new6 next year.