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Mixed bag of engines make Ward’s Top 10

List includes three electrified powertrains, several perennial winners

Published: December 10, 2015, 7:30 AM
Updated: November 23, 2021, 2:50 PM

2016 Chevrolet Volt

Ward’s has announced its annual list of what it considers the best 10 engines in North America, and again it is a diverse list with 4-cylinder units, V-6s and V-8s sharing the ranks with hybrids, turbos and diesels. The only thing in common is that all the engines are dual overhead cam (DOHC)

This marks the 22nd time Ward’s has handed out the awards, and for the first time, the list includes three electrified powertrains — the extended range powertrain of the Chevrolet Volt (1.5 4-cyl/120-kW motor), the Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid’s 2.0-litre 4-cyl/38-kW motor combination, and the Toyota Prius’ Hybrid Synergy Drive (1.8L 4-cyl./53-kW motor).

“For Hyundai’s first entry into the plug-in hybrid segment, Hyundai engineers did an impeccable job blending fuel efficiency with refinement and daily usability,” said Drew Winter, editor-in-chief, Ward’s AutoWorld magazine. “Transitions between all-electric and hybrid modes are completely seamless, something that drivers will undoubtedly appreciate on long journeys, and the six-speed automatic transmission gives drivers a greater sense of connection, compared with other hybrids in the segment.”

The Volt’s win made General Motors the only company with two engines on the top-10 list, with the 3.6-litre V-6 (found in the Chevrolet Camaro and Cadillac ATS) also garnering attention.

“The 3.6 delivers the kind of power and lusty exhaust note you associate with a V-8, for the price of a V-6,” said Winter. “Plus, it’s loaded with advanced technology, including fuel-saving cylinder deactivation.”

There were a couple repeat winners on the list, with Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s 3.0-litre Turbodiesel V-6 from the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel securing a spot for the third consecutive year, and the Subaru WRX’s turbo 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed (Boxer) “four” returning to the top 10 from last year.

"The 3.0-liter from FCA was one of three diesels in pickup trucks we tested this year for Wards 10 Best Engines, and we expected a tough fight among them,” said Tom Murphy, executive editor Ward’s AutoWorld. “But the Ram 1500 proved superior and continues to impress us with ideal measures of power, torque, refinement and luxury-car smoothness."

The other return winners were the Nissan VQ engine series — whose various iterations have been named to the Ward’s list for 15 of the list’s 22-year existence. The latest version is the Maxima’s 3.5-litre V-6 — and BMW’s N55 turbocharged inline-6s, which returns to the top-10 after a 2-year absence in the form of the 3.0-litre turbo straight-6 in the BMW 340i.

Perhaps the most unique engine on this year’s list is Volvo’s turbocharged AND supercharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder in the latest XC90 sport utility vehicle and the recently announced S90 flagship sedan.

“Achieving an effective level of balance across comfort, efficiency and power has been the ultimate goal for our creation of the Drive-E engine family across our global model range,” said Michael Fleiss, Vice President, Powertrain at Volvo Car Group. “The T6 Drive-E’s use of both supercharging and turbocharging delivers a lively, compelling result. We are honored to again receive recognition for our engines from Ward’s as we continue to pioneer new, effective technologies for our vehicles and customers.”

The remaining spot on the top 10 went to the 5.2-litre V-8 in Ford’s Shelby GT350 Mustang.

This year's pool of nominees included the 10 winners from 2015 and 21 new entries. Eight Ward’s AutoWorld editors drove the vehicles for two months during their daily commutes around metro Detroit, and scored each engine based on power, torque, technology, observed fuel economy, relative competitiveness and noise, vibration and harshness.

To be eligible for consideration, an engine or propulsion system must be all-new or significantly re-engineered, and available in the U.S. market with a base vehicle price not exceeding $61,000 US.

The awards will be presented to top powertrain executives from the winning automakers at a January 13 ceremony during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.