Putting a muscle-car V-8 on the Ward's 10 Best Engines list the same year gas prices topped $4 a gallon for the first time might seem crazy.

Indeed, certain judges argued V-8s had no place in this year's competition. Their arguments held water in the fall when the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded across the U.S. was $3.86.

But by the time our evaluations were done at the end of November, fuel prices had fallen off a cliff, to a much more palatable $1.79 a gallon, capping a frenetic swing that tested family budgets, changed vehicle purchase decisions and altered the national psyche.

Even with expensive fuel, a number of Ward's judges would have gone to the mat to place Chrysler LLC's all-new 5.7L OHV Hemi V-8 on this year's 10 Best Engines list. It is enormously satisfying, thoroughly entertaining and absolutely engaging in the two newest and most disparate applications we tested: the 390-hp Ram pickup and 376-hp Challenger R/T coupe.

The Hemi earns the honor not on pure emotion or brute force but with advanced new technology such as variable valve timing.

That allows cruising in 4-cyl. mode about 40% of the time, twice as much as the previous-generation Multi-Displacement System cylinder-deactivation system.

Engine type: 5.7L 90° OHV V-8

Displacement (cc): 5,654

Block/head material: iron/aluminum

Bore × stroke (mm): 99.5 × 90.9

Horsepower (SAE net): 376 @ 5,150 rpm

Torque: 410 lb.-ft. (556 Nm) @ 4,300 rpm

Specific output: 66 hp/L

Compression ratio: 10.5:1

Assembly site: Saltillo, Mexico

Application tested: Dodge Challenger R/T, Ram pickup

EPA city/highway (mpg): 16/25