What is in this article?:
- 20 Years of Favorite Engines
- Hybrids Make Cut
The Ward’s 10 Best Engines competition is in its 20th year. We mark the occasion by recalling those that are hard to forget.
Ward’s 10 Best Engines has been recognizing powertrain excellence for 20 years.
Something old, something new, something blowered and something.
Pardon the butchering of the English language, but these four words summarize our favorite Ward’s 10 Best Engines winners over the past 20 years.
We’ve been recognizing powertrain excellence for two decades and decided another rankings list would be a great way to highlight some of the remarkable engines that have crossed our path.
Each WardsAuto editor was asked for his or her five most memorable picks since joining the staff and to rank the selections.
With the votes tabulated and zero discussion among the staff, here are our picks, in alphabetical order:
- Audi 3.0L Supercharged V-6 (Audi S5)
- BMW 3.0L N55 Turbocharged I-6 (BMW 135is)
- 83-kW Electric Motor (Fiat 500e)
- Chrysler 5.7L Hemi V-8 (Ram pickup)
- SVT 2.5L High-Output V-6 (Contour SVT)
- 1.4L EREV (Chevy Volt)
- Honda 2.2L VTEC I-4 (Honda Prelude)
- Nissan 3.0L/3.5L/3.7L VQ V-6 (Infiniti G37S coupe)
- Porsche 3.2L H-6 (Porsche Boxster S)
- Toyota 1.5L/1.8L I-4 HEV (Toyota Prius)
A few takeaways worth noting: No diesels make the cut, but the electrics are well-represented, with one battery EV, one hybrid and one extended-range EV.
Two engines from the 2014 class of honorees make the grade: Audi’s remarkable 3.0L supercharged V-6 (a 5-time winner) and the500e, a first-timer this year.
Oh sure, some of you are wondering how a battery-electric like the 500e makes the grade, especially when it has no internal-combustion engine at all. But don’t knock it until you try it.
Note also that only one V-8 earns a shout-out,’s 5.7L Hemi, which continues to stoke our fires after winning six trophies over the course of seven years, ending in 2009.
Narrowly missing the top 10 was’s 5.4L Triton V-8, which strung together six consecutive wins through 2002, including a supercharged variant in the Ford SVT Lightning pickup.
For the record, Ford has won the most Ward’s 10 Best Engines trophies for V-8s, taking home 17 over the past 20 years, compared with nine for GM and seven for Chrysler.
Still, we give the edge to the Hemi push-rodder because Chrysler improved it a number of times, for instance, by integrating fuel-saving cylinder deactivation, something Ford wasn’t able to do with its overhead-cam architecture.
Ford gets kudos for the 2.5L High-Output V-6 in the Contour SVT, an award-winner in 1998 and 1999.
WardsAuto editors have fond memories of the affordable and darty Contour SVT, its 195 hp partially enabled by the unique Extrude Hone intake manifold whose runners were smoothed by high-pressure abrasive putty.
ranks among our top 10 faves with its superlative 3.0L N55 twin-scroll turbo inline-6 that scored Ward’s 10 Best Engines props in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Longtime watchers of our competition may remember our infatuation with BMW’s “M” I-6, a later version of which employed six individual throttle butterflies that helped the old M3 deliver 333 hp from the 3.2L.
Between 1995 and 2004, the engine won nine trophies. The naturally aspirated 3.0L/3.2L narrowly missed the cut in our recent rankings partially because it was such a niche application while the newer N55 powers much of the brand’s lineup.
By the way, our favorites list of the past 20 years would be incomplete without a Bimmer: The Bavarians have more Ward’s 10 Best Engines trophies (30) than any automaker in the world.