As the Ward’s 10 Best Engines competition celebrates its 20th anniversary, 39 gasoline engines, six diesels, three hybrid-electrics and two battery-electrics vie for recognition as part of this year’s nominating class.

In total, WardsAuto editors are driving 45 vehicles this fall with all-new or significantly improved engines or propulsion systems, with the winners to be announced by mid-December.

Of the 45 powertrain systems being evaluated, 20 are turbocharged and three are supercharged.

A record number of diesels are in the competition. Over the course of 20 years of Ward’s 10 Best Engines testing, only eight diesels have made the list.

This year’s flood of new diesels (from Audi, BMW, Chrysler, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz) illustrates automakers’ need to take unconventional steps to comply with pending fuel-economy mandates in the U.S. while meeting continued heavy demand for diesels in Europe.

Diesels generally are 15% to 25% more fuel-efficient than comparably sized gasoline engines, while producing loads of low-end torque.

But even with direct injection and modern common-rail fuel delivery, they remain louder than their gasoline counterparts. Plus, elaborate exhaust aftertreatment systems designed to neutralize certain pollutants and filter soot particles make diesels more expensive than gasoline engines.

BMW and Mercedes each have won Ward’s 10 Best Engines trophies for diesel entries in past years, and Ford, GM and Chrysler have won previously with heavy-duty diesels that no longer are part of the competition.

This year, GM’s 2.0L 4-cyl. diesel in the Chevrolet Cruze is being studied, as is Chrysler’s Ram 1500, the first light-duty U.S. pickup powered by a small-displacement, light-duty diesel. The Ram’s 3.0L V-6 is engineered by Italy’s VM Motori, which is owned by Fiat.

The Ward’s 10 Best Engines competition has never had more than three diesels in any one year. This year’s field could have included two additional 4-cyl. diesels from Volkswagen and Mazda, but those engines will not be available in the U.S. until later in 2014.

On the hybrid front, Subaru is hoping its first-ever HEV, the XV Crosstrek, will be in contention, but the car may not be available in time to drive in Detroit by the beginning of December. If not, the hybrid will be in next year’s competition.

To be eligible, all new and improved engines must be available in production vehicles on sale in the U.S. by the end of March 2014.

Base price for all entries is limited to $60,000, which represents an increase from $55,000 last year. When the awards program began in 1995, base price was capped at $50,000.

“For years, we have resisted significant increases in the price cap because we believe a $50,000 vehicle automatically should come with a great engine,” says WardsAuto World Editor-in-Chief Drew Winter. “We’re increasing the cap this year to keep up with rising sticker prices.”

In 1993, the average price of a new car was $16,871. Today, it is $30,748.

Despite the higher cap, Winter says the competition will remain dedicated to finding the best engines that represent the best value across a wide range of vehicles.

WardsAutoeditors evaluate the vehicles during their daily commutes throughout metropolitan Detroit during October and November. There is no instrumented testing or use of dynamometers. New engines are pitted against the 10 winners from the previous year.

Judges submit score sheets for each vehicle and award points based on each engine’s horsepower, torque, observed fuel economy, drivability, comparative data, technical features 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

 

Ward’s 10 Best Engines 2014 Nominees

  • Acura RLX / 3.5L V-6
  • Audi A6 TDI / 3.0L turbodiesel V-6 
  • Audi S5 / 3.0L supercharged V-6 
  • BMW 328i xDrive Sport Wagon / 2.0L turbo 4-cyl.
  • BMW 328d / 2.0L turbodiesel 4-cyl.  
  • BMW 435i / 3.0L N55 turbo I-6
  • BMW 535d / 3.0L twin-turbo I-6 diesel
  • Cadillac CTS / 2.0L turbo 4-cyl.
  • Cadillac CTS Vsport / 3.6L twin-turbo V-6
  • Chevrolet Cruze / 2.0L turbodiesel 4-cyl.
  • Chevrolet Impala / 2.5L 4-cyl. 
  • Chevrolet Spark EV / battery-electric
  • Chevrolet Silverado / 4.3L LV3 small block V-6
  • Chevrolet Silverado / 5.3L L83 small block V-8
  • Chevrolet Corvette / 6.2L LT1 small block V-8
  • Dodge Dart GT / 2.4L Tigershark 4-cyl.
  • Dodge Charger / 3.6L Pentastar V-6
  • Fiat 500e / battery-electric
  • Ford Fiesta / 1.0L EcoBoost 3-cyl.
  • Ford Fiesta ST / 1.6L EcoBoost 4-cyl.
  • Ford Focus ST / 2.0L EcoBoost 4-cyl.
  • Ford Shelby GT500 / 5.8L supercharged V-8
  • GMC Sierra Denali / 6.2L L86 small block V-8
  • Honda Accord / 2.4L 4-cyl.
  • Honda Accord / 3.5L V-6
  • Honda Accord Hybrid / 2.0L HEV
  • Hyundai Elantra/Kia Forte / 2.0L Nu 4-cyl.
  • Infiniti Q50 hybrid / 3.5L V-6 HEV
  • Jeep Cherokee / 3.2L Pentastar V-6
  • Kia K900 / 3.8L V-6
  • Mazda3 / 2.5L SkyActiv 4-cyl.
  • Mercedes E250/GLK250 Bluetec / 2.1L turbodiesel 4-cyl.
  • Mercedes CLA250 / 2.0L turbo 4-cyl.
  • Mercedes CLA45 AMG 4Matic / 2.0L turbo 4-cyl.
  • Mini Cooper Hardtop / 1.5L B38 turbo 3-cyl. 
  • Mini Cooper S Hardtop / 2.0L B48 turbo 4-cyl.
  • Mitsubishi Mirage / 1.2L 3-cyl.
  • Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid / 2.5L supercharged 4-cyl. HEV
  • Porsche Cayman / 2.7L H-6
  • Ram 1500 Crew Cab / 3.0L V-6 EcoDiesel
  • Subaru Forester / 2.0L FA 4-cyl. boxer turbo 
  • Subaru BRZ / 2.0L 4-cyl. boxer
  • Toyota Corolla Eco-Plus / 1.8L 4-cyl.
  • Volkswagen Jetta / 1.8L EA888 turbo 4-cyl.
  • Volkswagen Beetle GSR / 2.0L EA888 turbo 4-cyl.