When comparing an automobile to the human body, the engine is undoubtably the equivalent of the heart. The engine is an integral and complicated contraption, and if it deteriorates, it can bring the rest of the car with it. A strong, efficient engine is similar to an athlete’s heart; it does more with less, can outlast the competition, and is honed to serve a particular purpose well.
Every year, Ward’s Auto releases a list of the 10 best engines, and its list for 2014 has been released. This year’s rankings mark the 20th anniversary of Ward’s annual list, “A competition created to recognize outstanding powertrain achievement, world-class technologies and those rare engines or electric propulsion systems that are so compelling they help sell the vehicle.”
The ten were chosen from 44 different powertrains that the judges examined; to be qualified, “A new or significantly improved engine or propulsion system must be on sale in a production vehicle during the first quarter of 2014.” The base price for the vehicle has been capped at $60,000, up from $55,000 last year. Here are the winning engines for 2014.
1. Audi’s 3.0 liter TFSI Supercharged V6 (S5)
Audi’s fifth consecutive Best Engine appearance is owed to its new 3.0 liter supercharged V6, which offers 333 horsepower in the Audi S5. “Several new [six cylinder] engines have entered the market within the past five years, but few can match the Audi’s brute strength, luscious torque and supreme refinement,” Ward’s Auto says in its press release.
2. BMW’s 3.0 liter Turbodiesel Inline Six (535d)
BMW has made an astounding 30 appearances at the 10 Best Engines club over the past 20 years, and continues its streak with its new a single variable-geometry turbocharged 3.0 liter diesel, with a promising 413 pound-feet or torque and 35 miles per gallon on the highway (31 when placed in BMW’s X5 SUV).
3. Ram’s 3.0 liter Turbodiesel V6 (1500 EcoDiesel)
“Ideally mated with a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission, the 3.0 liter turbodiesel goes about its business with little effort or humdrum and propels the 6,000-lb. truck with ease,” Ward’s says of Ram’s new diesel-powered 1500 pickup. It’s 240 horsepower — a bit light for the pickup class — is more than offset by the 420 pound-feet of torque it produces; further, some of the editors managed better than 24 mpg in mixed driving, “which is remarkable in a truck this large.”
4. Fiat’s 83 kW Electric Motor (500e)
Fiat’s torque-rich 83 kW electric motor found in the 500e is the first win for the Italian company, as the car “repeatedly charged to 85 miles of range as advertised,” though it “consistently outperformed its indicated range.” Though EVs have a reputation for being heavy and a bit lacking, “the 500e feels lighter, keeps up with highway traffic more capably, is loads of fun to drive and is reasonably affordable ($33,095 sticker),” Ward’s says.
5. Ford’s 1.0 liter EcoBoost Inline Three (Fiesta)
Ford’s (NYSE:F) EcoBoost line of engines use some pretty clever engineering to achieve solid power coupled with decent fuel economy, which is illustrated by the Fiesta’s 1.0 liter turbocharged unit. It’s the first three-cylinder engine to win the award, and can manage 45 miles per gallon on the highway — from a unit that can fit in the overhead storage of a commercial aircraft.
6. Chevrolet’s 2.0 liter Turbodiesel Inline Four (Cruze Diesel)
Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) is making a return to diesel-powered passenger vehicles after a long hiatus, with a new diesel Cruze that makes the car into “a bona fide hybrid fighter while standing toe-to-toe with four cylinder diesels in German luxury cars that cost twice the price.” As for the reason it’s here, “test drives earlier in the year by Ward’s Auto editors confirmed the Cruze diesel can exceed its 46 mpg highway fuel-economy rating,” to say nothing of the hefty torque that it puts out.
7. Chevy’s 6.2 liter V8 (Corvette Stingray)
“Ward’s Auto recognizes the 460-hp LT1 [6.2 liter] V8 in the ferocious Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and finds its cousin, the L86 6.2 liter EcoTec3 V8 in the GMC Sierra Denali, to be the most compelling of the three small-block truck engines,” Ward’s says, noting that the blocks, cylinder heads, crankshafts, and other hardware but use separate intake, exhaust and lubrication systems and tuning. It’s the first time GM has had two engines on the list since 2008.
8. Honda’s 3.5 liter V6 (Accord)
“This unflappable V6 is the best naturally aspirated [six cylinder] engine in a mainstream vehicle at a time when most automakers are switching instead to turbocharged direct-injected [four-cylinder] powerplants for better fuel efficiency,” Ward’s praises. Honda’s 3.5 liter unit has been a favorite of the judges for a number of years, and has won the award in the past, as well.
9. Porsche’s 2.7 liter Flat-Six boxer (Cayman)
Porsche’s 2.7 liter engine award is the company’s fourth, the last win in 2002 for an earlier version of the same unit. “The [2.7 liter] boxer that feels a lot more powerful than its rated 275 hp and 213 lb.-ft. of torque in the Cayman,” Ward’s notes, adding that the car’s 2,888 curb weight helps considerably. “The rear-wheel-drive Cayman begs to be driven hard and sounds spectacular in the process.”
10. VW’s 1.8 liter Turbocharged Inline Four (Jetta)
Finally, Volkswagen’s new turbocharged 1.8 liter inline four rounds out the ten finishers. “In the affordably priced Jetta, the 1.8L is quiet, efficient and a riot to drive in sport mode, happily popping off the line even with a 6-speed automatic transmission,” Ward’s says. “Several editors logged close to 30 mpg in mixed driving, thanks in part to a subtle stop/start system, and the EPA says 36 mpg is possible on the highway.”
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