Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

General Motors Co. certainly knows more about downsizing than any other auto maker, perhaps in the history of the industry. They were too big and probably still are, even after cutting tens of thousands of jobs.

How well this lean spirit is permeating every corner of GM is hard to tell. But by the looks of the auto maker’s latest engines, it appears the powertrain folks have gotten the message.

The shining example is the all-new fuel-efficient 2.4L Ecotec direct-injection 4-cyl. in the Chevy Equinox cross/utility vehicle, replacing an old pushrod V-6.

To cynics, the concept of downsizing could trigger the expectation that the new engine will be underpowered, unemotional and overall underwhelming. Not so with the new Equinox, which is flying off showroom floors, the vast majority powered by Ecotec 4-cyls.

Little has been said, however, about the other engine in the bay of the Equinox: an underappreciated 3.0L direct-injection V-6, a member of the same engine family that spawned the excellent 3.6L DI High-Feature V-6 in the Cadillac CTS (also a 10 Best Engines winner in 2008 and 2009).

In this year’s competition, both the 3.0L and 3.6L V-6s narrowly missed the cut. Both were evaluated in the CTS.

GM has high hopes for this 3.0L V-6: It’s now the standard engine in the (270-hp) CTS sedan, and it’s in the Buick LaCrosse and all-new Cadillac SRX CUV. In days of yore, GM would have been putting V-8s or clunky old V-6s in vehicles this size.

Take, for instance, the SRX, which used to have both a 3.6L V-6 and 4.6L V-8. In the new vehicle, those engines have been replaced by the 3.0L and, as a performance upgrade, the optional 300-hp 2.8L turbo V-6.

Here’s the real proof GM isn’t merely paying lip service to engine downsizing: The critically important Buick Regal is launching all new with NO V-6 available. Instead, this athletic European-derived sedan has only 4-cyl. motivation.

The standard engine is the 2.4L DI that just placed on this year’s list. Optional in the third-quarter next year will be a 220-hp 2.0L turbocharged DI I-4.

GM has been criticized for a lot of things, much of it deserved. But it’s good to see the company is serious about producing more efficient smaller engines. Hopefully this new attitude soon will spread to the muscle-car and pickup/SUV lineup.

Engine downsizing is right for a lot of reasons: It reduces vehicle prices and emissions; simplifies vehicle assembly; and allows for smaller vehicles, further enhancing fuel efficiency.

My colleague Eric Mayne can’t understand this, but less truly is more.

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.