By on December 8, 2010

This wasn't one of them

Every year, Ward’s names their “10 Best Engines” in a press release dripping with hyperbole and breathless praise. I’m often a bit mystified by their choices — the fragile, sludgy 1.8T VW? The 3.8L Nissan VR, which according to a race-engine-building friend of mine occasionally shows up with the shims on backwards, and which bore-walks under boost? The Cadillac Northstar V8??? — but the nice people at Ward’s have somehow figured out a way to make a buck creating the list and we shouldn’t begrudge them that.

Click the jump for the Ten Best Engines — and a special TTAC Bonus, the Three Worst Sentences Of The Press Release.

  • 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V-6 (Audi S4)
  • 3.0L N55 Turbocharged DOHC I-6 (BMW 335i)
  • 1.6L Turbocharged DOHC I-4 (Mini Cooper S)
  • 3.6L Pentastar DOHC V-6 (Dodge Avenger)
  • 5.0L DOHC V-8 (Ford Mustang GT)
  • 1.4L DOHC I-4/111kW Drive Motor (Chevrolet Volt)
  • 5.0L Tau DOHC V-8 (Hyundai Genesis)
  • 80kW AC Synchronous Electric Motor (Nissan Leaf)
  • 2.0L DOHC I-4 Turbodiesel (Volkswagen Jetta TDI)
  • 3.0L Turbocharged DOHC I-6 (Volvo S60)

And now, the Three Worst Sentences:

  • Or Something Else, In Those Japanese Videos You Told Your Mom Belonged To Your Friend: “The effect is all-consuming, washing over the driver like waves on a beach.”
  • Notions Of Turbo Lag Are Now Just Ninety Percent As Scary, Thanks To BMW: “For 2011, the N55 I-6 in the 335i replaces the two compressors with a single twin-scroll turbocharger that saves weight, improves throttle response, boosts fuel efficiency (15% over the N54) and reduces friction, while decimating the notion of turbo lag.”
  • Our Favorite Inaccurate Noise Comparison, “UNDERWATER NUCLEAR SUBMARINE MICROPHONES LISTENING TO SHRIMP CHEWING ON FOOD AT 100 METERS DISTANCE”, Was Temporarily Unavailable Due To Use Elsewhere In A Decibel Chart: (Pentastar V6) “At idle, it is as quiet as a whisper.”

And now, the TTAC Bonus We Didn’t Even Mention In The Headline: Ward’s Best Sentence For 2010! Drum roll please:

  • Until You Understand It, You Won’t Realize It’s Just A Glorified Hybrid: (Chevy Volt) “Some consider it a glorified hybrid while others just don’t understand it.”
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62 Comments on “Ward’s Ten Best Engines, Three Worst Sentences...”

  • avatar

    The misuse of “decimated” (to take 10% of) continues — another that makes the back of my neck itch: “The enemy was totally decimated”.

    I’m also surprised that Ward’s didn’t cite that the Volt’s electric motor was “twice as smooth” as that in the Leaf.

    • 0 avatar

      Several years ago, Car & Driver used decimated improperly. Drives me nuts.

    • 0 avatar

      Like it or not, “decimate” means more in English than just “removing” every 10th man in the army.  M-W mentions “to reduce drastically especially in number”, while says” The extended sense “destroy a great number or proportion of” developed in the 19th century: Cholera decimated the urban population.”
      That said, “decimating the notion of turbo lag” is rather nonsensical.  Don’t Liberal Arts majors have to learn how to use words properly, or are they too busy getting stoned and criticizing societal norms?  I went to Engineering school, where I had to study a bunch of lower-case Greek letters – not much help when trying to come up with a cheesy simile or metaphor.

    • 0 avatar

      So the question appears to be whether or not turbo lag was killed or was destroyed by a method other than killing.
      deci·mation n.
      Usage Note: Decimate originally referred to the killing of every tenth person, a punishment used in the Roman army for mutinous legions. Today this meaning is commonly extended to include the killing of any large proportion of a group. Sixty-six percent of the Usage Panel accepts this extension in the sentence The Jewish population of Germany was decimated by the war, even though it is common knowledge that the number of Jews killed was much greater than a tenth of the original population. However, when the meaning is further extended to include large-scale destruction other than killing, as in The supply of fresh produce was decimated by the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, only 26 percent of the Panel accepts the usage.

    • 0 avatar

      I always try to stop by Paul Brian’s Common Errors in English Usage page before commenting. (Sometimes I do not succeed.)

      Sure enough, Decimate is there.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought decimation was also a punishment for Roman legions who got their asses kicked due to not fighting bravely enough.  If you got your ass kicked and didn’t die on the battlefield, the punishment could be that your unit gets decimated.  By extension, an ass-kicking defeat you’re getting decimated

  • avatar

     The burning question that comes to mind. The photo for for sure is a  GM engine compartment, circa eighty one ?. Is it a caddy or a Buick? Distributer at the front says Buick.

     I was in the group that did final engine dress,and I don’t remember that engine.

     Somebody help me out,

  • avatar

    It needs the 4G63 on the list. Also I dream of owning a 2011 F-150 XL with the $1000 5.0 L 360 hp V8 upgrade for a drive out around $22k.
    Mikey that is the Cadillac V864. I remember Caddy used the “Digital Fuel Injection” badges.

  • avatar

    No 2 cyl multiair? meh

  • avatar
    M 1

    This raises the important question, “Best for What?”
    Many of these would make excellent anchors.

  • avatar

    Until You Understand It, You Won’t Realize It’s Just A Glorified Hybrid: (Chevy Volt) “Some consider it a glorified hybrid while others just don’t understand it.”

    I’ll agree with that statement and the TTAC embellishment.

    And why are half of the engines on the list boosted, when only a small fraction of the engines on the road are?

    • 0 avatar

      I personally don’t see why the Volt being a hybrid is some kind of badge of shame**.  It’s a hybrid.  A very good one.  So what?
      ** I mean, other than running contrary GM’s press material, but it’s not like all press releases aren’t at least partly fictional.

    • 0 avatar

      I would wait until we see how that Volt works in the field before even considering one.

      That has nothing to do with bailouts, Obama, greenies, etc. It has to do with GM’s absolutely absymal record of bringing new concepts and engines to market. The more a GM car is ballyhooed as the Next Big Thing at its introduction, the more of a disaster it usually turns out to be.

    • 0 avatar

      @psarhjinian: I didn’t mean that the Volt as a hybrid is shameful.  It is not, and I don’t think TTAC thinks that, either.  The Volt’s drivetrain is just difficult to explain to non-enthusiasts, while GM refrains from calling it a hybrid. That makes things confusing, not shameful.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Speaking of improper usage and bad cliches, I’m expressing my rancor at the misuse of the word “anchor.” As a former boater, I can assure you that any of these engines would perform poorly at anchoring anything more than a johnboat. None of these “anchors” have flukes of which to gain purchase on a lake bottom, riverbed, or seafloor. Hence, if one were to load one of these so-called “anchors” into a johnboat, one would exceed the vessel’s capacity, causing it to sink.
    Perhaps “sinker” is more appropriate.

    • 0 avatar

      Ha, ha, ha! I suppose if you left the exhaust mainfolds on, they would be certain to snag something!

      I’m still laughing at your post! A really good one! BTW, I like your use of the word “purchase”. But doesn’t that refer to a point or place on an object (car, railway equipment, etc.) where you would place a jacing device under or affix a lifting hook or some other device to either lift or otherwise move the particular object? I never heard the word referred to for snagging something or digging into a lake or stream bed to prevent drifting of a vassel.

    • 0 avatar

      Rod, you’re just being far too literal.  It’s certainly one thing to point out an obvious word choice error (as in the case of decimate).  But to say that making the metaphor of a rubbish engine to a boat anchor is invalid because an engine lacks ‘flukes’ is ridiculous.  That’s just being too unimaginative to understand how much someone loathes a particular engine.

      That’s why metaphors exist, to transfer aspects of one object to another.  It requires some use of one’s imagination to fill in the blanks (like the obvious aspect that an engine would, in fact, make a poor anchor).

  • avatar

    I thought you were going to heap some praise on the 368 Cadillac engine, but I guess not. If any of you ever get the chance, definitely try this engine out. It’s extremely smooth, decently powerful in a Seville or Eldorado and gets good mileage. Most of you 8-6-4 naysayers have never owned one. Compared to the 4100, the 8-6-4 is the pinnacle of engineering.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s not saying too much…

      I remember when this engine was new. Everyone I knew who had one dumped the car as fast as they could.

    • 0 avatar

      …and I highly recommend going for a drive in an Oldsmobile or Cadillac equipped with the 350 diesel engine.  tons of torque and excellent fuel mileage, even with just a 3-speed non-lockup transmission.  The engine isn’t that noisy either, even at highway speed.  Unfortunately for you, my family probably owns the last one still on the road, and no you can’t come over and drive ours.
      My understanding is that one of the shortcomings of the 468 engine was that it was put in the heaviest cars of the time, which necessitated spending most of its time in V8 mode.  If it had been available in a midsize car, the fuel economy improvement would have been much more pronounced.  It was also unbalanced in 6-cylinder mode, which is why new V8s with cylinder deactivation just switch between 4 and 8 cylinders.

  • avatar

    I like Ward’s because they are one of the few publications outside of places like Hot Rod and Super Chevy that don’t automatically say “pushrods are only for trucks and tractors”.
    Plus, their list almost always brings great variety to it,  and I rarely disagree with the final choices.
    That said, the Nissan MR16DDT was robbed this year.

  • avatar

    Lets see an actual Wards 10 Worst Engines List
    In no particular order of course.
    1971-1977 Chevy Vega 2300
    1982-2008 Ford Essex family V6’s  3.8, 3.9 , 4.2
    1978-1985 Oldsmobile Diesels 5.7, 4.3
    1998-2010 Chrysler 2.7 V6 DOHC
    1982-1995 Cadillac HT 4100 V8, 4.1, 4.5, 4.9
    1984-1994 Ford Tempo 2.3 HSC, HSO
    1981 Cadillac 368 V8-6-4
    1997-2006 VW/Audi 1.8T
    1982-2002 Chevy Cavalier a.k.a (J-car OHV 4 Cyl.)  1.8, 2.0, 2.2
    1977-1992 Pontiac/GM Iron Duke (Tech V) 2.5
    I think I came up a good worse of list to start off with.  Each of these engines are losers in one aspect or another.  Such as NVH,  durability, power output.
    Any comments…

    • 0 avatar

      Great list.
      I do have to nominate that gnasher they used to put under the hood of all the Saturns.  It sounded like a cheap coffee grinder filled with course sand, and it was gutless to boot.

  • avatar

    I remember a few years ago that the Chevy 4.2 L “Atlas” V6 engine was one of the “Ten Best” in 2007. A family member drives an 2007 Trailblazer and it does great. On the other hand, the Ford Essex 3.8 V6 had some issues, as a 1997 Mustang developed a coolant leak that could not be fixed, and unbeknownst to me, there was a recall on this engine due to a design defect. Perhaps someone could elaborate on this.

    I have no vehicles with any of these engines currently on the list. I am interested in the Pentastar mill as far as if it has any issues with gaskets, oil sludge, etc.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Hmmm…. 10 best engines…
    Two hybrid engines. But neither one from the best selling hybrid of the last 10 years. The only hybrid engine that has a stellar record for reliability and fuel economy.
    Four engines with turbos (surprise?). But only one that has a ghost of a chance of finding itself in the most common type of car. A midsized sedan.
    No mention of longevity or durability… at all.
    If we’re talking about the technical aspects of simply having an ‘advanced engine’, fair enough. But most folks would be far more interested in the durability and fuel economy of Hyundai’s recent four-cylinder Sonata than they would the performance aspects of engines that are built in very limited quantities.

  • avatar

    Prior to 1998ish or so the Ford Essex 3.8 V6 had strong reputation for Head Gasket Failure,  and other engine gasket failures.  Numerous TSB’s and ONP’s, have been issued from Ford regards to this engine’s short comings of durability.  Simply put, Ford sort of made a half a**ed copy of the older Buick 3.8 engine with a notable difference.  Instead of having a cast iron block and cylinder head as in the Buick design; Ford decided to use an aluminum cylinder head and along with crappy gasket materials and uneven cooling of the cylinder head  is the main culpert of this motors thermal expansion issues and gasket failures.

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    Okay, I will be the dumb guy here: what is “bore walk?”  I thought maybe it was what those Afrikaaners did on the way across the Transvaal or something but that might be wrong.  Or maybe it was what I landed on in Monopoly once?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      The bores on the Nissan VR engine tend to come out of alignment under serious boost. Although it is a “closed deck” engine, there is still plenty of moving, oscillation, and shifting going on.

      Compare that to the split-case Porsche GT1 engine as found in the old Turbo, which is much stronger and responds much better to heavy boost pressure.

    • 0 avatar

      Cylinder movement on a closed-deck block? WTH?
      They need to borrow the engineer from the last-gen Supra motor, or even the early-90’s Legacy Turbo.

  • avatar

    Well, the term “bore walk” isn’t defined in Urban Dictionary. It sounds as though it could relate to sleeves not being fastened well enough in a sleeve engine, but I just pulled that out of the air….

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “I would wait until we see how that Volt works in the field before even considering one.”

    Here’s the driving log of a doctor out in Jersey so far. He’s part of the GM Volt Consumer Advisory Board(CAB).  After 26 days &  1,730 miles, he’s averaging 153 MPG. Not bad, but I think I’ll be able to do a lot better when I get mine.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s not much of a real-world test. Call me when reports come in about owner-driven Volts (versus babied GM fleet examples) turning over 30,000 miles on the odometer without major mechanical/electrical issues… or exploding.

      Good luck with your Volt, but as another poster notes GM’s record when it comes to innovation is far (far, far, far, far, far, far) from decent…

    • 0 avatar

      I’m more concerned about long-term reliability. The X-Cars and Oldsmobile Diesel worked well at first, too.

    • 0 avatar

      Really?  How many gallons of electricity did he use?

  • avatar

    Dont know why anyone would even follow Wards…They are the same as Motortrend, Car and Driver, New York Times and all those establishment lying sacks.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t believe what one infers from reading Motor Trend or Car and Driver can be called lies exactly.  Maybe tempered by other forces.
      And I wouldn’t say the NY Times “lies”…they probably deliver information you feel is skewed in a direction that does not square with your view.
      I still would trust them over any other news source available in the US.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand how the BMW engine makes it. With the HPFP recall, I would think the reliability aspect might matter in the list criteria.
    Maybe it’s a top 10 engine for the 1st 2 years….

  • avatar


  • avatar

    This should be called Wards 10 Most Novel Engines. It certainly isn’t a list of the best, if actually working is a consideration.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Really?  How many gallons of electricity did he use?”

    Geeze I don’t know? How many barrels of electricty do we import every year?   

    • 0 avatar

      You’re missing the point: It’s ridiculous to quote “mpg” as your efficiency when your primary energy source isn’t measured in gallons.  It’d be like me saying my BMW uses 1 kWh/100 miles, compared to 34 kWh for the Leaf.  It’s probably true (power to run fans, water pump, spark plugs, computer, etc.), but really doesn’t tell you anything about efficiency.

  • avatar

    I would love to see a TTAC review of worst engines of the last 100 years or worst V8 engines or worst engines of the past 30 years etc.

  • avatar

    I learn something new every day! I thought the VR had hydraulic lifters and didn’t need shims . The backwards shims must be built on mondays or something.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Wait, there’s more, Jack.
    The Ford Five-Oh encourages female drivers to practice Kegel exercises, presumably to help them with the Big-O: “Embrace your inner muscle car and enjoy this burly V-8 as long as the Environmental Protection Agency deems it street legal.”

  • avatar

    Mikey, that’s an old school big block caddy. Cadillac and buick engines both had the distributor mounted at the front driver’s side, tilted to the left just like that one.  Even though you can’t see much of the engine in the photo, the valave covers are clearly cadillac. The buick covers were finned on top.
    Stingray, the chrysler LA engines, which were the 273, 318, 340 and 360 had smaller external dimensions than the caddy, and the distributor was mounted in the rear of the block. The big block engines, known as B and RB, had the distributor at the front, but it was on the opposite side, and tilted the oppostie way. But the chrysler distributor and oil pump were mounted to the block, unlike the buick and caddy. With the gm design the steel gears rubbing against the aluminum housing caused the housing to wear, causing eventual pump failure, especially with the buick.

  • avatar

    Tiredmechanic, I’m also thinking late 70’s 425, or possibly 80-81 368, because the blue color used is late 70’s to about 80 to 81. If I remember correctly caddy engines were painted black starting around 82 when all of the other gm engines went black.

  • avatar
    King 684

    The Cadillac 1981 684 engine was technically far ahead of it’s time. Own one and take time to tweek it (RockAuto has all parts). It will be the centerpiece of your driveway. They also make excellent lawn ornaments. You’ll find the style, comfort and power make the Cadillac ride experience far above any of the junk from China and Europe.
    What is your choice;
    a limousine, bottle of soya sauce or a sardine can? Salt is bad, no omega 3’s in a limo! Only beautiful people.

    Cadillacs Rule! Soul Brother.

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