Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

Laying claim to its fourth-consecutive slot on the Ward’s 10 Best Engines roster, Toyota Motor Corp.’s 3.5L Lexus V-6 once again emerges as the engine to beat among a field of excellent V-6 competitors.

With a delectable balance of power, grace and technology, the engine powering the Lexus IS 350 is a favorite of several judges and impresses all with its class-leading horsepower, torque and fuel economy.

Not much can be said about this engine without directing attention to its unique fuel-injection system, comprised of separate port- and direct-gasoline-injection circuits.

Criticized by some judges as an over-engineered, “belt-and-suspenders” approach, the dual-stage fuel system improves all-around performance by taking advantage of the strengths of each technology.

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.’s larger VQ 3.7L DOHC V-6, for example, easily trumps the Lexus in top-end power without DIG, yet trails it in terms of torque output and observed fuel economy.

Even Honda Motor Co. Ltd.’s 3.5L SOHC V-6 and General Motors Corp.’s 3.6L DOHC V-6, both of which make a return to 10 Best Engines status, lag the Toyota mill in overall flexibility and outright power delivery.

However, unlike the GM V-6, which frugally burns regular unleaded, the Lexus’ high 11.8:1 compression ratio necessitates the use of premium fuel. And for all its DIG-infused torque, horsepower peaks at a relatively high 6,400 rpm.

Fortunately, the engine loves to rev to its redline and feels honed to near perfection in the process.

As noted last year, Toyota is making baby-step headway in infusing its products with a more-passionate connection to the driver. We find this Lexus variant of the Toyota 3.5L DOHC V-6 to be one of the best examples of that focus, particularly with the sweet-sounding optional sport exhaust.

Yet, not all are enamored by the melodies emanating from the car’s twin oversized tailpipes. While some judges favor the mechanically precise wail at full throttle, others find it to be droning and too loud at low speeds.

Regardless, this engine portends the auto maker’s eventual shift to DIG engines and provides its Lexus brand with a shot of vigor that is missing from other Toyota vehicles.

Although two impressive V-8s made this year’s list, high-output 6-cyls. such as this make it clear that a solid V-6 will continue to grow in importance as the keystone in many premium-powertrain game plans.

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.