2018 Wards 10 Best Engines Quick Hits

A pro-and-con summation of all 32 powertrains evaluated in the 2018 competition. Many comments come directly from editor scoresheets. Winners in red.

January 2, 2018

5 Min Read
Fully charged VW eGolf delivered 124 miles of electric range
Fully charged, VW e-Golf delivered 124 miles of electric range.Tom Murphy


2.5L turbo 5-cyl. 400 hp (Audi RS3)

+ 160 hp per liter; sounds terrific in sport mode

- A little lag but ultimately delivers punch

= DCT OK but really needs manual


3.0L turbo V-6 354 hp (Audi S4)

+ As ZZ Top says – got legs, knows how to use them

- We miss supercharger kick

= Wholly competitive with BMW’s B58 6-cyl. turbo



2.0L turbo B46 I-4/PHEV 248 hp total (BMW 530e)

+ 40 lb.-ft. more ICE torque than last year’s 330e tester

- Lifeless once electric range is sapped

= Saw 46 mpg over 600 miles of testing


+ Sounds throaty, very entertaining in sport mode

- Lacks jump in portly CUV 

= Boy, we sure miss this engine in M240i


Fiat Chrysler

3.6L Atkinson V-6/PHEV 260 hp total (Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid)

+ Drove 27 miles, yet burned only 17 miles of EV range

- Some might dislike space-age powertrain “whir,” but not us

= Finally, a fuel-efficient people hauler for the masses



2.3L EcoBoost I-4 350 hp (Ford Focus RS)

+ Pulls like leashed pit bull

- Please, try another exhaust system

= All-wheel-drive rally star, but very thirsty


2.7L EcoBoost V-6 325 hp (Ford F-150)

+ Same 400 lb.-ft. of torque as 5.0L V-8, at lower rpm

- Why can’t all stop/start systems be this smooth?

= Could turn us into truck lovers


3.5L EcoBoost V-6 450 hp (Ford F-150 Raptor)

+ EcoBoost just keeps paying dividends

- Predictably meager fuel economy

= Another $64,000 pickup truck fills a niche


5.0L V-8 460 hp (Ford Mustang GT)

+ Just the right amount of Voodoo

- Regulators are bearing down

= Sing it, Floyd: We don’t need no forced induction


General Motors

Electric propulsion system 60-kWh (Chevrolet Bolt EV)

+ Adios, range anxiety

- One-pedal driving takes some getting used to

= Take that, Tesla


1.5L I-4/EREV 101 hp total (Chevrolet Volt)

+ Topped 80 mpg with frequent charging

- Needs more oomph pulling away on highway

= History will be kind to this propulsion system


1.5L turbo I-4 170 hp (Chevrolet Equinox)

+ One editor topped 30 mpg; tremendous stop/start

- A bit lacking in low-end torque

= Amazingly smooth, quiet for such a small engine


1.6L turbodiesel I-4 137 hp (Chevrolet Equinox)

+ Impressive midrange torque; 35 mpg observed

- Grumbly cold starts; vibrations persist

= Diesels slipping behind best electrified powertrains


+ 15 kW of power from motor generator

- Car this big really needs V-6, or a turbo-4

= Love to see 32 mpg in big sedan



Polymer electrolyte fuel cell 130 kW (Honda Clarity)

+ Gobs of torque; 366-mile range; silent as empty library

- About that hydrogen fueling infrastructure…

= Raises the bar for zero-emission driving


1.5L turbo I-4 190 hp (Honda CR-V)

+ 127 hp/L from mainstream 4-cyl. in a CUV? Wow.

- Lackluster mileage

= Smooth and quiet, with 20 hp more than Equinox


2.0L turbo I-4 252 hp (Honda Accord)

+ What, this isn’t the 3.5L V-6?

- Needs 6,500 rpm for full power

= A sure winner if not for Civic Type R


2.0L turbo I-4 306 hp (Honda Civic Type R)

+ Big turbo means big power

- Minimal torque steer, but would love AWD

= You’re just my Type



1.4L turbo I-4 128 hp (Hyundai Elantra Eco) 

+ Great powertrain in package under $22k

- Transmission lurching mars experience

= A lot more compelling last year


+ Topped 54 mpg during 600 miles of testing

- Feels underpowered on freeway

= Lost in a sea of plug-ins


3.3L twin-turbo V-6 365 hp (Genesis G80 Sport)

+ Creamy smooth, and strong like V-8

- Vibration through steering column and door panel

= Nothing shabby about 25 mpg, big fella



3.0L twin-turbo V-6 300 hp (Infiniti Q50)

+ Cost-effective option if 400 hp unnecessary

- Hoping for better than 22 mpg

= But don’t you really want the 400 hp?


3.0L twin-turbo V-6 400 hp (Infiniti Q50/Q60 Red Sport)

+ All bite and no whiny turbo bark

- Well, maybe a little growl would be nice

= The alpha dog among luxury turbo-6s


Jaguar Land Rover

2.0L turbo I-4 247 hp (Jaguar XF)

+ Peak torque (269 lb.-ft.) at astonishing 1,200 rpm

- Ingenium a bit late to luxury turbo-4 party

= So looking forward to 296-hp variant next year


3.0L supercharged V-6 380 hp  (Jaguar XE)

+ Nice induction sounds, and 23 mpg impressive

- Is supercharger lag now a thing?

= Premium V-6 with substandard stop/start system



3.3L twin-turbo V-6 365 hp (Kia Stinger)

+ Illegal speed arrives quickly – about 4.7 seconds

- Might be lost on Kia’s conventional customer

= No Genesis flab makes all the difference




2.5L turbo I-4 227 hp (Mazda CX-9)

+ Notable combustion engineering, exhaust design

- Wanting in high-speed passing maneuvers

= Still competitive in ultra-competitive CUV segment



+ 32 mpg in real-world testing

- Tragically underappreciated

= Ready to run; great daily driver; bargain at $22k



2.5L I-4 203 hp (Toyota Camry)

+ Responds kindly at wide-open throttle

- Definitely a little harsh when cold

= Natural aspiration still getting job done


2.5L I-4 HEV 208 hp total (Toyota Camry Hybrid)

+ Intense focus on manufacturing, combustion engineering

- Do hybrid shoppers want this much style?

= Outstanding ICE thermal efficiency of 41%



Electric propulsion system 36 kWh (VW e-Golf)

+ Edges out Bolt in fun-to-drive test

- Sorely lags Bolt in battery-range test

= Just the beginning of VW’s EV market barrage


2.0L B-cycle turbo I-4 174 hp (VW Passat)

+ Closing intake valves earlier improves combustion

- Sport mode feels sadly like eco mode

= 8% improvement in efficiency, fuel economy



2.0L turbo/supercharged I-4 PHEV 400 hp total (XC60 Hybrid)

+ T8 powertrain surprisingly brawny, yet smooth

- So-so fuel economy; rough gas/electric transitions

= Punches like great prize fighter

[email protected]

Read more about:

2018 10 Best Engines
Subscribe to a WardsAuto newsletter today!
Get the latest automotive news delivered daily or weekly. With 5 newsletters to choose from, each curated by our Editors, you can decide what matters to you most.

You May Also Like