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.

Tom Murphy, Managing Editor

December 27, 2019

4 Min Read
Ram 3.0L diesel cylinder head
Artsy rendering of Ram 3.0L diesel cylinder head.Tom Murphy

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


2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel V-6.jpg

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel V-6

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

Ford Mustang Bullitt - Copy.JPG

Ford Mustang Bullitt - Copy


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

Chevy Corvette 6.2L V-8 Drew Winter - Copy.JPG

Chevy Corvette 6.2L V-8 Drew Winter - Copy

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

Hyundai Sonata 2.5L 4-cyl - Copy.jpg

Hyundai Sonata 2.5L 4-cyl - Copy


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

26.7 mpg in Lexus UX 250h - Copy.JPG

26.7 mpg in Lexus UX 250h - Copy


About the Author(s)

Tom Murphy

Managing Editor, Informa/WardsAuto

Tom Murphy test drives cars throughout the year and focuses on powertrain and interior technology. He leads selection of the Wards 10 Best Engines, Wards 10 Best Interiors and Wards 10 Best UX competitions. Tom grills year-round, never leaves home without a guitar pick and aspires to own a Jaguar E-Type someday.

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