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 Source: WardsAuto.com

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.


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