Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

All right: V-8 challenging power and torque. Supreme refinement delivered the old-time Toyota Motor Corp. way. And an innovative fuel-injection layout that still has some competitors asking why they didn’t think of it.

Or, perhaps, “How could we ever afford that?” This, too, is part of the Lexus mystique – how Toyota’s premium division can continue to deliver top-shelf engineering and manufacturing for virtually every component, from hood release to fuel injector to trunk latch, yet remain price competitive.

All these aspects, and many more, make Toyota’s 3.5L DOHC V-6 a unique and singularly satisfying engine experience. We continue to call it the thinking man’s V-6.

As it earns its third consecutive 10 Best Engines award, Associate Editor Byron Pope sums up the Lexus-exclusive engine’s execution: “Good luck beating this in any category.”

In the titillating IS 350 sport sedan, the 306 hp and 277 lb.-ft. (376 Nm) say “V-8,” yet there are just six cylinders. The signature design feat is the world’s first fuel-injection system that uses both direct (in-cylinder) injection and conventional port injection. (The new Lexus IS-F V-8 also has it.)

Toyota claims choosing between the two – or blending their actions – generates optimum power, torque, emissions and fuel economy.

That all happens (well, we’d argue a bit about fuel economy), and Lexus assumes you already know about its legendary refinement.

But where the IS 350 application really nudges the needle is that engineers seem to have deliberately let a little more emotion edge out the near-clinical refinement.

“Sounds fabulous when pushed,” says Editor Drew Winter, and all judges agree this unquestionably is Lexus’ most emotive engine.

That may be the most important marker set by Lexus’ scintillating 3.5L DOHC V-6 as the company experiments with the formula. If Lexus is able to combine its laboratory-grade levels of noise, vibration and harshness with the correct proportions of emotion that excite car junkies, even BMW needs to take heed.

Sure, there’s still a vague, paint-by-the-numbers feel during casual driving – as if somehow robots had more to do with it than humans.

But smash the throttle one time and rollick to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.6 seconds, and you won’t find anything digital in the experience.

As we’re beginning to see more and more with Lexus, digital they’ve got down; understanding of the joys of analog is quickly being acquired.

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.