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From the pavement-shaking might of V-8s in theShelby GT350 and Titan XD to all-new versions of the Prius and Chevrolet Volt, the 2016 pool of 31 nominees for Wards 10 Best Engines reflects OEMs’ divergent powertrain strategies.
Engines in new Nissan Titan XD (from left), Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and Toyota Tacoma being tested by WardsAuto editors.
Sixteen engines with forced induction make up more than half of the 31 nominees in the 2016 Wards 10 Best Engines competition now under way, but the field also includes a resurgence in naturally aspirated V-6s and a 526-hp naturally aspirated V-8 in theShelby GT350 Mustang.
Inexpensive gasoline in the U.S. has dampened consumer interest in hybrids and electric vehicles, but that isn’t stopping automakers from introducing state-of-the-art fuel sippers such as the new Chevrolet Volt,Prius and Sonata Hybrid, all of which will compete with two returning winners, the hydrogen-fueled Hyundai Tucson FCV and i3 extended-range EV.
The pool of Ward’s 10 Best Engines nominees consists of the 2015 winners plus every new or significantly improved powertrain in a vehicle with a base price below $61,000 and available in U.S. showrooms during the first quarter of 2016.
Eight WardsAuto editors drive the vehicles in October and November during their routine daily commutes in Metro Detroit. Editors score every engine based on horsepower, torque, drivability, noise and harshness mitigation, flexibility, observed fuel economy and onboard technology.
This is the 22nd year for the competition.
As has been the case for many years, the 4-cyl. will dominate the field, with 14 of them in contention and eight of those using forced induction.
The 2.0L turbo-4 remains a popular engine platform, having earned 10 Best Engines trophies in 2015 for the Subaru WRX and Volvo S60. Those vehicles return to the competition and square off against the 228-hp Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop, equipped with’s new B48 I-4, which also is available in the X1 CUV.
The most powerful 2.0L I-4 in this year’s competition, Volvo’s T6, benefits from both turbocharging and supercharging, producing 316 hp and 295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm) of torque in the 7-passenger XC90 CUV.
Smaller turbos in the competition include the 1.6L I-4 in theTucson, 1.5L I-4s in the new Chevrolet Malibu and Civic and BMW’s 1.5L 3-cyl., a returning winner tested last year in the Mini Cooper and now available also in the BMW 218i Coupe.
Even smaller are’s 1.0L EcoBoost 3-cyl., a returning winner being tested this year in the Focus, and ’s 0.9L turbo-3 in the Smart Fortwo.
Not to be overlooked, small naturally aspirated powerplants remain relevant aslaunches a 1.5L in the new Volt extended-range EV, and is expected to have a naturally aspirated engine in its all-new Prius. Previous generations of the Prius have used 1.5L and 1.8L 4-cyl. engines.
New 2.0L naturally aspirated 4-cyl. engines also appear in the redesignedCivic, as well as the Hyundai Elantra, Sonata Hybrid and Sonata Plug-in Hybrid.
Other eco-friendly powertrains in the hunt are two returning winners: the 127-kW (170-hp) BMW i3 extended-range electric vehicle and the hydrogen-powered 100-kW (134-hp) Hyundai Tucson fuel-cell EV.