t the strictest emissions regulations in the world. If Americans want to find a vehicle that consumes less fuel and is fun to drive, our list is a great place to start."
Some highlights of the winners:
Ford Motor Co.’s redesigned 2.5L 4-cyl. hybrid-electric powertrain, which is motivating President and CEO Alan Mulally’s Escape Hybrid cross/utility vehicle to and from Washington D.C. for federal-aid talks, makes the cut and serves as a reminder of the innovative spirit found in the domestic auto industry.
Ford’s 2.5-liter, dual-overhead cam I-4 hybrid engine was the only hybrid engine selected as a winner. The judges praised not only its smooth gas-to-electric transition but its overall quality feel as well. This is the fifth year of production for the Escape Hybrid but the first year for the SUV to use Ford’s new 2.5-liter engine. Previous models used a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine.
“Ford engineers have done a tremendous job,” said Drew Winter, editor in chief of Ward’s Autoworld magazine. “With hybrids in particular, software is such a big thing. The software that regulates how the power is transferred back and forth from gas to electric, when it’s done badly, can be jerky and unsettling, but when it’s done well, it really elevates driving pleasure. It’s the difference between a superior powertrain and a science experiment.”
The 2009 Ford Escape and Mariner hybrid models use the new 2.5-liter I-4 designed to run on the Atkinson combustion cycle. A new engine processor enables nearly imperceptible transitions between gas and electric vehicle mode. The hybrid models also feature a new powertrain damping system to reduce vibrations and feedback to the driver and other vehicle occupants.
BMW AG’s new 3.0L inline 6-cyl. turbodiesel scores a slot on the list in its first year available in the U.S. Joined by the auto maker’s twin-turbocharged and direct-injected gasoline I-6 engine, which returns for the third year, the diesel employs a sequential twin-turbocharger system that provides the 335d sedan with impressive fuel economy and a tire-shredding 425 lb.-ft. (576 Nm) of torque.
Volkswagen AG joins the clean-diesel party this year, as well, with its new 2.0L 4-cyl. turbodiesel powering the Jetta TDI sedan. Fun to drive and frugal at the pump, the TDI is an affordable and entertaining alternative to many larger gasoline and hybrid-electric powertrains.
Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. appears for the first time on Ward’s 10 Best Engines list with its all-new Tau 4.6L DOHC V-8. Introduced in the new Genesis luxury sedan, the engine’s velvety power delivery, competitive performance and attainable price epitomize the Korean auto maker’s drive for world-class engineering.
Chrysler LLC’s venerable 5.7L Hemi V-8 returns to the rankings with added refinement, power and variable-valvetrain and induction technology. Its guttural roar and low-end grunt serves double duty this year in the all-new Dodge Challenger R/T and Ram pickup.
Toyota Motor Corp. scores its fourth consecutive 10 Best Engines win with its Lexus 3.5L DOHC V-6, a brilliant design that employs a unique, combination direct- and port-injection fueling system that helps generate 306 hp and 277 lb.-ft. (376 Nm) of torque.
General Motors Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. also make return appearances with their high-volume V-6 engines exemplifying practicality balanced with precision engineering.
GM’s high-feature 3.6L V-6 with direct-gasoline injection returns for the second time. Tested in the Cadillac CTS, yet flexible enough to proliferate through the auto maker’s cross/utility vehicles, the advanced V-6 makes a hardy 304 hp on regular gasoline.
Honda underscores its longstanding reputation for great engines with the encore performance of its 3.5L SOHC V-6 in the Accord lineup. Merging exceptional performance with reasonable fuel economy, the engine employs advanced cylinder deactivation in the sedan and engaging power delivery in the coupe.
Audi AG’s 2.0L TFSI turbocharged 4-cyl., freshly revamped with 211 hp and a mighty 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) of torque for the all-new A4, rounds out the list with a fourth-consecutive 10 Best Engines placing as one of the best all-around turbo-4s on the market.
This year, six Ward’s editors nominated 32 different engines for the 10 Best Engines competition. The nominee list consists of the 2008 winners as well as all-new or significantly improved engines.
Over a nearly 2-month period, the editors evaluated and scored each engine against all others in a number of objective and subjective parameters. Each engine must be available in a regular-production, U.S.-specification model on sale no later than the first quarter of 2009 in a vehicle priced no more than $54,000, a price cap indexed to the average cost of a new vehicle.
The awards will be given at a Jan. 14, 2009, ceremony in Detroit during the North American International Auto Show. Complete stories about the 10 Best Engines will be featured soon on Wardsauto.com and in upcoming issues of Ward’s AutoWorld magazine and Ward’s Engine & Vehicle Technology Update newsletter.
Source: Ward’s Automotive Group, Penton Media