Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

Judges’ Remarks

Some engines make lots of power. Others are very efficient.

And while Chrysler LLC kept its eye on both tracts when updating the venerable 5.7L Hemi V-8 for ’09, the auto maker understood gearheads appreciate an engine that looks good, too.

Swathed in impenetrable layers of plastic shrouding, wiring bundles and mass-airflow sensors, most modern engines barely look good enough to photograph, or aren’t meant to be stared at altogether.

Sure, many high-end sports cars have their mechanical hearts displayed under glass covers like twin-turbocharged Fabergé eggs.

But the new Dodge Challenger, the most retrospective of the modern muscle cars, gives plebeian enthusiasts a connection to the automobile rarely seen since the days of 6-pack carburetors and pop-up hood scoops painted with shark teeth.

Case in point: The engine bays of all new Challengers sport shallow cupholders molded into the corners of their radiator shrouds, an ideal convenience for beer-laden garage tales after a victorious stoplight romp with a Mustang.

Easily mistaken for having a more-functional purpose, the subtle recesses – complete with drain holes – show that Chrysler understands most Challengers will have drool dripping down their open hoods as often as they’ll be put to the test at the local drag strip.

The ’09 Challenger R/T we tested is a worthy recipient of extended gazes; its throwback styling and near-perfect proportions flow seamlessly into the engine compartment, where its bright-red sheet metal cradles the 376-hp Hemi V-8.

The burly SRT8 model, though not evaluated this year for a Ward’s 10 Best Engines award, goes one better with even less plastic and a 425-hp, 6.1L Hemi painted orange like the Mopars of the 1960s.

In a time when attractive products are more important than ever to the salvation of the domestic auto industry, Chrysler’s Hemi and new Dodge Challenger exemplify that maintaining the bonds consumers forge with a particular brand or vehicle is both wise and essential.

And that’s something all car guys can raise a glass to.

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.