Ward Auto’s 10 Best Engines

What do the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, BMW i3, and the Volvo S60 have in common?

Well if you happen to guess that they are all winners of WardsAuto 10 Best Engines of 2015 award, then you – my good sir/madam, deserve a gold star for car-nerd trivia.

In order to win this award, the engines in these cars and 34 others were evaluated on power, observed fuel economy, technology, relative competitiveness, NVH characteristics, and more. The engines under consideration include the 10 winners from last year’s testing and others that must be new or significantly re-engineered.

Here’s our take on the ten best in alphabetical order by manufacturer.

 

BMW i3:

Photo courtesy of BMW

Photo courtesy of BMW

This car really looks like the future. A respectable 100 mile range makes the car work well for most commuters, and features a lightweight CFRP chassis. Does a good job hiding its green oriented goals with those large but skinny wheels; and it will out-drag comparable EV’s like the i-Miev or Nissan Leaf with a 0-60 time of only 7.2 seconds. An efficient and competitively positioned vehicle within its market segment.

 

Corvette Stingray 6.2 V8:

© GM Corp.

© GM Corp.

There’s no doubt the new C7 generation of Corvette is fast and has a well rounded chassis but the new and refined LT1 engine also delivers over 7.8 L/100km on the highway. Very impressive numbers indeed and the repeat winner undoubtedly deserves a spot on this list.

 

Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat:

Except you probably won't get that good MPG doing this (photo courtesy of Chrysler Group)

Except you probably won’t get that good MPG doing this (photo courtesy of Chrysler Group)

A supercharged 700+ hp 6.2 HEMI V8 with enough power to slow the earth’s rotation, an 11 second ¼ mile time and 10.7 L/100km (highway) thanks to it’s 8-speed automatic is impressive not only for a car of such sheer power but significant weight as well. The technologies that went into engineering this engine to handle the heat, pressure, and airflow/cooling demands also make it profoundly livable in everyday situations. The engine is certainly the centerpiece of this instantly iconic and desirable car.

 

Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost:

Photo courtesy of Ford

Photo courtesy of Ford

 

An incredibly compact engine that promises superior fuel economy and performance that’s also gone on to win the international engine of the year award… three times in a row. Oddly enough it’s only available with a 5 speed manual that helps it score a 32 MPG city rating similar to the more practical Honda Fit equipped with a CVT. Torque comes stronger and earlier than in other subcompacts but I can’t help but wonder if a diesel option would be more efficient.

 

Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell:

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Imagine an electric vehicle that you didn’t have to charge? And that you could refuel in a few minutes? That is what Hyundai has done with the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, trading off a Lithium-ion battery in exchange for the fuel cell. However carrying the fuel cell and hydrogen tanks around still makes it a bit heavier and slower than existing EV technologies, and the lacking hydrogen infrastructure still remains a problem for fuel cell technology. Still, an impressive effort from Hyundai.

 

Mini Cooper 1.5L 3-Cylinder:

Photo courtesy of BMW Group USA

Photo courtesy of BMW Group USA

With 134 hp/162 ft-lb of torque you’ll find a very potent base engine for the Mini in North America. Torque comes very early on at just 1250 RPM with good response; fuel economy is comparable to other subcompacts (and aforementioned 3-cylinder Fiesta) yet performance stacks up against larger and thirstier 4-cylinders. While the fuel consumption numbers are fairly impressive it is important to mention that this engine requires premium fuel, reducing the cost savings. This new F56 generation Mini was launched with some desirable engines unavailable in North America including a powerful 2.0L turbo diesel-4 with 168 hp and 265 ft-lb of torque found in the Mini SD.

 

Ram 1500 Ecodiesel:

Photo courtesy of Chrysler Group

Photo courtesy of Chrysler Group

The only diesel in the half-ton category makes this one a no brainer, diesel torque is a natural fit in a heavy vehicle that might also need to do some towing. The low end torque means the engine seldomly has to rev, with many reporting exceeding factory fuel economy claims in the real world (almost unheard of). The VM Motori engine has been criticized as being less refined, but it doesn’t hold back this Ecodiesel from being a game-changer in it’s class.

 

Subaru WRX 2.0 Turbo Flat-4:

13TDI_VL9b008

Photo courtesy of Subaru America

The new generation FA20 engine for Subaru has pretty much all but replaced the previous generation 2.5L EJ series (still remains in the current STI). And in dyno testing the smaller new engine was found to have more peak wheel-torque and significantly less turbo lag as well as being 20% more fuel efficient. A solid effort from Subaru who has remained fairly stagnant when it comes to developing engines over the last several years.

 

Volkswagen Jetta 1.8L TSI:

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen America

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen America

 

 While power is reminiscent of VW group’s 20V engines from 15 years ago, these new direct injected TSI engines deliver great torque throughout the rev range and are significantly faster than the typical 1.8/2.0 naturally aspirated engines found in similarly priced small Japanese sedans. They are refined and quiet with decent response, and while not the most fuel efficient in it’s class they’re possibly the most fun. It’s now also the base engine in the Golf with a very low starting MSRP making it more competitive than before.

 

Volvo S60 2.0 Turbo 4:

Photo courtesy of Volvo Canada

Photo courtesy of Volvo Canada

This ‘Drive-E’ series of engines built in Sweden feature a DOHC 4 valves/cylinder design with continuously variable valve timing. The specific engine that won is the peculiarly named ‘T5 Drive-E’ which is very confusing as the 5-cylinder ‘T5’ engine is still available. It’s regarded as being smooth and fairly responsive provided it’s in the correct drive mode. A realistic 25mpg on the FWD S60 marginally beats out the RWD equipped 328i and is superior to many V6 midsize sedans from Japanese brands. There’s also a hotter ‘T6’ version that’s turbocharged and supercharged delivering 302 hp

 

There are some notable limitations of Ward’s 10 Best Engines lists that force the award to be taken with a grain of salt. Engines have to be all-new or significantly re-engineered, so while engines that are more powerful and efficient may exist if they’ve been around for a while they’re no longer in the running. The engines also have to be available in the U.S. market which means there are many small gas and diesel engines that simply aren’t acknowledged. A $60,000 price cap also limits this year’s pool to only 37 nominees, meaning more than a quarter of the contestants walked away with a 10-best trophy. While this list might be very well known in North America, it’s hardly exhaustive and shouldn’t be the end-all and be-all. There are many fine powertrains that weren’t eligible for evaluation that buyers should still test drive before making a decision.

— Justin

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