Special Report

Ward’s 10 Best Engines

Maybe the Ford Shelby GT 500 deserves a spot in a prospective Ward’s 10 Best Engines subcategory: Guilty pleasures that don’t make the list.

All the judges, some more openly than others, enjoyed this beefed-up Mustang that pumps out 540 hp at 6,200 rpm. The horsepower peak arrives a short time later (6,250 rpm), so no one shied away from life in the fast lane while driving this beast with a hair-trigger throttle.

OK, the 5.4L V-8 is supersized, not to mention supercharged by Ford’s Special Vehicle Team. So it should be Herculean. But there’s this equine power point to ponder: 100 hp/L in a big V-8 is beyond forceful. It’s monstrous.

That high specific output earns praise even from judges who aren’t apt to swoon over modern muscle cars. Enough adjudicators of that ilk kept the GT500 off this year’s list.

Likewise, potent V-8s in the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger didn’t get past nominee status. The one V-8 that did land on the list powers the Hyundai Genesis, a sedan noted more for grace than racing in the streets.

I’m not arguing big engines suffered from a miscarriage of justice. This is the new age of fuel economy. About 2.7 L is the average displacement of engines on this year’s 10 Best Engines list.

In fairness to the winners, they didn’t get the gold just for being small and fuel-stingy. They got it for superior performance, innovative features and, yes, demonstrations of power in their own wiry way.

Perhaps V-8s won’t turn out to be timeless as their allure seems to wane. But nothing matches the thrill behind the wheel of a fire-breathing Mustang in full gallop on the open road, down the freeway or “Somewhere West of Laramie.”

That’s where, in the words of the famous 1920s car ad for the Jordan Playboy, “there's a bronco-busting, steer-roping girl who knows what I’m talking about. She can tell what a sassy pony, that’s a cross between greased lighting and the place where it hits, can do.”

sfinlay@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.