Winners of this year's 10 Best Engines awards trace their development roots to the beginning of the decade, and in some cases earlier.

Those were better times and when reasonably priced gasoline provided little impetus to hammer away at the most innovative approaches to conserve fuel.

So imagine what kind of engines and modes of propulsion will surface for 10 Best Engines testing several years from now, products of the current frantic hand-wringing from Detroit's executive suites to its test labs and assembly lines.

This crisis has the potential to give us technologies once perceived as far-fetched, and to alter mobility as we know it, prodded along by stricter and stricter emissions regulations.

This year's 10 Best Engines winners represent remarkable achievements by nine auto makers. They are unique in their own way — two diesels, a hybrid, small I-4s and big V-8s — but they all have two things in common: sterling performance and outstanding fuel economy.

Ward's editors evaluated 32 different engines in their routine daily driving cycles for this year's competition. The nominee list consists of the 2008 winners as well as all-new or significantly improved engines.

Over a nearly 2-month period, the editors tested and scored each engine against all others based on horsepower, torque, refinement, technology and fuel economy. Each engine must be available in a regular-production, U.S.-specification model on sale no later than the first quarter of 2009 in a vehicle priced not more than $54,000.

The awards is now in their 15th year.

Here are 10 reasons to celebrate the future of the auto industry.