10 Best Engines stories There's only one word for Chrysler's 5.7L and new 6.1L Hemi OHV V-8 engines: Sweet. The two were test-driven by Ward's this year in the '06 Charger and 300C SRT-8.

What else can you say about the 6.1L V-8 high-powered version of the much-lauded Hemi that hasn't been said about the 5.7L? Well, plenty actually. It's all about the numbers: 85 more ponies and 30 lb.-ft. (41 Nm) more torque. Plus slightly better fuel economy!

This variant achieves its increased power mainly with displacement and revs. The cylinder bore is increased by 13 mm each, and the power peak is about 800 rpm higher. Meanwhile, all the internals are beefed up to accept the power and torque enhancement.

Those are the tangibles, but the esoteric value is in the driving experience. This enhanced engine makes the wide-body 300C feel light as a feather. Acceleration is seamless and seemingly endless.

Forget the oversized steering wheel, the lost-in-space cabin and huge toothy front grille. Close your eyes and you're in the sleekest and nimblest of sports cars.

Judge McClellan can't get enough of the Hemi.

Some fellow judges argue the additional power sets no world standard for a V-8 and voted down the 6.1L in favor of the 5.7L's wider application.

I say, if BMW can have 10 Best Engines winners with its niche-market M3 and Audi the S4, then let Chrysler take its turn with the SRT-8.

Happily, the judges again awarded the 5.7L its due. This engine has saved Chrysler's bacon in more ways than one. The iconic value of the Hemi brand is somewhere in the stratosphere.

Despite the engine's propensity for sucking fuel, hordes of Hemi fans appear unfazed. The auto maker in November reported the take rate for the 5.7L V-8 was steady at a 43% average for all the vehicles in which it is available.

As a result, Chrysler is escalating the rollout of its fuel-saving Multi-Displacement System (MDS) cylinder deactivation technology, which shuts down four of the Hemi's cylinders when their output is not needed.

Generating as much as a 20% reduction in fuel consumption, MDS is featured on about 85% of all the 5.7L Hemi V-8s produced, except for those units destined for heavy-duty applications.

During our Best Engines evaluations, Ward's achieved a respectable 17 mpg (13.8 L/100 km) with the 5.7L and 17.5 mpg (13.4 L/100/km) with the 6.1L Hemi. The larger engine, ironically, does not have MDS.

Chrysler builds about 500,000 Hemi engines annually. That tells you something. Car buyers know “Hemi.” It means “power.” It means “special.” It means “bad and proud of it.” You can't bottle that kind of brand enthusiasm.

bmcclellan@primediabusiness.com