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Ram 3.0L diesel cylinder head.jpg Tom Murphy
Artsy rendering of Ram 3.0L diesel cylinder head.

2020 Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems Quick Hits

A pro-and-con summation of all 26 powertrains evaluated in the 2020 competition. Many comments come directly from editor scoresheets.

Winners in Red



2.0L turbo (B48) I-4 301 hp (BMW X2 M35i)

+ 151 hp/liter in 5-passenger lux CUV

- Not everyone enamored with throaty exhaust tones

= Thrilling performance nearly clinched second BMW trophy


3.0L (B58) turbo I-6 382 hp (BMW M340i)

+ Massive upgrades for B58 engine two years in a row

- Nothing’s coming to mind.

= Topping 26 mpg under heavy throttle. Priceless.


Fiat Chrysler

1.3L MultiAir turbo 4-cyl. 177 hp (Jeep Renegade)

+ MultiAir hydraulic valves for better control of air intake

- Observed only 23 mpg, suggests turbo working too often

= Renegade 4x4 awfully handy during November snowstorm


3.0L EcoDiesel V-6 260 hp (Ram 1500)

+ Reasonably good fuel economy during testing

- Price of entry for diesel engine and fuel gives pause

= Louder than 3.0L diesel rivals from GM, Ford


Tom Murphy2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel V-6.jpg

Ram 1500 with 3.0L EcoDiesel at August media launch in Duluth, MN.

3.6L Pentastar eTorque V-6 mild hybrid 305 hp (Ram 1500)

+ Surprising power, torque for V-6 in fullsize pickup

- Observed fuel economy lags Ram 3.0L diesel

= Dollar for dollar, Ram’s 48V eTorque V-6 is the way to go



2.0L turbo 4-cyl. 250 hp (Lincoln Corsair)

+ Energetic, responsive, pulls through most of rev range

- $54,375 for gussied up Escape

= Pleasant-sounding, well-engineered for small luxury CUV.


2.3L High Performance turbo 4-cyl. 332 hp (Ford Mustang)

+ Massive power squeezed from four cylinders

- Sounds a tad coarse at cold start

= Finally, Mustang shoppers have viable alternative to V-8


3.0L Power Stroke diesel V-6 250 hp (Ford F-150)

+ A winner last year, still remarkably refined

- Observed fuel economy was better last year

= Great addition to F-150 powertrain family


5.0L V-8 480 hp (Ford Mustang Bullitt)

+ Got great mileage this year – topping 22 mpg

- GT500 V-8 more technically advanced, but over price cap

= It never gets tiresome behind the wheel

Tom MurphyFord Mustang Bullitt - Copy.JPG

Ford Mustang Bullitt as tested by Wards judges.


General Motors

Electric propulsion system 60-kWh (Chevrolet Bolt EV)

+ Battery chemistry tweaked for an extra 21 miles of range

- Range of only 192 miles after Level 2 charging on 26-degree day

= More people need to experience EVs to appreciate them


3.0L Duramax diesel I-6 277 hp (GMC Sierra)

+ 33 mpg highway rating in Chevy version leads the market

- Lags Ford, Ram diesels in towing capacity

= Hums silently at speed; great match for every driving situation


6.2L V-8 490 hp (Chevy Corvette Stingray)

+ Mid-engine = spectacular handling; surprisingly quiet in cabin

- Rearward visibility suffers

= Long live the Small Block

Tom MurphyChevy Corvette 6.2L V-8 Drew Winter - Copy.JPG

Editor Drew Winter enjoyed his time behind wheel of mid-engine Corvette Stingray.

6.2L V-8 with DFM 420 hp (Chevy Silverado)

+ Carries more liters than Oktoberfest kellnerin

- Looking for better fuel economy

= Wicked strong, with 17 ways to shut down cylinders



2.0L Atkinson I-4 212 hp total (Honda Accord Hybrid)

+ Impressive power; squawked the tires, in a hybrid!

- BEVs are starting to steal spotlight from HEVs

= Great 4-cyl. IC engine mated to two capable motors



Fuel Cell/Permanent Magnet Motor 135 kW (Hyundai Nexo)

+ Technological moonshot; power you can depend on

- Exceedingly noisy cooling fan at shutdown

= Fueling infrastructure inadequate, even in southern California


Single Motor Electric Propulsion System 150 kW (Kona EV) 

+ Inspiring amounts of power in all circumstances

- Not quite as robust when accelerating at 70 mph

= Thank you Hyundai for fun-to-drive, inexpensive BEV


1.6L 4-cyl. 120 hp (Hyundai Accent)

+ Dual-port fuel injection reduces particulate emissions

- Reaches its performance ceiling by 80 mph

= Hyundai serious about investing in advanced, affordable engines


1.6L turbo 4-cyl. 180 hp (Hyundai Sonata)

+ Shifting at 6,000 rpm, you’ll swear it’s a big 6-cyl.

- Very slight vibration in steering wheel at startup

= Little engine that could – and does


2.0L turbo 4-cyl. 250 hp (Hyundai Veloster N)

+ Clobbers VW Golf GTI’s 228 hp and Honda Civic SI’s 205 hp

- Long way from 306-hp Honda Civic Type R

= Loved ripping through the gears with 6-speed manual


2.5L 4-cyl. 191 hp (Hyundai Sonata)

+ More horsepower than Nissan’s original 3.0L VQ V-6

- Sounds and feels more composed running hard than bopping around town

= Overshadowed by little brother with turbo

Tom MurphyHyundai Sonata 2.5L 4-cyl - Copy.jpg

Hyundai 2.5L 4-cyl., as tested in Sonata, is part of new SmartStream engine family.


2.2L diesel 4-cyl. 168 hp (Mazda CX-5)

+ Glad to see automakers still interested in diesel

- We had to wait waaaaaay too long for this engine

= Expensive; meager fuel economy; noisy in cold temps



3.0L EQ Boost turbo I-6 362 hp (Mercedes GLE450)

+ 48V stop/start system makes all the difference

- Oddly occurring revs at idle

= Stuttgart, Bavaria go head to head with straight-6 engines



2.0L VC-turbo 4-cyl. 248 hp (Nissan Altima)

+ Responds in same hyper-linear way whenever pedal drops

- Only two applications of this precious jewel – so far

= Performs harrowing internal acrobatics at speed and you can’t tell


5.6L V-8 400 hp (Nissan Titan)

+ More horsepower, torque, modest engine upgrades

- Abysmal fuel economy – below 17 mpg

= Not keeping up with Detroit truck engine offerings



2.5L 4-cyl. boxer 182 hp (Subaru Legacy)

+ Some of us topped 28 mpg

- Radiator hose detached while engine running

= Fairly pedestrian, with balky stop/start system



2.0L Atkinson I-4 HEV 181 hp (Lexus UX 250h Hybrid)

+ Gasoline 4-cyl. reflects fresh Toyota engineering

- Adequate, but powertrain fails to sell the car

= Capable hybrid still outshone by Honda Accord HEV

Tom Murphy26.7 mpg in Lexus UX 250h - Copy.JPG

Some Wards editors saw 26.7 mpg while testing Lexus UX 250h hybrid.


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