SOUTHFIELD, MI â€“ The 13th year of the Wardâ€™s 10 Best Engines competitions finds the auto industry and its powertrain sector in acute transition entering 2007.
The U.S. domestic auto industry is undergoing a transformation to align its manufacturing capacity with new market realities. Likewise, consumers are indicating they, too, are shifting their tastes and questioning their vehicular needs in the wake of a protracted period of higher fuel prices.
All of this affects powertrain development, of course, and 2007â€™s 10 Best Engines award winners already reflect a changing environment.
Past 10 Best Engines lists have been dominated by large-displacement engines. Half of this yearâ€™s winners displace 3L or less, and only two are larger than 3.5L. Four of the 10 winners use forced induction.
In accordance with the average lower displacement of winning engines comes a broad trend toward increased fitment of efficiency-enhancing technology in addition to forced induction, such as direct-injection gasoline (DIG) fueling, cylinder deactivation and more sophisticated variants of variable valve timing.
The landscape of powertrain development may be transforming, but rules governing the competition have not changed.
Nominated engines â€“ 31 this year â€“ must be available in series-production, U.S.-specification vehicles that go on sale no later than the first quarter of 2007.
To ensure the 10 Best Engines winners reflect mainstream sensibilities and relevance to the broad industry, eligible engines must be available in vehicles with a base price of no more than $54,000. Wardâ€™s believes engines in more expensive and exotic vehicles should, by nature, be superior examples of powertrain engineering.
This yearâ€™s price ceiling reflects a slight increase over the competitionâ€™s $52,500 price limit that had been in effect for several years. The amount is indexed to the average price of a new vehicle.
Winning engines from 2006 are automatically nominated for this yearâ€™s competition unless the engine no longer is available in a vehicle costing less than $54,000.
The head-to-head format generates a list of true winners, with no artificially constructed segments or sub-categories to diminish the results. All nominated engines must compete against all others.
During an approximately 2-month period in fall 2006, a panel of six Wardâ€™s editors evaluated each engine using a variety of objective and subjective measures. There is no instrumented testing. Editors evaluate each engine during their daily driving routines.
There is a variety of engine layouts, sizes and power ranges represented by 2007â€™s 10 Best Engines winners.
Heavily influencing judgesâ€™ voting are an engineâ€™s fuel economy; noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) attributes; technical innovation; and power and performance â€“ particularly specific output, or the power generated in relation to the engineâ€™s size.