Engineers lucky enough to earn a Ward’s 10 Best Engines trophy surely find it fun to celebrate the accomplishment and bask in the glow with co-workers.

It’s fun for us, too, at WardsAuto, because our 3-month-long engine deep-dive represents a chance to read the powertrain tea leaves and identify technologies that are on the rise and those fading away.

This year, we see several emerging trends:

  • Forced induction is as popular as ever. Turbochargers are tied to 18 of 44 engines evaluated, while superchargers are linked to three.
  • Last year, we were wondering if tried-and-true multiport fuel-injection was surging back in style. Think again: Eight of 10 winners this year use direct injection.
  • Engineers say efficiency of gasoline engines is improving to the point that diesels may no longer hold a 25% fuel-efficiency edge. In our real-world testing, diesels still have a considerable advantage.
  • Overall, hybrid-electric vehicles scored poorly in this year’s competition due to questionable fuel efficiency. Nissan’s two hybrids, the Pathfinder CUV and Infiniti Q50 sedan, were the best of the bunch.
  • General Motors’ excellent new small-block has breathed new life into the cam-in-block engine architecture. Where to now, pushrod?
  • Last year, we tested only three V-8s. This year, we had four, and three of those were GM small-blocks. Anyone else doing new V-8s? Bueller? Bueller?

We also drove six diesels, more than ever before, and for the first time put three of them on the list. All six diesels scored well, and we’re counting on new ones to test next fall. Same is true for tiny 3-cyl. engines, two of which we considered this year as the downsizing trend continues.

This is the 20th year for Ward’s 10 Best Engines. Eight editors evaluated 44 engines or propulsion systems during two months of daily driving in metro Detroit, ending in December.

To be eligible, an engine must be all-new or significantly improved and available in a production vehicle in the U.S. market within the first quarter of 2014.

This year, we raised the base price cap from $55,000 to $60,000. New engines are pitted against the 10 winners from the previous year.

Editors score each engine based on horsepower, torque, technology, observed fuel economy, relative competitiveness and noise, vibration and harshness characteristics.

The awards will be presented at a Jan. 15 ceremony in Detroit during the North American International Auto Show.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com