Being the rookie on this year’s panel, I probably should rely on the wisdom of my fellow and – more senior – judges and play nice. I should, but I won’t.

For the first time in the 11-year history of the 10 Best Engines, one of BMW AG’s inline 6-cyl. engines fails to make the list. I ask my fellow adjudicators, “What are you smoking?”

The M3’s engine, the 3.2L DOHC I-6, on last year’s list, failed to make an impact in this year’s annual deliberations. Meanwhile, BMW’s other inline 6-cyl., the 3L DOHC, tested in the 330 Ci Performance Package, which, inexplicably was left off last year’s 10 Best Engines, ranked high in the initial discussions this year. That was short-lived, however, as other engines were deemed “more worthy.”

Judge Banks says I-6 in BMW 330 Ci “provides true harmony to the driving universe.”

After testing the 330 Ci, I was ready to remortgage my house to come up with the $41,895 list price. Is there an engine as refined as the 3L I-6? With pedal to the floor, the 222 lb.-ft. (301 Nm) of torque at 3,500 rpm intelligently pulls the coupe through each gear with nary a lurch or hesitation. And is there a sweeter sound than that intoxicating low whine? You can have more power and better fuel economy – this engine, more than any other, provides true harmony to the driving universe.

As I argued passionately for the 330 Ci, senior (and jaded, I should add) editors Tom Murphy and Bill Visnic nodded politely at my freshman enthusiasm and proceeded to shoot me down in flames.

At one point, I thought AutoWorld Editor Drew Winter was firmly in my corner. After all, he was as giddy as I was about the engine. But staying true to his Democratic leanings, Winter flip-flopped, as newer, more power-dense engines lured him away.

I know, this engine is long-in-the-tooth and essentially will be retired after this year improved with sophisticated new technology. Despite increasing its horsepower to a respectable, albeit modest, 235, other V-6s have far surpassed the 3L’s power in recent years. And one could argue the redline of 5,900 rpm is somewhat low. But there is no denying the near perfect balance of power and refinement this fabled engine brings.

I give it a fond farewell. BMW is introducing a new inline 6-cyl. engine next year featuring a magnesium-aluminum crankcase (the first of its kind) that saves 22 lbs. (10 kg) of mass when compared with the current engine’s all-aluminum crankcase, and its unique Valvetronic valve-timing/throttling system, which should increase the pony count significantly. I can’t wait.

cbanks@primediabusiness.com