2013 Ward’s 10 Best Engines Quick Hits

A concise pro-and-con summation of all 40 engines in the 2013 competition.

January 7, 2013

4 Min Read
Ford CMax Energi was WardsAutorsquos favorite hybrid this year
Ford C-Max Energi was WardsAuto’s favorite hybrid this year.


3.0L TFSI supercharged V-6 333 hp (S5)
+ Vulcan mind meld engine/chassis combo
- Time for upgrades
= Another year, another award


2.0L N20 DI turbo I-4 240 hp (328i)
+ Standard bearer for new-gen 2.0L turbos
- Is smooth stop/start that difficult?
= Tops rivals by several mpg, real world

3.0L N55 DI turbo I-6 320 hp (135is)
+ Tach needle dances like Rockette
- $48,000 1-Series tough to swallow
= Solid foundation for BMW brand

3.0L N55 I-6 HEV 335 hp (ActiveHybrid 3)
+ Fuel economy marginally better
- Ultimate disappointing machine
= Hybrid needs N20 4-cyl.


1.4L turbo I-4 160 hp
(Fiat 500 Abarth)
+ V-8 sound in 4-cyl. package
- Turbo lag at step-off
= Lilliputian muscle car

2.0L Tigershark I-4 160 hp (Dodge Dart)
+ Tons of new technology
- Tigers and sharks usually bite
= But this one doesn’t

3.6L Pentastar V-6 305 hp (Ram 1500)
+ Sounds magnificent in fullsize pickup
- E85-capable but who cares?
= Another reason to keep port injection around


23 kWh battery-electric 143 hp (Focus EV)
+ Four hours to charge at 240V
- Starting price of $39,200
= Barely better than Nissan Leaf

1.6L DI turbo I-4 178 hp (Fusion)
+ Could have beat 2.0L EcoBoost this year
- Engine fires problematic
= 10 Best Engines dream up in smoke

2.0L I-4 PHEV 141 hp (C-Max Energi)
+ 49.3 mpg more than respectable
- Will it satisfy CUV buyers?
= Best hybrid tested this year

2.0L I-4 HEV 141 hp (Fusion Hybrid)
+ Runs to 62 mph in EV mode
- A bit noisy at times
= Prius wanna-be

2.0L DI turbo I-4 252 hp (Focus ST)
+ Taurus application a real tribute
- Room to improve fuel economy
= EcoBoost hits keep coming

5.0L V-8 444 hp (Mustang Boss 302)
+ Muscle-car V-8 for the ages
- Too bad this application going away
= Overshadowed by GT500

5.8L supercharged V-8 662 hp (Shelby GT500)
+ Job security for tire makers
- How did it elude gas-guzzler tax?
= Jane, get me off this crazy thing!


1.2L I-4 84 hp (Chevy Spark)
+ Affordable, peppy, contemporary
- Fuel economy underwhelming
= Like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree – not so bad

2.0L DI turbo I-4 272 hp (Cadillac ATS)
+ Finest horse in ATS stable
- Sacrifices mucho torque from Regal GS 
= Holds own amid tough company

2.5L DI I-4 202 hp (Cadillac ATS)
+ Impala application gets intake valve lift upgrade
- Cadillac customers may demand more
= Smart fuel-economy play

3.6L DI V-6 321 hp (Cadillac ATS)
+ Nicely paired with light chassis
- Lacking new content
= Short of Bavarian benchmark

6.2L supercharged V-8 580 hp (Chevrolet Camaro ZL1)
+ Excellent 4th-gen small-block sendoff
- Steep consumption penalty
= Sometimes 580 hp just ain’t enough


20 kWh battery-electric 123 hp (Fit EV)
+ Sport mode darn fun
- 45-mile range, fully charged, a deal breaker
= An EV that barely missed the cut

2.0L I-4 150 hp (Acura ILX)
+ Better than Civic 4-cyl.
- Really needs turbo
= Not befitting $30,000 luxury car

2.0L I-4 HEV 196 hp (Accord PHEV)
+ Tire-screeching electric mode 
- Requires “scheduled charging” tutorial
= Fun as long as the juice lasts

2.4L DI I-4 189 hp (Accord Sport)
+ Sophisticated beyond its price
- What took so long for direct injection?
= Secures Honda engine legacy

3.5L V-6 278 hp (Accord Touring)
+ Cylinder deactivation more active
- Only 20% of Accord mix
= Welcome back


1.6L DI I-4 138 hp (Accent)
+ Surprisingly stout
- Shaky at cold start
= Still stellar

1.6L turbo DI I-4 201 hp (Veloster)
+ Just what this car needed
- EPA knocked it out of contention
= Bound for other applications

2.0L turbo I-4 274 hp (Genesis coupe)
+ Hyundai keeps trying to improve it
- NVH, fussy clutch curb enthusiasm
= Not yet running with elite 2.0L turbos

3.3L DI V-6 293 hp (Azera)
+ Pulls away with authority
- Doesn’t sell the car
= Competent, but forgettable


3.0L supercharged DI V-6 340 hp (XF)
+ Spars with Audi 3.0L
- Audi scores the knockout
= You coulda been a contender!


2.0L DI Skyactiv I-4 155 hp (CX-5)
+ Impressive 13:1 compression ratio
- What happened to the torque?
= Less impressive in bigger vehicle


16 kWh battery-electric 66 hp (“i” EV)
+ 75 mph on Detroit freeways no problem
- $34,765 sticker is $10k too high
= Home, home on the range anxiety


1.8L I-4 138 hp (Sentra)
+ 35 mpg possible
- Sounds like dental drill
= Needs GDI, smoother CVT

2.5L I-4 182 hp (Altima)
+ Best-in-class 38 mpg highway
- Another disappointing Nissan CVT
= Smoked by Honda’s 2.4L

3.5L V-6 HEV 360 hp (Infiniti M35h)
+ Great power for a hybrid
- Expensive, with middling mpg
= The thrill is gone


2.0L FA DI/MPI H-4 200 hp (BRZ)
+ Clobbers other naturally aspirated 4s
- Wind up before launching
= More power. Less mass. Great formula.

2.5L FB H-4 173 hp (Outback)
+ New CVT enables 32 mpg highway
- Overall nothing special
= CVT newer than engine


1.5L I-4 HEV 99 hp (Prius c)
+ Managed 53 mpg
- Is old Prius engine still relevant?
= No need for Launch Control 

1.8L I-4 PHEV 98 hp (Prius Plug-in)
+ We saw 70 mpg
- Bigger battery means more weight
= Best Prius yet 


1.4L turbo DI I-4 HEV 150 hp (Jetta Hybrid)
+ Lots of power, dual-clutch transmission
-Transitions not exactly seamless
= Chances dashed by middling mpg


2.5L turbo I-5 250 hp (S60 T5)
+ Torque peaks at 1,800 rpm
- Not long for this world
= Happy 4-cyl./6-cyl. compromise

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