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Ward's picks the 10 best engines of 2014

Direct injection, diesel and turbocharging are the latest buzzwords in engine technology.

By James_Tate Dec 13, 2013 1:07PM

For 20 years, Ward’s Auto has been assessing which engines rule the roost at the start of each new year.

To qualify, the engine in question has to be in a vehicle you can buy in the first quarter of the year -- and that vehicle can’t cost more than $60,000. It’s no surprise that the idea of downsizing has taken center stage for the 2014 edition of Ward’s 10 Best Engines. The ever omnipresent need to meet more stringent emissions and gas mileage standards worldwide has caused all but a select few manufacturers to turn to the trend. And as you, our savvy reader, are probably already aware, turbocharging is the most logical way to downsize -- especially when paired with direct injection.

Modern turbochargers have a very minimal effect on vehicle refinement, while offering in most cases more torque across the rev range than their naturally aspirated, bigger breathing forbears. Due to the smaller size of most turbocharged engines, they also consume less fuel.

But as logical as turbocharging is in gasoline engines, it makes even more sense when you boost modern diesel engines, which offer ridiculous fuel economy, gobs of torque and a very clean footprint on the environment. And we haven’t touched on the ability of a stout iron diesel engine block to keep going and going and going. But enough from us – let’s have a look at Ward’s engine choices for the 2014 model year.


1. The 3.0-liter, supercharged engine found in the Audi S4 and S5. We couldn't agree more. Audi made it on the list last year with this engine, and there’s plenty of reason for a repeat. The direct-injected 90-degree V6 cranks out 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, and thanks to a roots-type supercharger, it seems to do so over an absurdly broad rpm range. In the S5, it still manages an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 17 city mpg/26 highway mpg while sending you rocketing down the road. The intercooler setup couldn’t be more innovative, and the always-there oomph renders the car’s V8 predecessor completely irrelevant.

2. The 3.0-liter turbodiesel in the BMW 535d. Recently reengineered, this BMW engine is impossibly quiet and offers peak torque at just 1500 rpm, “virtually eliminating turbo lag,” as Ward’s editors note. Matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission, the inline-6 in the 535d even outperforms many of the 4-cylinder diesels the magazine considered. And while it’s awesome in the 535d, it should be your only choice when buying an X5, offering some 413 lb-ft of torque.

3. The 3.0-liter turbodiesel in the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. Sourced from FIAT-owned VM Motori and also mated to an 8-speed automatic, the Ram's torquey diesel has no trouble motivating a 3-ton pickup truck while managing up to 24 mpg combined during Ward’s test drives. It's not bad when you consider that the acceleration matches that of the V8 Ram 1500, which only gets 17 mpg combined.

4. FIAT strikes again, this time with an 83-kilowatt electric motor in the 500e. This is another choice we’ll agree with-- while we’re not completely on board the electric bandwagon, there’s no question in our minds that if you’re going to buy an electric car in California, this should be it. Like any electric car, full torque (147 lb-ft) is available at -- wait for it -- zero rpm, and Ward’s editors were often able to exceed the car’s published range of 85 miles.

5. We’ve got to agree again here, because Ford’s tiny 1.0-liter EcoBoost inline-3 engine is awesome. As tiny as it is physically, the little engine manages to boost out 120 horsepower, thanks to the miracle of direct injection and modern turbocharging. It also won the International Engine of the Year award in June. In the little Fiesta, that means an EPA-rated 45 mpg on the highway. The Fiesta goes a long way to proving that diesel-sipping cars haven’t pushed their gasoline-powered competitors out of the market. As a side note, we had the opportunity to drive a tuned version of this engine, which was stuffed inside a Caterham roadster, and to make a long story short, nothing ever felt so right.

6. The Chevrolet Cruze Clean Diesel is the only competitor to the long-standing Volkswagen Jetta TDI, and the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is great.  You’ll get 45 mpg on the highway here, too, and the stats are nothing to balk at, either: 151 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque -- the latter available in full at just 2600 rpm.



7. Chevrolet isn’t on the list for just efficiency. Try the 6.2-liter pushrod (yes, pushrod) V8 of the new Corvette Stingray. Ripping out 460 horsepower, the engine still manages to pull off 28 mpg on the highway (that’s in automatic trim). That’s a heck of a feat when you consider that some variant of this very engine has been in production since 1955!

8. Just as you wouldn’t expect a pushrod engine to make a best-of list in 2014, neither would you expect a single-overhead cam engine without direct injection -- or, gasp, a turbocharger! But as it has for many years before, Ward’s praised the 3.5-liter V6 of the 2014 Honda Accord, noting an impressive 34 mpg in highway driving and the decidedly counterculture approach to delivering those figures. The Accord V6 makes 278 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque.

9. The 2.7-liter H6 offered in the Porsche Cayman makes the list, too. Ward’s editors say that it feels “a lot more powerful than its rated 275 hp and 213 lb-ft of torque.” Despite the power perceived by Ward’s editors, the Cayman returned 23 mpg during testing.

10. Volkswagen makes this year’s 10-best list with the 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4 offered in the Jetta, with editors saying that the new engine was "quiet, efficient and a riot to drive in sport mode, happily popping off the line even with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Several editors logged close to 30 mpg in mixed driving, and the EPA says 36 mpg is possible on the highway."


So there you have it, folks: the 10 best engines of 2014 as reported by the good people at Ward’s Auto. Manufacturers will receive their awards Jan. 15 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.


[Source: Ward's]

Dec 13, 2013 2:55PM
These are mostly newer engines.  Not one word about reliability.  This  "expert" should take each of these and drive 200,000 miles, then come back and tell us which are still running. New technology does not mean longevity.
Dec 13, 2013 3:55PM
 Just think, we could all experience a 5-10% increase in fuel economy if the EPA would lift its  ethanol mandate and we could all go back to straight gasoline. 
Dec 13, 2013 2:58PM

I can't understand why they charge as much for diesel when there is a very little refining in making it. Years ago Diesel was the cheapest thing around until they learned to squeeze other volatiles out of it and now are double dipping.

Dec 13, 2013 3:07PM
I agree with oleshep below when it comes to diesels.  I currently own a Dodge Ram turbo diesel and today I passed a truck stop the diesel was selling for $3.93/gallon.  At the time I was driving my Hyundai Elentra which normally give me about 32 mpg.  I had just filled it up and 87 octane was $3.05/gallon. 

And some people wonder why people in the U. S. don't drive diesels.  Its because diesel cost $.88/gallon more than gasoline.  . 
Dec 13, 2013 2:34PM
My question is why the Porsche Caymen only gets 23 mpg (275hp) and the Corvette can get 28mpg (460hp)?
Dec 13, 2013 3:03PM
Dec 13, 2013 3:03PM
Chevy rules with a motor they have made since 1955 and still going strong . And besides that it also gets great mileage 28 mpg . with an automatic trans . Good going Chevy , you get my vote every time !!
Dec 13, 2013 2:57PM

Diesel is a lot cleaner and less smelly than it was ten years ago. But diesel repairs are through the roof. The replacement parts are double a gas engine counterpart and shops that know what they are doing are few and between.


The shops that do know how to do it right are backlogged so bad you need a backup vehicle just to own a diesel incase it ever needs repair.

Dec 13, 2013 5:07PM
we were doing 16 mpg in the city and 20, 22 mpg on the highway back in the 60's with 400hp. and even more  even earlier provided you kept it tuned.  not nearly the cost to do so, and you could do it yourself. all this technology today as far as I'm concerned is way over rated. bottom line! it brings in a whole lot of revenue for manufacturers. back in the 60's you could buy a brand new car and a nice one for $3500.00. now its $35000.00 or more depending on what you buy. we have dug our own grave and allowed manufacturers to manipulate the general public like you wouldn't believe, and we have just went along with it.
Dec 13, 2013 4:43PM
The cast iron 265ci small block chevy which debuted in 1955 shares no characteristics with the modern engine in the present corvette other than being 8 cylinders.It didn't even have an oil filter in 55. This author should do some research before he writes articles.
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