Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

SOUTHFIELD, MI – Five all-new powertrains win Ward’s 10 Best Engines honors this year, and each one demonstrates the auto industry’s swift movement toward downsized engines to attract consumers who now are making fuel efficiency a top priority.

Throughout October and November, six editors of Ward’s Automotive Group tested 34 vehicles from 13 auto makers in their normal driving cycles in metro Detroit. They scored each engine based on horsepower, torque, refinement, technical relevance and comparative data. Each engine was evaluated because it was all-new, offered significant technology upgrades or was a returning winner from last year.

Two turbodiesels (one each from BMW AG and Volkswagen AG) and two hybrid-electric vehicles (from Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.) make this year’s list by achieving fuel economy of nearly 40 mpg (5.8 L/100 km) in the VW Jetta SportWagen TDI and up to 55 mpg (4.2 L/100 km) in the Toyota Prius in real-world driving.

This year’s winners and the applications tested:

  • 2.0L TFSI Turbocharged DOHC I-4 (Audi A4)
  • 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V-6 (Audi S4)
  • 3.0L DOHC I-6 Turbodiesel (BMW 335d)
  • 2.5L DOHC I-4 Hybrid (Ford Fusion Hybrid)
  • 3.5L EcoBoost Turbocharged DOHC V-6 (Ford Taurus SHO)
  • 2.4L Ecotec DOHC I-4 (Chevrolet Equinox)
  • 4.6L Tau DOHC V-8 (Hyundai Genesis)
  • 2.5L Turbocharged DOHC H-4 (Subaru Legacy 2.5GT)
  • 1.8L DOHC I-4 Hybrid (Toyota Prius)
  • 2.0L SOHC I-4 Turbodiesel (Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI)

“This year’s list epitomizes how the industry is responding to demands for higher fuel economy and lower emissions without shortchanging performance,” Ward’s AutoWorld Editor-in-Chief Drew Winter says.

“Auto makers are using innovative designs and advanced technology to boost horsepower and torque while downsizing engines and increasing efficiency.”

This year marks the first time only one V-8 has made the grade. The annual Ward’s 10 Best Engines competition has been held for 16 years, and as many as four V-8s made the list in both 1997 and 1999.

New to the 2010 list is Audi AG’s 3.0L supercharged TFSI V-6 in the high-performance S4 sedan. The S4 made the list three years in a row beginning in 2004, but that was with a potent 4.2L V-8 which by today’s standards was a gas guzzler.

The new direct-injection gasoline V-6 still musters 333 hp, while achieving up to 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km) by some Ward’s editors, proving a muscle car can be fuel efficient.

Another Audi honoree is the excellent 2.0L TFSI turbocharged I-4, which returns to the list for the fifth straight year, driven in the Audi A4 sedan.

This benchmark engine, upgraded in 2008, is well ahead of its time, combining both direct injection and forced induction for stellar performance and allowing Audi customers to downsize their engine choice from a V-6 to a 4-cyl., without compromise.

Also returning is the BMW 335d 3.0L diesel, which made the Ward’s 10 Best Engines list for the first time last year. Several Ward’s editors managed to get about 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km) driving this Bavarian sport sedan, which in the U.S. shares its outstanding powertrain with the X5 cross/utility vehicle.

BMW’s twin-turbocharged diesel inline-6 obliterates the outdated image of the smoky old diesel and applies new common-rail technology and sophisticated urea-based, exhaust aftertreatment to provide thrilling acceleration and pristine emissions.

New to the list is General Motors Co.’s groundbreaking 2.4L DI 4-cyl. that powers the re-engineered Chevrolet Equinox CUV and, soon, the Buick LaCrosse and Buick Regal sedans. A V-6 is available in the Equinox, but high take-rates for the standout 182-hp I-4 suggest GM has a winner on its hands. Ward’s editors averaged nearly 30 mpg in this highly functional 5-passenger CUV.

Ford Motor Co. brings the goods with its 365-hp EcoBoost DI twin-turbocharged 3.5L V-6 in the new Taurus SHO sport sedan. EcoBoost redefines the V-6, allowing it to take the place of a V-8 in many applications.

In addition to the sedan, Ford is using the EcoBoost V-6 in the Flex and Lincoln MKT CUVs and MKS sedan. Some Ward’s editors achieved 20 mpg (11.7 L/100 km) in SHO testing. A 4-cyl. EcoBoost engine is expected next year.

Returning to the list is Ford’s 2.5L hybrid-electric powertrain, tested this year in the all-new Fusion sedan. In 2008, the Escape Hybrid made the list, but the technology since has been significantly revised. The new Fusion Hybrid is lighter, more fuel-efficient and can drive farther and faster on pure electric power.

Ward’s editors were able to drive 40 mph (64 km/h) with the engine off and in some cases averaged 45 mpg (5.2 L/100 km) with the impressive hybrid.

Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. also reclaims a spot among this year’s winners with its 4.6L Tau V-8, the only 8-cyl. engine to make the cut in 2010. In the Genesis sedan, the Tau continues to dazzle with its combination of silky, smooth power delivery, aggressive tip-in, satisfying exhaust note and admirable fuel economy.

In a luxury sedan with a base price of $40,300, this 375-hp V-8 remains a great value and gains 10 hp in early 2010.

Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. wins its second Ward’s 10 Best Engines award with its thrilling 2.5L turbocharged boxer engine in the all-new Subaru Legacy GT.

With 265 hp in a moderately sized sedan, this H-4 delivers plenty of punch at every engine speed, as evidenced by a 258-lb.-ft. (350-Nm) torque peak that holds steady between 2,000 and 5,200 rpm. Plus, some judges averaged 30 mpg in the Legacy GT. Subaru’s first Ward’s 10 Best Engines honor came in 2004 for the WRX STI sport sedan.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s all-new Prius HEV earns its place on the list for the third time. The first honors came when the Prius was significantly improved, in 2001 and 2004.

This hot-selling third-generation Prius carries on Toyota’s patented Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which works in tandem with a 1.8L Atkinson-cycle I-4 for an Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy rating of 51/48 mpg (4.6-4.9 L/100 km) in city/highway driving.

Some Ward’s editors did better than that and appreciate the ability to switch driving modes for varying levels of fuel economy.

Rounding out this year’s winners is Volkswagen AG’s superb 2.0L turbodiesel in the Jetta Sportwagen TDI, which impresses with boundless energy, immediate throttle response and a modest amount of combustion clatter – just enough to gently remind the driver it’s a diesel.

The VW TDI meets 50-state availability because of its advanced exhaust aftertreatment strategy, which requires no urea injection to reduce oxides of nitrogen emissions.

“Not since the dawn of the automobile has there been such a diverse array of compelling and affordable powertrains for mainstream vehicles,” Winter says.

“In coming years, we will be testing extended-range electric vehicles, pure electric vehicles, diesel-electric hybrids and numerous other types of powertrains. So much so that we likely will have to soon change the name of the Ward’s 10 Best Engines to Ward’s 10 Best Powertrains.”

To be eligible for the competition, each engine must be available in a regular-production U.S.-specification model on sale no later than first-quarter 2010, in a vehicle priced no more than $54,000, a price cap indexed to the average cost of a new vehicle.

The awards will be presented at a Jan. 13 ceremony in Detroit during the North American International Auto Show.

Complete stories about the Ward’s 10 Best Engines will be featured soon on WardsAuto.com and in upcoming issues of Ward’s AutoWorld magazine and Ward’s Engine & Vehicle Technology Update newsletter.

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.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com