We all love when a totally new engine breaks onto the annual Ward's Ten Best Engines list, because it becomes an immediate target. The new engine beats plenty of excellent competition, not to mention displacing an engine that previously won a spot.

Is this winner worthy, or just a flashy new engine that briefly impressed the Best Engines judges?

That's why General Motors Corp.'s 3.5L Twin-Cam V-6 is with WAW for a year's worth of long-term testing. The long-term test, we believe, provides insight about an engine's durability, service costs and plain 'ol everyday compatibility that gives more perspective than is possible within the structure of the annual Best Engines competition.

Currently, the 3.5L Twin Cam is available in just two GM products, both Oldsmobiles: the all-new '01 Aurora and the Intrigue, where it's now the standard engine, coupled only to the 4T65-E 4-speed automatic transmission.

Oldsmobile was kind enough to provide WAW with a year's worth of 2000-model Intrigue GL, most notably equipped with - besides a natty leather interior package - Olds' new Precision Control System stability control ($595). It's GM's first application for its midsize front-drive vehicles - and basically the only car in the segment to offer stability control.

Including the destination charge, the Intrigue retails for $26,070, which certainly is competitive with the likes of V-6 powered Accords and Camrys, but didn't strike us as a ringing bargain, even with PCS.

But price concerns faded as soon as right feet tromped the accelerator. Most drivers report a certain intoxication with the 3.5L Twin Cam's upper-midrange performance, which really is what sets this engine apart from the herd of 3L V-6s on the market. There is no substitute for displacement - and, in the Twin Cam's instance, stroke-derived torque - that the 3.5L engine offers over competitive 3L mills.

So far, WAW's three months with the Intrigue have been reasonably uneventful. The 3.5L Twin Cam is powerful and satisfying, yet has returned solid fuel economy. Some of our fussier editors complained about the throttle pedal angle, and the driver's door is hard to open. Plus, the outer trim on the upper part of the passenger door has come adrift.