Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

Judges’ Remarks

In the time since the first sports cars’ wheels were turned in anger, few engines have made a greater contribution to vehicle performance than General Motors Corp.’s small-block OHV V-8.

Introduced in 1955 for the then-new Chevrolet Corvette and Bel Air sedan, the compact and tunable 265-cu.-in. (4.3L) “mouse” quickly outpaced Ford Motor Co.’s flat-head V-8 of the day, becoming one of the preferred means of laying down rubber in a hot rod or muscle car.

Millions of these lumps of iron and aluminum have been built over the years, with family sedans, pickup trucks and NASCAR- and at Le Mans-winning racecars all having made the characteristic small-block rumble.

Now in its fourth generation, GM’s OHV V-8 enters the 21st century true to the original cam-in-block formula, yet is vastly superior to its ancestors.

Modern tire-screeching variants, such as the 7.0L LS7 in the Corvette Z06, have 505 hp on tap and sport electronic throttles, plastic intakes and dry-sump oiling systems.

Others, such as the 2008 Ward’s 10 Best Engines-winning 6.0L Vortec LFA in the GMC Yukon Hybrid SUV, bring the small block into the digital age with sophisticated valvetrains, cylinder deactivation and assistance from advanced hybrid-electric transmissions.

Ultimately, it was the Vortec’s integration with the new Two-Mode gearbox and the polish of the overall package that won over the Ward’s judges this year. However, none could refute the corruptive power of GM’s other new V-8 entry: the 6.2L LS3 in the ’08 Corvette.

With the optional butterfly exhaust clearing its throat under a heavy foot, the LS3 churns out 436 hp and a hard-hitting 428 lb.-ft. (580 Nm) of torque. In the lightweight Corvette, the result is a startling amount of thrust, along with impressive refinement and fuel economy, for less than $50,000.

The technical achievement of the hybridized LFA is notable in this modern era of energy conservation. But the LS3 also deserves its recognition for the world-class performance it gives America’s sports car, as well as for continuing the lineage of GM’s most legendary powertrain.

msutton@wardsauto.com

Ward’s 10 Best Engines is copyright Penton Media Inc. Commercial references to the program and/or awards are prohibited without prior permission of Ward’s Automotive Group.