Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

As much as everyone respects Honda Motor Co. Ltd.’s engine-development abilities, the company hasn’t won that many 10 Best Engines awards.

We figure it’s due to Honda’s overwhelmingly conservative philosophy. While it’s always stretching the boundaries of engineering, its production engines tend to be comparatively unassuming in specification.

Translated more directly: For a decade or more, Honda has deployed some of the most intelligent powertrain technology in the business, while resisting the horsepower and displacement escalation that is so much a part of the U.S. market.

It is the only one of Japan’s three major auto makers that has refused to develop a V-8 for production. Thus, where a competitor uses a V-8, Honda has a V-6; often, it pits a 4-cyl. against a sea of competitors running V-6s, even in highly competitive segments.

So the latest 3.5L SOHC V-6, winning a 10 Best Engines award for the first time, goes somewhat against Honda’s grain. The jump for the all-new ’08 Accord is from the longstanding 3.0L V-6 to an extra half-liter of displacement. It is the largest engine ever fitted in a Honda passenger car.

But the uncharacteristic displacement bloat doesn’t affect Honda’s signature refinement. “No unpleasant vibration or noise,” says Executive Editor Tom Murphy. “I think Nissan’s VQ (V-6, a perennial 10 Best Engines winner) has met its match.”

And several judges comment on the new 3.5L V-6’s smoothness, also a Honda watchword.

Along with the refinement there’s a stout 268-hp rating that’s backed by outstanding flexibility in almost all speed ranges. The power is about what was expected of premium-vehicle V-6s just a couple of years ago.

This engine also gets a boost in efficiency when coupled with the 5-speed automatic transmission: Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) cylinder-deactivation system enables the V-6 to operate on three, four or six cylinders, depending on engine load.

This is combined with the expected VTEC (Variable valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) wizardry fitted to all Honda engines. The VCM system also is abetted by active engine mounts and a unique active noise cancellation system that helps to mask the hiccups and transitions of 3- and 4-cyl. operation.

Accord coupes fitted with the new 3.5L SOHC V-6 and the 6-speed manual dispense with the VCM and the accompanying noise- and vibration-cancelling hardware and run with the more-conventional 2-phase VTEC that delivers that same unmistakable and luscious howl when the valvetrain switches to high-rpm mode.

This new 3.5L V-6 is the embodiment of Honda virtues: refinement and efficiency combined with performance that exceeds the hard numbers. Honda’s new V-6 now challenges Nissan’s stellar VQ as the best volume-market V-6.

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.