2012 Ward’s 10 Best Engines Quick Hits

A concise pro-and-con review of every engine evaluated as part of the 2012 competition.

January 6, 2012

4 Min Read


3.0L TFSI supercharged V-6 333 hp (A6)

+ 8AT perfect complement

- A bit raucous at cold start

= Ingolstadt three-peat


2.0L DI turbo I-4 265 hp (TTS)

+ Let me count the ways

- Lazy tip-in

= Like a poor man’s F1 car



1.6L DI turbo I-4 181 hp (Mini coupe S)

+ Nothing wrong with 31-mpg average

- 6AT takes away the fun

= Just not as thrilling as last year


2.0L N20 DI turbo I-4 240 hp (Z4/528i)

+ Who needs more than 4 cylinders?

- Maybe BMW buyers won’t get it

= Bavarian cream pie


3.0L N55 DI turbo I-6 300 hp (335i)

+ Arouses all the senses

- Another 5 mpg would be nice

= Almost perfect



3.6L Pentastar V-6 292 hp (300S)

+ Who needs direct injection?

- Wrangler mpg still just so-so

= Swiss Army knife of engines


1.4L I-4 101 hp (Fiat 500)

+ MultiAir valve control groundbreaking

- Not very punchy, especially with 6AT

= Great case for turbocharging


6.4L Hemi V-8 470 hp (Dodge Charger SRT8)

+ Are you kidding?

- 13 mpg a long way from 35.5 mpg

= Running on borrowed time



2.0L EcoBoost I-4 240 hp (Edge)

+ Proof that downsizing works

- Wee bit of turbo lag

= EcoBoost gives Ford edge


2.0L DI I-4 160 hp (Focus)

+ Segment leader in horsepower

- Weak at highway speeds

= Focus fortunes ride on this engine


3.5L EcoBoost V-6 365 hp (F-150)

+ Plausible work-truck engine

- V-8 mpg better when towing  

= Piston makers should be nervous


5.0L V-8 444 hp (Mustang Boss 302)

+ Massively wide power band

- Can be tiring in traffic  

= Being bad can feel so good


Fuji Heavy Industries

2.0L H-4 148 hp (Subaru Impreza)

+ 30 mpg average not bad with AWD

- Buyers often want more hp, not less

= CVT takes away much of the fun


General Motors

1.4L I-4/111 kW drive motor (Chevy Volt)

+ Smartest approach to EV segment

- Latent victim of crash test

= Ahead of its time


2.0L DI turbo I-4 270 hp (Buick Regal GS)

+ Even better version coming for Cadillac

- One-handed driving not recommended

= Buick’s future looking bright


2.4L DI I-4 182 hp (eAssist Buick LaCrosse)

+ Right idea for near-luxury sedan

- Feels anemic

= 22 mpg isn’t raising the bar


3.6L DI V-6 308 hp (Cadillac SRX)

+ Runs on regular, E-85 capable

- Less torque than before

= Badly outgunned by rival 6s



1.5L I-4 HEV 110 hp (Civic Hybrid)

+ 44 mpg average during test drive

- Appliance-like

= Can’t Honda do a better hybrid?



1.6L DI I-4 138 hp (Accent)

+ Power-dense, loads of fun

- Veloster application falls flat  

= High-tech can be inexpensive


1.8L I-4 148 hp (Hyundai Elantra)

+ Best specific output in segment

- Lags Mazda3 2.0L’s refinement

= Key to Elantra’s success


3.8L DI V-6 333 hp (Genesis)

+ Impressive, powerful, smooth

- At 21 mpg, just get the V-8

= Narrowly missed the cut


5.0L Tau DI V-8 429 hp (Genesis)

+ Awesome NVH, first-rate specs

- Failed to hit expected mpg

= Three and out



1.6L DI I-4 with stop/start 138 hp (Soul)

+ Ushers stop/start into volume segment

- Smooth operator it’s not

= Cheap gas hurts appeal



2.0L Skyactiv I-4 155 hp (Mazda3)

+ Technology/efficiency showpiece

- Only one application – for now

= Mazda’s onto something



1.8L DI turbo I-4 201 hp (C250)

+ New engine for U.S. portfolio

- …But warmed over from Europe

= Not as good as BMW’s new 4


3.0L V-6 turbodiesel 240 hp (ML350 Bluetec)

+ Best engine for new ML

- A little rough when cold

= Expensive diesel fuel hurts case


3.5L DI V-6 302 hp (C350)  

+ Like a refined Mustang

- MPG nothing special

= Mercedes arrives with modern GDI



80 kW (107 hp) electric motor (Leaf)

+ We didn’t get stranded  

- We constantly feared we would

= EV market still a crapshoot


1.6L I-4 109 hp (Versa)

+ Sophisticated exhaust/intake valve control

- Are 8 injectors really necessary?

= High-tech, but forgettable


3.5L V-6 HEV 360 hp total (Infiniti M35h)

+ Sailing at 70 mph is way cool

- How about a less costly application?

= VQ returns for 15th10BE win



1.3L I-4 94 hp (Scion iQ)

+ Outsmarts Smart powertrain

- Meh

= Can’t run with larger subcompacts


2.5L I-4 HEV 200 hp total (Camry Hybrid) 

+ It’s no Prius

- It’s no Prius

= Toyota still rules HEV world



2.0L I-4 turbodiesel 140 hp (Passat TDI)

+ 44 mpg during testing

- Needs urea-injection aftertreatment

= Big car, small engine, works great



3.0L I-6 turbo 325 hp (S60 R-Design)

+ Swedish super model

- Not as refined as BMW I-6

= Hope for inline-6 architecture

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2012 10 Best Engines
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