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WARD'S 10 Best Engines 2005

The winners of Ward's 10 Best Engines awards for 2005 demonstrate that you can have it all. Many of the winning engines highlight sophisticated new technology that not only improves mileage but also pumps up power. The 2005 list of the industry's most exemplary engines marks the 11th year for the Ward's 10 Best Engines program. Cylinder deactivation, gasoline-electric hybridization and advanced diesel

The winners of Ward's 10 Best Engines awards for 2005 demonstrate that you can have it all.

Many of the winning engines highlight sophisticated new technology that not only improves mileage but also pumps up power.

The 2005 list of the industry's most exemplary engines marks the 11th year for the Ward's 10 Best Engines program.

Cylinder deactivation, gasoline-electric hybridization and advanced diesel technology all are represented by winners on this year's list.

Another important emerging technology that generates more power while also improving fuel economy — direct gasoline injection — brings home a win for Audi AG in its first North American application of its all-new “FSI” 3.2L DOHC V-6.

Power for power's sake is not forgotten on this year's list, however. Ford Motor Co. wins with its heavily revised 4.6L SOHC V-8 in the all-new Ford Mustang GT.

Honda proves it also “knows horsepower” with its first-time winner, the Acura 3.5L SOHC V-6 that pounds out 300 hp, making it one of the most powerful naturally aspirated 6-cyl. engines in production.

Audi returns for a second year with its smooth 4.2L DOHC V-8 that generates a thundering 340 hp.

Ward's tested 36 car and truck engines for its 2005 10 Best Engines competition, evaluating them based on the crucial engine characteristics of power; torque; noise, vibration and harshness (NVH); technical relevance and basic comparative numbers.

All engines nominated and tested were in vehicles with a base price less than $52,500.

Can't Fight the (Horse) Power These Days

By Bill Visnic

Maybe some powertrain people need to get a life.

Ford's dealing in 300-hp V-8s for 25 grand. The Acura engineering department's boiling 86 hp out of a normally aspirated, luxury-sedan V-6. Chrysler's Hemi is at 340 hp and later this year, the 6.1L variant's coming with 425. If I bought one of those, my insurance agent would be dancing for a month in Rio.

And to think I was worried the Ward's 10 Best Engines competition is preoccupied with performance.

It's the auto makers — and by extension, their evidently big-brained powertrain engineers — who keep raising the ante. Mid-market SUVs and family sedans now are expected to be packing heat that not long ago would have shamed an exotic.

For perspective, Porsche's '95-vintage 928 GTS, one of the era's more thundering performance cars, got 345 hp from its 5.4L DOHC V-8 (64 hp specific). It cost $80,000. Ford's 10 Best Engines-winning 4.6L SOHC V-8 generates 300 hp (65 hp specific) in a $25,000 car.

At first, I thought it strange that five of the 36 engines nominated this year make 300 hp. The old worry crept in: ‘Regular people don't shop vehicles with 300 hp. We're throttle junkies.’

But a closer look reveals: Of those five engines, just two of the cars they power — the Mustang GT and the Subaru WRX Sti — are considered performance models. The other 300-hp vehicles are Ford's F-150 pickup, Chevy's TrailBlazer SUV and Acura's RL flagship.

Except for the Mustang, all have four doors, for heaven's sake.

For 12 of the 36 engines tested — one-third — 300 hp is the minimum.

Contemporary engine development is so bombastic, you can be gunning with 300 hp in just about anything.

After considering the atomic-powered group of 10 Best Engines nominees for 2005 at least I'm no longer worried Ward's is horsepower-biased.

We're just reporting reality.

Injection with Perfection

Audi FSI 3.2L DOHC V-6

Audi AG's direct gasoline injection (DGI) system is the first volume-oriented application of the fuel-saving, power-enhancing direct-injection technology to be used in North America. It may be the start of something big.

BMW, Rolls-Royce and even Isuzu already are in the U.S. market with DGI engines. None, really, are representative of the mainstream; only Isuzu's is in a vehicle that costs less than the $52,500 price cap for 10 Best Engines eligibility.

Audi's new FSI (Fuel Straight Injection) engine is positioned to put DGI on the map. Audi says FSI enables something on the order of a 10% boost in power and torque, yet boosts fuel economy.

Instead of injecting fuel into the intake manifold, where it is ingested with air, FSI injects fuel directly into the cylinder at 20 times the conventional pressure. The higher pressures and the ability to precisely aim gasoline directly at the sparkplug offer power and efficiency gains.

Audi's engine wizards prove high performance doesn't have to come at the expense of reasonable fuel economy. Audi says all its gasoline engines will be so-equipped by 2006.

Engine type: 3.2L DOHC 90° V-6

Displacement (cc): 3,123

Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum

Bore × stroke (mm): 84.5 × 92.8

Horsepower (SAE net): 255 @ 6,500 rpm

Torque: 243 lb.-ft. (329 Nm) @ 3,250 rpm

Specific output: 80 hp/L

Compression ratio: 12.5:1

Application tested: Audi A6 3.2 quattro

Fuel economy for tested vehicle (EPA city/highway mpg): 19/26

Sounds as Good as it Gets

Audi 4.2L DOHC V-8

Drug makers had better keep an eye on Audi AG, because if the German auto maker figures out a way to bottle this engine's exhaust sounds, Viagra and Levitra will be unnecessary.

Audi's 4.2L V-8 is the exemplar of how to do exhaust. Perfectly. At idle, the aural deepness inspires a quiet nirvana. At full throttle, there's a sonorous, fine-machinery rip that no other V-8 can rival. And at all engine speeds between, a virtual rainbow of intoxicating intake and exhaust arias demands your constant attention.

All right, we're done slobbering about the sound. This engine is a virtual dynamo. It's the smallest-displacement V-8 in what we broadly define as the “premium V-8 class” of less than 5L — yet it's the most powerful.

Its deeper beauty is its game-stopping flexibility and throttle response, always ready to unleash a torrent of power from idle to redline. Several testers are convinced that from the midrange on, nothing short of a Ferrari or Porsche 911 can stay with an S4 at full throttle.

Engine type: 4.2L DOHC 90° V-8

Displacement (cc): 4,163

Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum

Bore × stroke (mm): 84.5 × 92.8

Horsepower (SAE net): 340 @ 7,000 rpm

Torque: 302 lb.-ft. (409 Nm) @ 3,500 rpm

Specific output: 81 hp/L

Compression ratio: 11:1

Application tested: Audi S4 Avant

Fuel economy for tested vehicle (EPA city/highway mpg): 15/21

Hip Hopping with Hemi

DaimlerChrysler 5.7L Hemi Magnum OHV V-8

Chrysler Group originally launched this engine in an '03 Dodge Ram pickup. Now Chrysler is at it again, flaunting its long-range planning acumen by designing the ground-breaking 300-Series sedan (and the husky Magnum station wagon on the same platform) to accept the Hemi.

The combination is a smash hit, both playing on the other's strengths: The 300C hit the market with immediate, hip-hop “street cred” and features the Hemi. Thanks in no small part to the Hemi, the 300C overshadowed virtually every other new vehicle launched in 2004. The 300-Series would have been cool without the Hemi. W it, it's a home run.

In every model that offers the Hemi - an expanding list — Chrysler gets customers to pay extra for an unabashedly in-your-face V-8. The company says the overall take rate is a giddy 46%.

Earning a spot on the Ward's 10 Best Engines list for a third consecutive year, the Hemi is a juggernaut, seemingly better in each new application.

Engine type: 5.7L OHV 90° V-8

Displacement (cc): 5,654

Block/head material: iron/aluminum

Bore × stroke (mm): 99.5 × 90.9

Horsepower (SAE net): 340 @ 5,000 rpm

Torque: 390 lb.-ft. (529 Nm) @ 4,000 rpm

Specific output: 60 hp/L

Compression ratio: 9.6:1

Application tested: Chrysler 300C (RWD)

Fuel economy for tested vehicle (EPA city/highway mpg): 17/25

Power with a Clear Conscience

DaimlerChrysler Mercedes 3.2L DOHC I-6 Turbodiesel

What's not to like about an advanced-technology turbocharged inline 6-cyl. diesel that, compared with a same-size gasoline-powered V-6 in a midsize luxury sedan, punches the car from 0-to-60 mph a half-second quicker at more than 30% better fuel economy?

What's not to like, indeed, about the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz diesels that now incorporates direct injection and common-rail fueling to generate, in the Mercedes E320 CDI midsize luxury sedan, the same 37 mpg fuel economy as a 4-cyl./manual-transmission Honda Civic, and more torque than Ford's new 4.6L SOHC V-8 in the Mustang GT?

Forget all you recall about diesel noise. At idle, you'd better have an ear on the hood to hear anything.

Finally, the turbodiesel is a bargain: just $595 more than the same car with a gasoline V-6.

So surf the awesome torque wave, dude, get wicked fuel economy and join the really tuned-in “save the earth” crowd that understands new-age diesel is a good thing. Mercedes' 3.2L CDI is an engine enthusiasts and environmentalists can embrace with equal pride.

Engine type: 3.2L DOHC I-6 turbodiesel

Displacement (cc): 3,222

Block/head material: iron/aluminum

Bore × stroke (mm): 88 × 88.3

Horsepower (SAE net): 201 @ 4,200 rpm

Torque: 369 lb.-ft. (500 Nm) @ 1,800-2,600 rpm

Specific output: 63 hp/L

Compression ratio: 18:1

Application tested: E320 CDI

Fuel economy for tested vehicle (EPA city/highway mpg): 27/37

Muscle Minus the Hassle

Ford 4.6L SOHC V-8

Developing a contemporary muscle-car engine is a challenge like no other.

Muscle-car “authenticity” is crucial - particularly in the latest incarnation of a fabled Detroit ponycar. Yet today's customers will not accept any ‘60s-era unruliness today, even in the name of “retro.” Get the blend right, though, and the result is special. This engine is special.

Wide-open throttle brings a V-8 basso-bellow, but Ford engineers knew the limits of sheer decibel output.

Things don't get grumbly until just a few hundred rpm short of the 6,250-rpm redline. And you can come out punching with prodigious doses of torque at just about any engine speed.

With the move to a 3-valve configuration, and a ripping 40-hp increase it brings over the previous 2-valve 4.6L, Ford's modular SOHC V-8/V-10 family gels into one of the industry's most convincing engine lines.

Nobody delivers 300 hp for the Mustang GT's $24,995 base price. Ford's blend of new technology and muscle-engine emotion has made the 4.6L an exciting small-displacement V-8s.

Engine type: 4.6L SOHC 90° V-8

Displacement (cc): 4,606

Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum

Bore × stroke (mm): 90.2 × 90

Horsepower (SAE net): 300 @ 5,750 rpm

Torque: 320 lb.-ft. (434 Nm) @ 4,500 rpm

Specific output: 65 hp/L

Compression ratio: 9.8:1

Application tested: Ford Mustang GT

Fuel economy for tested vehicle (EPA city/highway mpg): 17/25

The Power of One

General Motors Vortec 4.2L DOHC I-6

The inline 6-cyl. engine population is dwindling because its primary habitat — rear-wheel-drive platforms with yards of hood length to accommodate their typical north/south orientation — are disappearing like tropical rain forests.

The one application for which the smooth and balanced I-6 layout seems perfect is light trucks. Yet the only application there? General Motors Corp.'s Vortec 4.2L I-6.

Almost the entire auto world has defected to the V-6 layout due to packaging flexibility, need for more front crush space to comply with tougher regulations and a trend toward V modularity.

Yet the Vortec 4200 comes to the '05 model year as strong as ever, winning a fourth consecutive 10 Best Engines award. Its refinement befits a luxury car. Its brawny side is unveiled only when you need to use it like a truck's meant to be used.

Its use is confined to GM's multi-model midsize-SUV lineup. It would be a delight in any number of entry premium or luxury sport cars.

Engine type: 4.2L DOHC I-6

Displacement (cc): 4,160

Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum

Bore × stroke (mm): 93 × 102

Horsepower (SAE net): 275 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 275 lb.-ft. (373 Nm) @ 3,600 rpm

Specific output: 65 hp/L

Compression ratio: 10:1

Application tested: Chevrolet TrailBlazer

Fuel economy for tested vehicle (EPA city/highway mpg): 15/21

But Officer, What Would Jesus Drive?

By Tom Murphy

A funny thing happened on our way to this year's 10 Best Engines list. I got a speeding ticket — in a Toyota Prius.

The irony is that I evaluated several high-powered vehicles. I had driven (hard, in many cases) the new Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette, BMW M3, Audi S4 Avant, Subaru WRX STi and even a Porsche 911 Carrera S.

But it was my trip down Woodward Avenue in suburban Detroit that caught the attention of a police officer watching for speeders on a Sunday morning as I drove my wife and kids to church.

Mind you, I live near Woodward — close enough to smell burning rubber and hear screeching tires on any given summer night leading up to the Dream Cruise. Yet, I rarely see anyone in a muscle car getting pulled over for speeding.

I was so stunned to have been gunned down in a Prius that I forgot to plead for leniency and explain why I needed to drive down Woodward at 58 mph. After all, the car is so quiet, it's easy to lose track of your speed. I took my ticket to church and prayed for forgiveness. A sympathetic judge kept the points off my driver's license.

The Prius won a Best Engines award in 2004. This year's hybrid competition was stiff. The judges liked the Honda Accord Hybrid more, although the virtuous “hybrid” moniker hardly fits a car with a 240-hp V-6.

I did give the Accord Hybrid extra points because it had fuel-saving cylinder deactivation. In fact, three other test vehicles featured the technology this year: the 3.5L V-6 in the Honda Odyssey, the 5.3L V-8 in the Chevy TrailBlazer and the award-winning 5.7L Hemi in the Chrysler 300C.

I personally scored the Ford Escape Hybrid higher than both the Prius and Accord Hybrid because I found its throttle response outstanding, and the practicality in an SUV deserves extra points.

And I didn't get a ticket in it, either.

Honda Hybrid Feels Much Better

By Barbara McClellan

When Toyota Motor Corp. introduced the first Prius gas/electric hybrid in the U.S. in July 2000, Ward's 10 Best Engines judges argued whether to include it among the year's winners.

No doubt the technology was relevant, but its performance did not stand up to conventional gasoline engines or the diesel vehicles being evaluated.

Nor did it attain the promised gas mileage, albeit still achieving 40-plus mpg. After lively debate, we honored the Prius: Its significance to the industry could not be denied.

This year, the Ward's judges again found themselves arguing about hybrids. This discussion was not whether to include a hybrid, but how many to leave out. The contestants were disparate — the much-improved second-generation Prius, the new '05 4-cyl. Ford Escape Hybrid SUV and Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s '05 6-cyl. Accord Hybrid sedan.

While the second-generation Prius is an improvement, it still cannot attain promised gas mileage. None of the judges achieved better than 43 mpg. And although the Escape Hybrid is an important step toward fuel-efficient SUVs, Ford licensed some of the technology from Toyota's first-generation hybrid, and it shows.

The '05 Accord Hybrid, on the other hand, clearly is Honda's best effort yet, combining an abundance of torque and horsepower with a nearly seamless hybrid system.

Honda puts fun back into the equation, as well as refinement, power and most of all familiarity. Unlike the Prius, the driver is not confronted with an exotic instrument panel and start-engine procedure. Just hop in and drive.

Honda's 3L SOHC V-6, mated to an electric motor, serves up 255 hp vs. the gasoline V-6 at 240 hp. And it is the first hybrid to include cylinder-deactivation technology that shuts down half the engine's cylinders under light load to save even more fuel.

The Accord Hybrid is a car people will buy and enjoy. It sets the benchmark for the next generation.

A New High for Hybrids

Honda 3L SOHC V-6/IMA Hybrid

Back in the day, hybrid-electric vehicles were quirky research projects that distracted powertrain engineers. First prototype HEV drivelines were whiny, wheezy and constantly laboring.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. smacks down that image with the all-new Accord Hybrid. It already was a 10 Best Engines winner on its own last year, and now Honda's engineers have improved it by adding the company's sophisticated Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system. Honda's technical boffins also cobbled in a cylinder-deactivation system for better fuel economy.

IMA already has been shown with Honda's two other HEVs, the Insight and the Civic Hybrid in which an electric motor acts on the crankshaft to “assist” the gasoline engine when boost is needed.

The Accord Hybrid ushers in the new era of “performance.” IMA adds 15 hp to the 3L's already stout 240-hp standard rating. The enhanced third-generation IMA provides a torque injection.

Meanwhile, there's serious efficiency. The Accord Hybrid gets 29 mpg-city/37 mpg-highway; respective gains of 38% and 23% over the same car with the 3L V-6.

Engine type: 3L SOHC 60° V-6

Displacement (cc): 2,997

Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum

Bore × stroke (mm): 86 × 86

Horsepower (SAE net): 255 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 232 lb.-ft. (315 Nm) @ 4,500 rpm

Specific output: 85 hp/L

Compression ratio: 10.5:1

Electric Motor: 12-kW (16-hp) permanent-magnet

Application tested: Accord Hybrid

Fuel economy for tested vehicle (EPA city/highway mpg): 29/37

V-8 Power in a Stunning V-6

Acura 3.5L SOHC V-6

A decade ago, a normally aspirated 6-cyl. engine developing 300 hp would have stopped the industry in its tracks. Suddenly, that genus is flourishing, and Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s new Acura 3.5L SOHC V-6 is at the top of the food chain.

For its all-new '05 RL flagship, Acura threw out the longitudinal 90-degree 3.5L V-6 from the old 3.5RL and replaced it with this first-time 10 Best Engines winner. Acura has created the most powerful production V-6 in company history.

It equals the Ford Mustang GT's 4.6L V-8, and represents a 75-hp jump over the same-size V-6 it replaces. This luxury/sport sedan engine has more power and torque than the high-revving 3.2L DOHC V-6 in Acura's NSX supercar!

On top, engineers fitted a dual-stage intake manifold (worth 15 hp), and there's Honda's well-known VTEC (Variable Timing and Lift Electronic Control). Acura says a host of improvements generated 40 horsepower, while the variable exhaust system netted 20 extra horses. Yet it manages the same city fuel economy as its predecessor, better in the highway cycle.

Engine type: 3.5L SOHC 60° V-6

Displacement (cc): 3,471

Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum

Bore × stroke (mm): 89 × 93

Horsepower (SAE net): 300 @ 6,200 rpm

Torque: 260 lb.-ft. (353 Nm) @ 5,000 rpm

Specific output: 86 hp/L

Compression ratio: 11:1

Application tested: Acura RL

Fuel economy for tested vehicle (EPA city/highway mpg): 18/26

Give Me Diesel or Give Me Death!

By Kevin Kelly

I could hardly wait to get my hands on the Mercedes E320 CDI.

Imagine: a German luxury car with the brute power of a 3.2L I-6 turbodiesel.

As the key turned, I was rewarded with the sweetest of sounds: a very low rumble like the purring of a conventional gasoline engine.

I stomped on the gas, and a grin became a permanent facial feature. The smashing torque peak of 369 lb.-ft. arrives by just 1,800 rpm, pulling this 3,835-lb. sedan along at a clip that would put any V-8 to shame. Best of all, it sipped fuel at 37 mpg-highway/27 mpg-city.

Then came a rude awakening from another highly anticipated diesel: the Jeep Liberty midsize SUV. I turned the key and could hardly hear myself think.

As the Liberty's diesel rattled like a semi, I remembered Chrysler folks telling me they were looking for a diesel that would provide the best performance off-road, and that meant some noise-level sacrifices. The Liberty produces a respectable 295 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,800 rpm and 160 hp at 3,800 rpm. But does it have to be so loud?

It's unfortunate the first diesel for a light-duty, mass-market vehicle from Detroit since the Reagan Admin. doesn't stack up to Europe's best. (Actually, the Liberty's engine is Italian-made by VM Motori, which DaimlerChrysler AG owns.)

We'll never break the negative stereotypes of diesels this way.

Joining the Rotary Club

Mazda 1.3L Renesis Rotary

The Mazda's 1.3L Renesis rotary is like the powertrain sector's intriguing little indie movie.

Blockbuster films are fine, but every now and again, you'd like to use your brain a bit. The rotary's second consecutive Ward's Best Engines win confirms that uniqueness remains a vital powertrain quality.

To get power from the Renesis it must rev, and that's okay, because with the rotary, the lack of pounding common to reciprocating piston engines is absent, so the universe is in equilibrium. But Renesis' torque stinginess can be uncomfortable, the only characteristic Ward's testers mention with regularity.

Then there's the fuel-economy. Eighteen mpg-city and 24 mpg-highway are not awful. But for a 3,000 lbs.-sport coupe, those aren't Friends of the Earth numbers.

It's impossible to dwell on the limitations, though, when the thing literally spins its heart out. There's simply too much that's too special about this technically fascinating engine — and the incalculable economic and intellectual investment Mazda has made over the last 40-odd years — to see the rotary's quirks as anything but tolerable character flaws, to be expected with uniqueness.

Engine type: 1.3L twin-rotor rotary

Displacement (cc): 1,308

Block material: aluminum

Bore × stroke (mm): N/A

Horsepower (SAE net): 238 @ 8,500 rpm

Torque: 159 lb.-ft. (216 Nm) @ 5,500 rpm

Specific output: 183 hp/L

Compression ratio: 10:1

Application tested: Mazda RX-8

Fuel economy for tested vehicle (EPA city/highway mpg): 18/24

A Winner from the Beginning

Nissan 3.5L DOHC V-6

It's 11 consecutive years of Ward's 10 Best Engines awards for Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and its 3.5L “VQ” DOHC V-6. No other engine has won every year.

It started in the U.S. as a gem-like 3L with scintillatingly low levels of noise, vibration and harshness, spectacular flexibility and high specific output.

Nissan's VQ V-6 for North America now displaces 3.5L, but has sacrificed little of its superb engineering, build quality and driveability attributes. Powertrain developers invariably still name Nissan's the most benchmarked V-6. For '05, Nissan engineers raised output from 280 hp to 298 hp for Infiniti G35 coupes and sedans with a 6-speed manual transmission. Anniversary editions of Nissan's 350Z coupe enjoy the highest-spec version of the 3.5L VQ, at an even 300 hp.

Nissan needs more VQ V-6s because it's an engineering and manufacturing masterpiece. With the '05 upgrades, there's not a better-developed or more technically proficient V-6.

Engine type: 3.5L DOHC 60° V-6

Displacement (cc): 3,498

Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum

Bore × stroke (mm): 95.5 × 81.4

Horsepower (SAE net): 298 @ 6,400 rpm

Torque: 260 lb.-ft. (353 Nm) @ 4,800 rpm

Specific output: 85 hp/L

Compression ratio: 10.3:1

Application tested: Infiniti G35 Coupe (6-speed MT)

Fuel economy for tested vehicle (EPA city/highway mpg): 19/26

Oh, the Harmony! Oh, the Humanity

By Cliff Banks

Being the rookie on this year's panel, I probably should rely on the wisdom of my fellow and — more senior — judges and play nice. I should, but I won't.

For the first time in the 11-year history of the 10 Best Engines, one of BMW AG's inline 6-cyl. engines fails to make the list. I ask my fellow adjudicators, “What are you smoking?”

After testing the 330 Ci, I meditated on whether there an engine as refined as the 3L I-6. With pedal to the floor, the 222 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm propels the coupe through each gear with nary a lurch or hesitation. And is there a sweeter sound than that intoxicating mellow whine? You can have more power and better fuel economy — but this engine, provides true harmony to the driving universe.

As I argued passionately for the 330 Ci, senior (and jaded, I should add) editors Tom Murphy and Bill Visnic nodded politely at my freshman enthusiasm, then shot me down in flames.

I know, this engine is long in the tooth and essentially will be retired after this year, improved with sophisticated new technology. Despite its increased horsepower to a respectable, albeit modest, 235, many V-6s have surpassed the 3L's power in recent years. And one could argue the redline of 5,900 rpm is low.

But there is no denying the near-perfect balance of power and refinement that this fabled engine brings.

I give it a fond farewell.

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