Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

Judges’ Remarks

Let’s face facts. The basic economics just won’t work. The technology is complex and expensive and at today’s fuel prices, the ultimate return on investment for new-car buyers, is not there.

Sound familiar? That’s the argument against diesels these days, especially with diesel fuel prices as much as 50% higher than regular unleaded.

But problems with payback from fuel savings is the same line of reasoning that caused most auto makers initially to shy away from hybrid-electric vehicles. Now, many auto makers wish they could have a do-over on their HEV strategy.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius HEV has taught the industry that buyer emotions now come in a wide variety of flavors. If packaged right, efficiency and environmental friendliness can be as compelling to some consumers as performance and sexy styling.

All successful vehicles have an expressive “gotta-have” component that arouses the urge to buy. For Ward’s judges, the BMW 335d and VW Jetta TDI diesels definitely have that special something.

We’ve had compression ignition engines on the 10 Best Engines list before (the Mercedes V-6 turbodiesel has been a recent favorite), but the 335d and Jetta TDI bring extraordinary driving enjoyment to the party this year.

Unlike most HEVs, their green credentials also come with no strings attached.

You don’t have to tolerate tepid performance and there is no problem with smoke, soot or troublesome oxides of nitrogen. They meet the toughest emissions standards in world, yet the BMW delivers 23/36 mpg (10-6.5 L/100 km) and the VW 30/41 mpg (7.8-5.7 L/100 km).

And, even though these engines feature cutting-edge combustion engineering, they already have earned their chops in Europe and have a bullet-proof reputation for durability.

We will dispute the critics by saying diesel torque and efficiency, coupled with driving ranges of 500 to 600 miles (804 km to 966 km), are worth it at $3 per gallon and at $5 per gallon. Many Europeans will tell you diesels are worth the price at $8 and $10 per gallon as well.

dwinter@wardsauto.com

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.