By on December 12, 2016

Mercedes-Benz M274 engine

For the first time in Wards’ 23 years of testing, its 10 Best Engines list is without a representative from America’s most rootin’-tootin’ of engine configurations.

Last year’s Best Engines list was a grand menagerie of naturally aspirated sixes, forced-induction fours, hybrids, diesels, and a flat-plane V8.

This year’s list is a collection of modestly sized turbo fours and sixes, with a handful of electrification thrown in for good measure.

Perhaps WardsAuto thinks the automotive industry has finally found a formula that works.

In 2015, the 5.2-liter Voodoo V8 found in the Ford Shelby GT350 made the grade due to its impressive engineering and 8,250 rpm redline. This year, Wards didn’t seem to think there was room for anything that didn’t epitomize the perfect marriage of efficiency and performance — a characteristic V8s aren’t particularly well-known for.

“Automakers see downsizing, turbocharging and electrification as key strategies for delivering no-compromise powertrains that also are fuel-efficient, and this year’s list clearly affirms that strategy,” says WardsAuto Senior Content Director Drew Winter.

Ward’s measures the engines as an overall success or failure; marveling solely at tech or being intoxicated by a unit’s performance isn’t enough. Editors score each drivetrain based on power, nose attenuation, fuel economy, new technologies, and comparative specs before deciding if the complete package helps the car shine more brightly than the competition. The only catch is the vehicles tested must have a base price no higher than $62,000 to be eligible.

And the big winners are:

3.0L Turbocharged DOHC I-6 (BMW M240i)
1.5L DOHC 4-cyl./Dual Motor EREV (Chevrolet Volt)
3.6L DOHC V-6/Dual Motor PHEV (Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid)
2.3L Turbocharged DOHC 4-cyl. (Ford Focus RS)
2.0L DOHC 4-cyl./Dual Motor HEV (Honda Accord Hybrid)
1.4L Turbocharged DOHC 4-cyl. (Hyundai Elantra Eco)
3.0L Turbocharged DOHC V-6 (Infiniti Q50)
2.5L Turbocharged DOHC 4-cyl. (Mazda CX-9)
2.0L Turbocharged DOHC 4-cyl. (Mercedes-Benz C300)
2.0L Turbo/Supercharged DOHC 4-cyl. (Volvo V60 Polestar)

Returning from last years list is the 3.0-liter straight-six from BMW and the dual-motor EREV from the Chevrolet Bolt. Volvo’s turbo and supercharged 2.0 liter also reappears, but as a more-powerful variant. Last year’s Volvo XC90 T6 made 316 horsepower, while this year’s V60 Polestar managed to cram in 362 hp with the help of a fatter turbo, larger intake, and some new camshafts.

The Pacific was praised for its seamless integration of dual electric motors and its the revised 3.6-liter Atkinson-cycle V6, citing it was a game-changing powerplant in terms of both design and implementation.

While the automotive media gushes over the BMW M240i’s I-6 for its smoothness and abundance of torque, Ward’s was careful to point out that it was also more economical than anyone expected. Over 12 days of spirited testing, Ward’s claimed the 3.o-liter B58 in the M240i averaged nearly 26 miles per gallon.

In fact, almost all the chosen motors managed to provide drivers a balance between performance enjoyment and tech-enhanced efficiency. The Focus RS has an engine that’s predictable and linear enough to make for a competent commuter, but also insane enough for track-day mischief. While perhaps atypical as a vehicle, it’s a perfect representation of where the automotive industry is going with smaller engines as technology replaces displacement.

Using fewer raw materials and more science, carmakers are squeezing more from modern engines than ever before. There was a time when asking for 100 hp/liter would have been unfathomable. Now it would be unfathomable to ask for anything less.

With that in mind, ask yourself where that might leave the V8 a few years from now.

[Image: Mercedes-Benz]

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71 Comments on “Wards 10 Best Engines Doesn’t Include a V8 for the First Time in History...”

  • avatar

    Maybe V8s can find a ceremonial gig pulling floats or beer wagons like Clydesdales.

  • avatar

    I wonder how many of the Wards 10 best from 10 years ago are still functional…

    • 0 avatar

      Quite a few, I believe…

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al From 'Murica

        Wow, yeah the only stinker on that list is the Audi 2.0T but plenty of the rest still rolling.

        • 0 avatar

          Was the turbo Mazda engine a good one? I was under the impression it had issues. I recommended that a friend stay away from the CX-7 for that reason and he got a new CX-5 instead.

        • 0 avatar

          nah, the Audi 4.2s probably have all lunched their timing chain guides and tensioners by now.

          • 0 avatar

            True. Also, wasn’t that 3 liter BMW engine the rebirth of the Crosley COBRA concept? I’m pretty sure BMW had to revert to cast aluminum blocks ASAP. The SAAB-GM 2.8 turbo was a flop. I have a friend who is a Mazda-obsessive who seems to spend much of his time trying to turn all the remaining Mazdaspeed-6s in Virginia into one functioning driver. I’d score the list as having three engines that were both good ideas and ready for real world use. The Hemi would eventually be dependable, but first-year ownership wasn’t a great idea. Ignoring Ward’s lists greatly improves one’s chances of buying a well-engineered car.

  • avatar

    “With that in mind, ask yourself where that might leave the V8 a few years from now.”

    With a huge market waiting to be filled.

    The sad part is, autos are no longer made for the purchaser. Since 1968 they have been made, first around gentle government guidelines, then by strict formulaic regulations on bumper height, emissions and restraint, and at this point their entire design is around government diktats. It’s no wonder they all look alike – there’s only so many ways to meet the same inflexible series of regulatory demands.

    The market for a smooth, powerful engine is still out there, but autos are designed and built for BUREAUCRATS’ demands and pleasure.

    • 0 avatar

      Cars were made so that carmakers could make money. Full stop.

      Sometimes things that made life better for consumers made them money, other times, things that made the automakers money but cost society much more got green-lit because the cost of screwing the customer was, to the automakers, fully externalized.

      The point of regulation isn’t to satisfy some cackling bureaucrat, it’s to keep those otherwise-externalizable factors in-check. Otherwise, we’d still be using tetraethyl lead.

      Consumers are also voters. If voters really cared about rolling back CARB regulations, they could, eg, vote in people who would dismantle CARB. Curiously, voters seem to like being able to breathe.

  • avatar

    I can see V-8’s still in use in the smaller medium truck range, for those that don’t rack up enough miles to justify the higher capital cost of a diesel. They will also probably still be installed in some of the higher end luxury cars and a few sports cars.

    Of course, they’ll be around in the U. S. in pickup trucks, Mustangs, Challengers, Camaros, and Corvettes.

    • 0 avatar

      “don’t rack up enough miles to justify the higher capital cost of a diesel”

      How many miles do those UPS trucks accumulate? All my packages come via gassers these days.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s surprising. I don’t think UPS uses V-8 engines in their package cars.

        • 0 avatar

          In most areas that is all they have been buying since 2011-12. Why? because they have the lowest total cost of ownership, cradle to grave.

          • 0 avatar

            Growing up, all of the classic UPS “package cars” were powered by Ford 300 cubic-inch straight sixers.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            The UPS trucks in my area all run on natural gas, at least according to their decals.

          • 0 avatar

            They used to use the sixes because they were cheap to buy and cheap to rebuild. Talked to an engine rebuilder and he said they would only get 60k miles out of them before a rebuild. But they could go to any junkyard and get a core for next to nothing.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Interesting that they praise the small displacement turbo thing, while carmakers basically say “oops, that was a crap idea.”

    For instance, the 2.0T Mercedes engine might be great, but then they put it in a heavy car and charge $50-70k+ for it? Big fat NOPE.

  • avatar

    Smells like propaganda do me.Not that these are good engine choices its just none of them are actually great and yes I have driven most or read about the ones I have not. The Honda comes closest. The CX9 as much as I love them aint even close.

  • avatar

    Also not a single engine OVER 3.0 ltrs of displacement on this list.

    Tsk, tsk, tsk…

  • avatar

    “delivering no-compromise powertrains”

    Horrible lameness is a type of compromise.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Mostly low volume sellers here. Focus RS, Pacifica Hybrid, and Elantra Eco are all niche vehicles.

    I’ve only owned one V8 in 37 years of driving, so I can’t mourn the absence of one on this list.

  • avatar

    This may be the only thread I miss BT

  • avatar

    Not one single Toyota engine, I guess durability is not required to get this award.

  • avatar

    Isn’t this list usually just a way for OEMs to feature their latest and greatest powertrains, this year with a heavy green veneer?

  • avatar

    Where’s the straight 8s?
    Pull a plug wire and only a slight misfire on idle, that seems like a pretty decent engine.

  • avatar

    They’ve always had a heavy emphasis on the new, and there aren’t many new V8s at the moment. Carmakers are quite logically focusing their attention elsewhere.

    I think the smooth, silent premium engine of the future is an electric motor.

  • avatar

    Where might that leave the V8 a few years from now?

    Same place it is now, in pony cars and more expensive cars.

    As per the article, each vehicle must have a base price no higher than $62,000, I guess they want the 10 best list to be relevant to the average car buyer, that’s understandable. Lift that $62,000 restriction and your list would include:

    1. Any V8 from a Koenigsegg
    2. Ferrari F154
    3. Mercedes M176/M177/M178 series
    4. Porsche 3.0 liter twin turbo
    5. etc.

    I’m not saying the engines in Ward’s list are bad, I just like my list better. I feel like car people would actually want to own the vehicles that use the engines in my list.
    Future great engines are likely to include Mercedes’ upcoming inline 6, and whatever Corvette decides to put in the C8.

    I would say that the Chevy Volt, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, Hyundai Elantra Eco, Mazda CX-9, and even the Mercedes C300 are not all that fun to drive or powerful. Ward’s own criteria in the article mention power and “helping the car shine more brightly than the competition.

    Life is too short to buy boring cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      May as well throw in bike motors

    • 0 avatar

      “Life is too short to buy boring cars.”

      those of us who are actual ADULTS sometimes have to put “wants” on the back burner, and try to refrain from strutting around as though we can proclaim who is and isn’t a “car person.”

      • 0 avatar

        Lol. And here I thought ADULTS would properly budget and work hard to make that “wants” list a reality.

        Silly me. I guess I’m a child because I made my “wants” list a reality.

        • 0 avatar

          I agree, as a car enthusiast, I would boycott any and all low quality vehicles. Why would you buy junk or something boring, when you’re a person who loves driving? I would rather buy a good used car that’s already depreciated rather than a mediocre new car. Or best case scenario, save up and buy a high quality new car. If the time came that due to financial constraints I had to buy a four cylinder, front wheel drive example of motoring mediocrity that looked like a suppository, I would never argue that it’s a great exciting car or that it’s “best in class” (whatever that means), or start bragging about mpg’s, I would just say: “Hey, I messed up and am broke or I have other priorities now and I had to buy this economy car to get around, I didn’t buy it because I’m a car guy, I bought it in spite of the fact that I’m a car guy”.
          I do understand that low performance cars can be reliable owing to simplicity and less demands being placed on their mechanical components, but people sometimes become delusional to the point that they think their 1990s Honda Civic is the greatest car of all time, makes you wonder if they’ve ever driven anything decent.

          I admire anyone who has the diligence, discipline, determination, and foresight to make their wants a reality.

          • 0 avatar

            “I would rather buy a good used car that’s already depreciated rather than a mediocre new car.”

            W126, you’re a great American and a Champion of Democracy, a living reminder that low skills and an income to match need be no barrier to juvenile snootiness.

    • 0 avatar

      The Ward’s list is supposed to showcase impressive engineerings. The engines you mentioned do not have budget constraints. A Chevy Volt has a far more sophisiticated drivetrain than an F154; it manages to use very little to no fuel while being more fun to drive than most other compact cars and remain affordable. Also the Volt will outlast several F154s. Impressive engineering happens when the engineers need to make champagne on a beer budget. That’s what many of the vehicles on this list exhibit.

      • 0 avatar

        I see your point, I’m not sure how long an F154 can be expected to last, but I would say that the Mercedes M177 and Porsche 3.0tt would last a long time with proper maintenance. You’re right though, any major car company nowadays can make a performance monster with enough of a budget. It just seems that some companies do it better than others. For instance, stock Porsches can be flogged around a racetrack all day on a hot day, but look what happened when Corvette made the new Z06. I initially was really impressed by the specs of the Z06, but as it turned out the car overheats on the race track due to inadequate cooling.

  • avatar

    Wards is still a thing?

  • avatar

    Well Wards just proved their uselessness.

    No V8s but yet the list is full of gas guzzling, high strung garbage.


  • avatar

    Wow, my Civic 1.8 SOHC can barely muster 27 MPG with less than half the HP of the M240i. Progress, ain’t it grand?

  • avatar

    “Ward’s 10 Best….” Doesn’t include RELIABILITY either. Benz cooler leak, Hemi lifter failure etc etc – It’s not “Best” if it can’t last – just another example of fake news – can’t wait to see which one of these engines falls apart the fastest

    • 0 avatar

      @carquestions: I would definitely agree that it is a mislabeled or misguided list. Wards mainly looks at how impressive the technology is or how much fun they are to drive and completely overlook reliability.

      However, recently the word “fake news” is thrown around way too liberally. Falsely printing that a politician is running a criminal enterprise from the basement of a DC pizza shop is fake news. Evaluating the “best” engines based on criteria that you don’t agree with doesn’t really fall into that category. Not even close. Otherwise every single car award or review would also be fake news.

    • 0 avatar

      The “best” list probably makes assumptions about unlimited factory support so whatever engineering mistakes were made, the engines can be repaired forever.

  • avatar

    “Returning from last years list is the 3.0-liter straight-six from BMW and the dual-motor EREV from the Chevrolet Bolt.”

    The Bolt has a 1.5L gas engine?

  • avatar

    I had back surgery and was worried I’d be a bit uncomfortable on my daily hour commute in my 2014 Mustang GT so I traded for the Lincoln MKC 2.3l. That’s a fun little engine. Felt the torquiest of any of the small luxo-crossovers I test-drove. Can’t imagine how the higher-strung version feels in the Focus RS.

  • avatar

    Please attenuate this nose.

  • avatar

    One more reason I’m never getting rid of my LS430—the 3UZ V8 is sublime, smooth, and refined in no way a V6 will ever be. Lots of torque, too.

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