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Ten Best Engines logoWard’s 10 Best Engines

It wasn’t a secret Ford Motor Co. had some catching-up to do in the matter of high-volume V-6s.

It’s longstanding Duratec 3L DOHC unit traces its development lineage to the early 1990s, and its 4L SOHC V-6 built in Cologne, Germany, is equally aged and off the pace.

Compounding the problem, the competition has become fierce. There are mainstream and premium DOHC V-6s in more market segments than we care to count, and in the ongoing quest for torque, most have converged at 3.5L of displacement. Until now, Ford just didn’t play there.

With the all-new Duratec 35, Ford sticks with the established Duratec name – the engine was known internally as Cyclone – but it owes nothing else to the previous Duratec architecture, Tom McCarthy, Ford manager-V-6 engine programs, says.

McCarthy and Bob Fascetti, director-powertrain programs, say development goals were premium performance and drivability, improved fuel economy and decreased emissions.

The Duratec 35 wins its first 10 Best Engines award largely for the versatility those goals suggest: The engine is thrusty and refined and demonstrates decent, if not necessarily game-changing, fuel-economy (we’ve yet to see a “performance” V-6 sip fuel).

We can’t answer for reduced emissions other than to report we absolutely didn’t see any.

The Duratec 35 is particularly delightful in the mid-range, where it revs viciously with even light throttle applications. In fact, revving all over the place is one of this new engine’s strong suits.

“I’ve never seen a tach needle jump from 1,500 rpm to 5,000 rpm quite like this,” says Senior Editor Tom Murphy. Often, larger-displacement V-6s can be slow to start revving with gusto,” but the Duratec 35 delivers some of the crispest throttle response we can recall.

Our guess: Exceptionally fine control of the variably timed intake valves helps the Duratec 35 often seem even more powerful than its brawny 265 hp and 250 lb.-ft. (339 Nm) torque rating suggest.

Along with inspired mid-range snap, the Duratec 35 3.5L DOHC V-6 fronts what we believe to be class-leading refinement.

Vibration, in particular, is bewilderingly absent. All sorts of low-friction detail engineering and big-ticket items, such as the deep-skirt block and weight-optimized DOHC valvetrain, make this one of the silkiest sixes you’ll find short of one with all the pistons in a row.

The Duratec 35 is a brilliant performer, convincingly developed in all areas, and it’s particularly impressive when one considers it’s all done with a 10.3:1 compression ratio on regular unleaded gasoline.

Performance and refinement at this level, on regular unleaded, sets a new standard for V-6s; bridging the gap between those with workaday specs and refinement and the big-dollar, big-power premium V-6s that require, or at least recommend, premium unleaded.

Our reservations are meager: We’d like a little more exhaust expressiveness – some of us would prefer a lot more, actually – because the new Duratec 35 is, well, too quiet, at least in the MKX and MKZ Lincoln models we’ve driven so far.

And the new V-6, for now, is available only with an automatic. However, as automatics go, Ford’s new 6F 6-speed is rock solid. This may be solved once the Duratec 35 traverses throughout the Ford empire, eventually powering one in five of all the auto maker’s vehicles, likely including the Mustang.

All that’s needed for the future? “Ford, please give us this engine with a manual gearbox and a more lively exhaust note,” summates Best Engines judge Murphy.

Here, here.

bvisnic@wardsauto.com