No other business rewards the latest design quite like the auto business.

So one of the surest tests of a 10 Best Engines winner’s “staying power” is how well it can fight off brand-new engines – particularly when they also happen to be direct competitors in terms of size, cylinder count and market segment. When an incumbent winner outshines newer rivals it battles directly in the market, it’s a testimony to its inherent goodness.

If you accept that premise, then consider the ringing endorsement earned by DaimlerChrysler AG’s 5.7L Hemi Magnum OHV V-8. No engine’s ever had to run a tougher gauntlet to secure a second appearance on the Ward's 10 Best Engines list.

For 2004, the thunderous Hemi had to beat back not only 23 of the 32 engines nominated for a 10 Best position, but two wickedly competent V-8s launched directly against the Hemi in the market: Ford Motor Co.’s redesigned 5.4L Triton SOHC V-8 and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.’s all-new “Endurance” 5.6L DOHC V-8.

Hemi becoming legend for second time.

And although both the Triton and Endurance V-8s are unlikely to leave the owners of their respective pickup trucks feeling shortchanged, the simple fact is neither could surpass the Hemi – either in raw numbers or on-the-road punch.

Horsepower and torque ratings have assumed an almost religious importance in the pickup segment. Although Endurance and Triton engineers had the advantage of knowing the target, neither engine came to market with a number to top the Hemi.

It proves the dominance designed into the Hemi right out of the box. The new Triton makes 300 hp. The all-new Endurance, 305. Hemi: 345 horses.

Two critical new pickup V-8s hit the market 40 horses behind the Hemi? Either those 40 ponies were too hard for Ford and Nissan engineers to generate, or somebody in product planning’s asleep at the switch. It might be argued Ford and Nissan’s pickup-truck business plans don’t hinge on horsepower dominance over Dodge, but coming up short by that much is difficult to accept for any reason.

Talking torque, not much separates the three, and in fact the Nissan V-8 has a meager edge. Endurance: 379 lb.-ft. (514 Nm). Hemi: 375 lb.-ft. (508 Nm). Triton: 365 lb.-ft. (495 Nm). So at least it’s an even field in terms of twist.

But beyond the numbers, 10 Best testers believed the Hemi didn’t just beat its new V-8 rivals. It again deserves to be called one of the best of all engines because of its real-world performance and just-right NVH and driveability.

Stick your foot down, the Hemi hauls immediately. Roll down the window, the Hemi bellows perfectly (if perhaps a bit too flamboyantly). Hook up a trailer, the Hemi tugs eagerly.

The Hemi fronts great numbers, but it’s also got soul, a commodity hard to generate in this age of electronically managed might.

DAIMLERCHRYSLER
5.7L Hemi Magnum OHV V-8
Engine type 5.7L OHV 90-degree V-8
Displacement (cc) 5,654
Block/head material cast iron/aluminum
Bore x stroke (mm) 99.5 x 90.9
Horsepower (SAE net) 345 @ 5,400 rpm
Torque 375 lb.-ft. (508 Nm) @ 4,200 rpm
Specific output 61 hp/L
Compression ratio 9.6:1
Application tested Dodge Ram
Fuel economy
for tested vehicle
(EPA city/hwy. mpg)
13/17

bvisnic@primediabusiness.com