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2023 Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems

Internal Combustion Takes a Turn Amid Electrified Wave

A majority of the 2023 Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems winners are electrified, but internal-combustion engines play a role – either alone or as part of hybrids – in seven propulsion systems. Winners will be honored Oct. 18 at a trophy ceremony in Detroit.

Electrification continues to power the Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems list, with six electrified vehicles, including three battery-electrics and three hybrids, earning 2023 honors, along with four new or significantly improved internal-combustion powerplants.

This year, Wards editors evaluated 32 vehicles: 13 ICEs, 10 BEVs and nine hybrids. The hybrid count included five plug-in hybrids and four hybrids.

Of the 13 purely internal-combustion engines tested, there were five 4-cyl. engines, four 6-cyl. engines (all inline), three V-8s and one 3-cyl. engine. All of the ICEs except two of the V-8s were turbocharged.

The Wards 10 Best list has recognized 29 years’ worth of propulsion systems, with scoring based on horsepower, torque, NVH management, observed efficiency and new technology onboard. A price cap for nominees that had been in place since 1995 was removed in 2021; value remains part of the criteria, however.

While evaluating the vehicles, only powertrains that are all-new or significantly improved are eligible for testing. The 2022 class of Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems winners were eligible to return, but only two returnees, the Lucid Air Touring BEV and the Hyundai Ioniq 6 BEV (in place of the Ioniq 5 with the same system), earned repeat honors.

Clearly, with the pace of electrification and advances in internal combustion, it’s a rare propulsion system that can impress our judges for more than a year or two. Turnover in powertrains is at a peak moment, exemplified not only by the rush of electric propulsion systems coming to market, but also in internal-combustion development.

“The market may be starting to cool when it comes to battery-electric-vehicle adoption, but automakers are forging ahead with constant innovation in BEVs that promise increased range and efficiency and ever-quicker charging systems,” says Bob Gritzinger, WardsAuto editor-in-chief.

“At the same time, no one is lifting off the internal-combustion pedal, with more than a dozen all-new or significantly upgraded ICEs on our nominee list, and two big, naturally aspirated V-8s making our winners’ list,” he notes. “We’re seeing the end of the ICE era, but those engines aren’t going out without making some noise.”

The 2023 Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems Winners, listed alphabetically:

  • BMW M2 – 3.0L Turbocharged 6-Cyl.
  • Chevrolet Corvette Z06 – 5.5L V-8
  • Dodge Hornet R/T – 1.3L Turbocharged 4-Cyl. PHEV
  • Ford Mustang Dark Horse – 5.0L V-8
  • Honda Accord Hybrid – 2.0L 4-Cyl. HEV
  • Hyundai Ioniq 6 – Electric Propulsion System
  • Lucid Air Touring – Electric Propulsion System
  • Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 – 2.0L Turbocharged 4-Cyl.
  • Nissan Ariya – Electric Propulsion System
  • Toyota Prius Prime – 2.0L 4-Cyl. PHEV

Winners will be honored Oct. 18 during the Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems awards ceremony on the second day of the AutoTech: Electrification conference at the Fort Pontchartrain hotel in downtown Detroit. Learn more about the event and book your ticket by clicking here.

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