On this year's list, efficient engines using direct injection and forced induction play a big part, along with one hybrid, the Volt, and the Nissan Leaf's electric motor.
In its annual list, Wards Auto lauds what its editors perceive as the 10 best engines powering cars today.
The 2011 Ward's 10 best engines list pays homage to electrification, including both the mixed gas and electric system driving the Chevy Volt, and the pure electric motor in the Nissan Leaf. One diesel also made the list, Volkswagen's TDI. Among the gasoline engines, most feature forced induction. Direct injection also makes an appearance. But big displacement has its place, as seen in the 5-liter V-8s from Ford and Hyundai.
Audi supercharged direct injection 3-liter V-6
Used in the Audi A7, and a variety of other Audi models, this engine produces 310 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. It sends the A7 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds while boasting a highway fuel economy of 28 mpg.
BMW direct injection turbocharged 3-liter inline six
BMW has been refining its 3-liter inline six cylinder over the past decade. The current version, powering the new X3 and many other vehicles in BMW's lineup, benefits from direct injection, a twin scroll turbocharger, and BMW's Double VANOS variable valve timing. Its 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque is ample for a wide variety of applications.
Mini direct injection turbocharged 1.6-liter inline four
Used in every Mini Cooper model sporting an S, such as the new Countryman, this powerplant is an excellent example of efficiency. Its fuel economy pushes over the 30 mpg mark, yet it feels powerful, bringing its 181 horsepower to bear with ease.
Chrysler 3.6-liter V-6
Although less technically advanced than many other engines on the list, Chrysler's new Pentastar engine is an important step forward for the company. With 292 horsepower, it is a good fit for the Dodge Charger. Chrysler plans to improve this engine further with direct injection.
Ford 5-liter V-8
The big V-8 in the Mustang GT uses variable valve timing and double overhead cams to crank out 412 horsepower. Although that power is enjoyable, its engine note will turn the most heads.
Chevrolet 1.4-liter inline four/111-kilowatt motor
Chevy calls the Volt a range extended electric vehicle, as its electric motor drives the front wheels, the gas engine primarily used to generate electricity. As the Volt's battery can be recharged from the grid, the Volt can drive many, many miles on very little, if any, gasoline.
Hyundai 5-liter V-8
Wards Auto selected this newest engine from Hyundai, a big V-8 using double overhead cams, for its list. Making its appearance this year in the Genesis 5.0 R-spec, this V-8 produces 429 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque.
Nissan 80-kilowatt motor
The electric motor driving the Leaf found its way onto Ward's best engine list, although Nissan's lithium ion battery pack deserves as much mention. With a gasoline engine, the design of the gas tank is of little importance, but in an electric car, the output of the battery pack makes a world of difference.
Volkswagen turbocharged diesel 2-liter inline four
A perpetual favorite, VW's four-cylinder TDI engine turns in excellent fuel economy and more than enough power for a compact car or even midsize car. More impressive is that the engine requires no special exhaust-cleaning technology. This engine has found a home in VW and Audi models, including the A3.
Volvo turbocharged 3-liter inline six
Well tuned for 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, Volvo's engine proves that 3 liters is enough for a premium midsize car. In the 2011 S60, this engine drives all four wheels.