One of the biggest challenges for editors test driving 31 powertrains in the span of two months for Wards 10 Best Engines is keeping each one’s qualities clearly delineated in the mind. They tend to run together, literally. Hence, copious note taking.
After a few years, editors develop their own testing sequences, such as getting on the highway and running wide-open throttle in third gear for a spell, or switching manually to sixth gear to see how the engine performs at 30 mph (48 km/h). Those are the memories that stick.
And yet, when two Chevrolet Camaros arrived for testing near the end of our cycle, when the winners are starting to sort themselves out, when we’re all highly attuned to what we’re driving, there was confusion as to which engine was under the hood – the 460-hp 6.2L V-8 or the 335-hp 3.6L V-6.
The fact that a few editors needed to pop the hood or look at the Monroney to clarify which powerplant was spinning the wheels speaks volumes about the all-new 3.6L all-aluminum V-6 (codename LGX) that also is an excellent addition to the Cadillac ATS and CTS lineup.
It muscles its way onto the 2016 Wards 10 Best Engines list not because it’s better than the LT1 V-8, which was seeking a third consecutive trophy, but because it so powerfully completes the Camaro tandem. It’s the right hand to the V-8’s left. It’s so good that certain editors prefer it to the V-8, and it doesn’t hurt that the LGX’s exhaust sounds V-8-like at times.
The V-6 so soundly trounces two of the other all-new naturally aspirated V-6s in this year’s competition that it barely seems like a fair fight.
Also worth noting: Four naturally aspirated V-6s were evaluated, and only GM’s LGX employs direct fuel injection.
The LGX eventually will fill GM’s portfolio as a replacement for the High-Feature V-6 that won Wards 10 Best Engines honors in 2008 and 2009. From that workhorse engine, the LGX gets worthy DNA, but that’s about it. Truly, the only part carrying over is the hydraulic lash adjusters in the valvetrain.
GM's First OHC Engine With AFM
With a longer stroke and slightly wider bore size, the new V-6 is 22 lbs. (10 kg) heavier than its predecessor. A new variable-displacement 2-stage oil pump saves energy by reducing the pressure and flow of oil within the engine and increasing it only when high speeds and high loads require it.
Running on regular fuel, the engine now has four full phasers, enabling continuously variable cam phasing to help the engine breathe better in all operating modes.
The LGX is GM’s first overhead-cam engine with cylinder deactivation.
In the Cadillac applications, 12V stop/start also is available. For smoother operation of the stop/start system, GM now uses “mid-park” cam phasers that set the camshaft in the optimal position each time the engine shuts off so it can restart quickly and without judder.
The best fuel economy for a WardsAuto editor in the rear-wheel-drive ATS with the new 3.6L was 25.4 mpg (9.3 L/100 km), and mileage almost was that good in the Camaro, which seems to invite aggressive driving.
“The 3.6 delivers the kind of power and lusty exhaust note you associate with a V-8, for the price of a V-6. Plus, it’s loaded with advanced technology,” says Editor Drew Winter.
The anticipated robust take-rate for the LGX in both the ATS and Camaro is a testament to how much fine work GM engineers plowed into this engine during development.