Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

It’s a bold move by Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. to roll out a new V-8 in a time of economic downturn and fuel conservation.

Yet, the new Tau 4.6L DOHC V-8 scores a first-time Ward’s 10 Best Engines appearance for the South Korean auto maker with an impressive mix of power, efficiency and affordability.

Unanimously praised for being a ton of engine for the V-8 Genesis sedan’s sub-$40,000 asking price, the Tau represents Hyundai’s longing to undercut the price of established luxury-vehicle players, while also flexing its engineering muscle.

With high levels of refinement permitting creamy runs up the powerband, the Hyundai V-8 feels much like the 4.6L Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Corp. Northstar V-8s that influenced its design.

However, variable intake and valvetrain systems, as well as other advances in internal components, allow the 375-hp Tau to outperform all of its mid-level luxury rivals, including in the area of fuel economy.

And most of those rivals, namely from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, are considerably more expensive than the $54,000 price cap afforded to 10 Best Engines entrants.

In real-world driving, fuel economy approached a respectable 20 mpg (11.8 L/100 km) and the rear-wheel-drive Genesis never lacks passing power.

Performance is not blistering, though, and the Tau does not behave as if it wants to break free from its computer-controlled leash, leading some judges to criticize it as a “me too” engine created just for the sake of slapping a V-8 badge on the back of the car.

Indeed, the Tau makes little effort to forge a bond with the driver, preferring to go about its business of whirring away quietly under the hood.

Despite being a little short on emotion, the Tau is an engineering triumph for an auto maker venturing for the first time into the luxury market.

While some quibble that a supercharged or turbocharged version of Hyundai’s already solid 3.8L V-6 would perform just as well as a V-8, the auto maker is quick to point out it has greater things in store for the Tau.

Hyundai says the engine’s 6,500-rpm redline is adequate for the Genesis, yet it has the potential to spin up to 7,200 rpm. It also is compatible with direct-gasoline injection, cylinder deactivation, variable-valve lifting and forced induction, features the auto maker says will enter production in the near term to keep the Tau relevant.

Such forward thinking is commendable, especially considering Hyundai’s rapid ascension of the automotive hierarchy.

The timing for the Tau’s introduction could have been better, but it works beautifully in its Genesis application. It also has the built-in potential to improve over time and is hard to fault in terms of overall performance, fuel economy and price.

Now that’s 10 Best Engines material.

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.