2016 Wards 10 Best Engines Quick Hits

A concise pro-and-con summation of all 31 powertrains evaluated in the 2016 competition. Many of these comments come directly from editor score sheets.

January 8, 2016

4 Min Read
WardsAuto editors including Tom Murphy from left Bob Gritzinger Dave Zoia and Steve Finlay summarize this yearrsquos 10 Best Engines field
WardsAuto editors, including Tom Murphy (from left), Bob Gritzinger, Dave Zoia and Steve Finlay, summarize this year’s 10 Best Engines field.


127-kW battery-electric 170 hp (BMW i3/EREV)

+ Wicked EV torque at any speed

- One-pedal driving a little scary

= Still so much fun


1.5L DI turbo I-3 134 hp (Mini Cooper)

+ Impressive power for its size

- Disappointing fuel economy

= Less compelling than last year


2.0L DI turbo I-4 228 hp (Mini John Cooper Works)

+ Extra 39 hp over last year’s version

- Other 2.0L turbos make more power

= Overshadowed by 3.0L BMW sibling


3.0L DI turbo I-6 320 hp (BMW 340i)

+ Another brilliant Bavarian 6-cyl. turbo

- $47,800 starting point with AWD

= Eager for more applications of B58


Fiat Chrysler

+ Sounds like Tesla relative to other diesels

- Would like a few more MPGs real-world

= Three-peat complete


3.6L Pentastar V-6 295 hp (Jeep Grand Cherokee)

+ 2-step variable valve lift, 15% more torque

- 18-19 mpg not moving the bar

= Last Pentastar felt more confident



1.0L EcoBoost I-3 123 hp (Focus)

+ Excellent specific output

- Buzzy at top of rev range

= A blast in Fiesta but pedestrian here


5.2L V-8 526 hp (Shelby GT350 Mustang)

+ Loud and proud

- Voodoo needs 91 octane

= … And we will gladly pay for it 


General Motors

1.5L 4-cyl./120-kW Motor 101 hp (Chevrolet Volt)

+ Smooth, quiet and runs on regular fuel

- A tad light accelerating from 60 to 75 mph

= What’s not to love?


1.5L DI turbo I-4 160 hp (Chevrolet Malibu)

+ Great package for most buyers

- Runs low on power/torque when passing

= Where future is headed


+ Not bad towing 5,000 lbs.

- Loud and thirsty

= Hard justifying $6,625 premium


3.6L Flex-Fuel V-6 260 hp (Chevrolet Impala)

+ Seamless transitions from gasoline to CNG

- Steep $9,500 premium

= Keep it for the fleets


3.6L DI V-6 335 hp (Chevrolet Camaro/Cadillac ATS)

+ Tons of fun, with 22 mpg

- Injector clatter on cold mornings

= Expect more Camaro V-6 takers, GM


3.6L DI twin-turbo V-6 464 hp (Cadillac ATS-V)

+ Fast, fun, furious and titanium con rods

- Dangerously close to price cap

= Hurts to leave it off the list


6.2L DI V-8 455 hp (Chevrolet Camaro SS)

+ Love the 6MT rev matching

- Not ideal for daily driving

= Outgunned by Ford Voodoo V-8



1.5L DI turbo I-4 174 hp (Honda Civic)

+ Trumps Malibu 1.5L in fuel economy

- CVT spoils the fun

= 1.5 is the new 2.0


2.0L I-4 158 hp (Honda Civic)

+ Peppy, 32 mpg, reasonably priced

- Nothing here beyond bland

= Couldn’t wow the judges



100-kW fuel cell (Hyundai Tucson FCV)

+ Quieter than a hair drier

- World needs more hydrogen pumps

= Push for repeat win runs out of fuel


+ Great numbers overall

- Lag at launch, dull mid-range

= Nice package with 7-speed DCT


2.0L I-4 147 hp (Hyundai Elantra) 

+ 37.4 mpg real-world

- Underpowered, thrashy at high rpm

= Sounds, feels like old-school 4-banger


2.0L DI I-4/38-kW Motor 193 hp (Sonata HEV) 

+ Nothing wrong with 39.9 mpg

- Weak off line in cold temps

= Less impressive than PHEV


2.0L DI I-4/50-kW Motor 202 hp (Sonata PHEV) 

+ Frequent plug-ins = outrageous mileage

- Blender-like in HEV mode

= Runs well with Volt, Prius



3.0L DI bi-turbo V-6 362 hp (C450 AMG)

+ Big jump in output from 329 hp last year

- Lacks personality

= Too much 6-cyl. competition this year


0.9L turbo 3-cyl. 89 hp (Smart Fortwo)

+ Massive improvements in power, NVH

- Shouldn’t it get better than 24 mpg?

= Charlie Brown: It wasn’t such a bad little tree



3.5L V-6 300 hp (Nissan Maxima)

+ Better mpg; sparkling thrust preserved

- CVT improved, but not ideal

= VQ returns for trophy No. 15


5.0L turbodiesel V-8 310 hp (Titan XD)

+ CGI block, two turbos impressive

- For special-purpose customer; loud, too

= Lost between light/heavy duties



2.0L DI turbo H-4 268 hp (WRX)

+ Nothing wrong with 134 hp/L

- With 6MT, impatient in heavy traffic

= Still moves bar among turbo-4s



1.8L I-4/53-kW Motor 121 hp system (Prius)

+ Engine’s 40% thermal efficiency a world first

- Touchy regenerative braking

= State-of-the-art high-mileage hybrid


+ Capable in both pickup and Lexus RX

- Redesigned but feels prehistoric

= Buried under better V-6s



2.0L DI T5 turbo I-4 240 hp (S60)

+ Still competent, powerful, refined

- Returning winner mojo has faded

= Second fiddle now to T6 sibling


2.0L DI T6 turbo/supercharged I-4 316 hp (XC90)

+ Yep, that’s 160 hp per liter

- Freeway merging can be trying

= It’s all a premium CUV needs

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2016 10 Best Engines
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