You think the NFL’s got parity, you should see the 2014 Ward’s 10 Best Engines score sheets.
Forty-four contenders and, discarding the two bottom-dwellers that will remain nameless, only a dozen points (12.2 to be exact) separates engine No.1 from No.42.
That’s an average of 0.3 points from one candidate to the next, and it means a lot of really good engines were left out in the final cut.
It leaves us splitting hairs during the testing process, which concludes with editors arguing passionately for engines they deem worthy or harpooning those they believe fall short. We must end up with 10 and only 10.
Obviously, there are an awful lot of people in engineering departments around the world doing their jobs, which is making ours that much tougher.
The tight bandwidth on our preliminary score sheets is testament to the fact automakers have found religion over the years and now firmly believe powertrains really are the heart of any good vehicle. Believe me, that wasn’t exactly a universal truth when we started this competition two decades ago.
What’s even more surprising is how competitive these 44 engines are given the diversity of technologies represented, from pure battery-electrics to hybrids to diesels and all manner of gasoline engines. There doesn’t seem to be a powertrain size or configuration that can’t be made to work – and work well – with a wide variety of vehicle types.
Consider the subcompact Ford Fiesta ST’s 1.6L EcoBoost 4-cyl., with enough low-end and midrange torque to cause one judge to conclude it might be “the first engine this size to create a G-force,” or the 3.5L V-6 in luxury-brand Acura’s RLX flagship, lauded for its “virtually unnoticeable NVH.”
The sport-minded BMW 435i Coupe’s 3.0L turbo I-6 is “still a deliciously versatile engine…that comes on quickly and keeps coming,” one judge notes in testing.
None of those made the final 10, however.
And although we didn’t choose any hybrids this year, either, it doesn’t mean there weren’t some strong contenders. The Infiniti Q50 Hybrid had its supporters, one of whom calls it “a better mousetrap” on his score sheet and another who notes it “takes off like a rocket.”
Nissan’s unique Pathfinder Hybrid, with its supercharged 2.5L 4-cyl, is called a “bold idea” by one admiring tester, but it fell victim to a too-tough slate of contenders.
In the end, we believe we’ve come up with a truly deserving 10 Best Engines list. And we think it’s perfectly fine automakers the world over are putting us to the test in order to do so.