2021 Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems Quick Hits

Winners in red


355 hp 3.0L V6 Turbo (Acura TLX Type S)
+ state-of-the-art V-6
– Observed relatively poor fuel economy
= Emulates the German six at a lower price


402 hp twin-engine BEV (Audi e-tron Sportback)
+ Pleasant to drive without the theatrics
– Output BEV platform
= Good BEV alternative for Audi enthusiasts

349 hp 3.0L turbo V6 (Audi SQ5)
+ Quick response, lots of power, lots of great music to your ears
– Expensive for power
= Makes a great case for downsizing V-8


2.0L turbo I-4 PHEV 288 hp combined (BMW 330e)
+ Incredible fuel efficiency without ever running out of power
– 22 miles of EV range is on the short side
= Exciting in EV mode and still engaging even when the battery is flat

3.0L turbo I-6 48V MHEV 382 hp (BMW M440i xDrive)
+ 48V stop/start smooth as silk
– Slight transmission misfires, stalling at low revs
= The engine makes the car


6.2L V-8 495 hp (Chevrolet Corvette Stingray)
+ Power to burn, yet fuel efficient
– NVH can disable some
= Thrilling joy to drive

3.0L Diesel Inline-6 ​​(Chevrolet Suburban)
+ Impressive silence for a diesel
– Loses of breath +80 mph
= Perfectly adapted to this large vehicle

155 hp 1.3L turbo inline-3 (Chevrolet Trailblazer)
+ Impressive power and torque density
– Fuel economy could be better
= The little engine that makes


181 hp 1.5L turbo inline-3 (Ford Bronco Sport)
+ higher CV/L than Chevy engine
– Driving and NVH missing
= Three firecrackers can replace four pots

3.5L HEV twin-turbo V6 430 hp combined (Ford F-150 hybrid)
+ Discreet gas-electric transitions
– Price premium for hybrid powertrain
= Clobbers V-8 for response and thrust

2.3L Turbo I-4 330hp Performance Package (Ford Mustang)
+ Pleasure at high revs thanks to the 6-speed manual gearbox
– Thrashy and noisy on startup
= Efficient and fun Mustang option

346 hp twin motor BEV (Ford Mustang Mach-E)
+ Beats miles against estimated range metric
– Driving in Whisper (Eco) mode a downer
= Advanced EV without the “Tech Bro” baggage


375 hp 3.5L V6 turbo (Genesis G80)
+ Competitive power and efficiency figures
– Annoying vibrations in the accelerator pedal
= Smooth and pleasant engine (picture below)

Tom Murphy


2.0L Atkinson I-4 HEV 212 hp combined (Honda Accord hybrid)
+ Still competitive two-motor hybrid system
– Hybrids give way to BEVs
= Extremely smooth at all times


1.6L I-4 HEV 139 hp combined (Hyundai Elantra hybrid)
+ Amazingly responsive with outstanding real-world mpgs
– Awkward low and mid-speed powertrain transitions
= Low price makes it a great hybrid deal

Single engine BEV 201 hp (Hyundai Kona EV)
+ Incredibly fast and responsive
– Pulsating vibration in the accelerator pedal
= Maximum value and efficiency in this winning return

1.6L turbo I-4 HEV 225 hp combined (Hyundai Santa Fe hybrid)
+ EV mode possible up to 80 km/h
– Some low-speed lugging
= Good price compared to non-hybrid midsize SUVs

277 hp 2.5L turbocharged inline-4 (Hyundai Santa Fe)
+ Surprisingly punchy for an intermediate CUV
– Hyper response makes it difficult to ride smoothly
= Engine helps Santa Fe stand out from the crowd

180hp 1.6L turbo inline-4 (Hyundai Sonata/Kia K5)
+ Torque thanks to the world’s first continuously variable valve duration
– Bad vibrations at low revs
= Former winner offers a combination of efficiency and power in non-hybrid


2.0L VC-turbo I-4 268 hp (Infiniti QX55)
+ Variable compression a technological marvel
– CVT a bit of a killjoy in this application
= Double winner almost worthy of a hat-trick


2.0L turbo I-4 PHEV 375 hp combined (Jeep Wrangler 4xe)
+28 mpg observed is impressive for a Wrangler
– Not sure Wrangler buyers are looking for a PHEV
= Driving pure EV at 70 mph is amazing

6.4L V-8 470 hp (Jeep Wrangler 392)
+ Big nasty engine with a growl that wakes up the neighbor
– Maybe too much power for this vehicle
= Take advantage before the V-8s disappear

land rover

3.0L I-6 MHEV 395 hp (Land Rover Defender 90)
+ Mild-hybrid system saves mpg
– Complete stop of the vehicle annoying during prolonged stops
= Lots of punch makes it a pleasure to drive


3.5L V-6 HEV 354 hp combined (Lexus LC 500h)
+ Super intelligent transmission optimizes fuel economy
– Some moans when beaten
= The sophisticated multi-stage hybrid system works perfectly


250 hp 2.5L turbocharged inline-4 (Mazda CX-30)
+ Maximum torque at just 2,000 rpm
– Delicate tip requires gentle throttle inputs
= The engine fits this vehicle perfectly


2.0L 305hp turbo inline-4 (Mercedes-Benz GLA 35)
+ Sport mode and manual shift mode make it a ton of fun
– Some turbo lag impairs linear power delivery
= Rewarding for the aggressive driver – 0-60 mph in 5 seconds

3.0L EQ Boost turbo I-6 429 hp (Mercedes GLE 53)
+ EQ Boost adds 21 hp and 184 lb-ft. torque
– AMG powertrain may be unsuitable in large CUVs
= Cruiser with a proper growl when squeezed

4.0L EQ Boost twin-turbo V8 483 hp (Mercedes-Benz GLS 580)
+ Makes a large vehicle agile
– Painful fuel economy numbers
= Soft operator with soft stop/start

The North Star

Twin-engine BEV 408 hp (Polestar 2)
+ Surprising ability to retain battery charge
– Lack of ignition button can be confusing
= Smooth and fast, fun and easy to ride

Tom MurphyDSC_0980.JPG


3.8L turbo flat-6 572 hp (Porsche 911 Turbo – pictured above)
+ All you need is – a Stuttgart flat-6 turbo
– Grainy flat engine sounds not for everyone
= Pinnacle of Porsche internal combustion as the brand turns to electric vehicles

Twin-engine BEV 522 hp (Porsche Taycan 4S)
+ State-of-the-art 800V system and fast charging capability
– High price should bring more range
= Able to snatch the performance crown from the ICE brothers


3.6L V-6 48V eTorque 305 hp (Ram 1500 Rebel)
+ The eTorque mild-hybrid system is a winner
– Observed fuel economy well below EPA rating
= No longer at the forefront in an increasingly electrified field

6.2L 702 hp supercharged V8 (Ram 1500 TRX)
+ Can be subtle until – bam! – when you put it on the ground
– Too big to be so fast
= Collectible item for lovers of the V-8 monster


2.5L I-4 HEV 243 hp combined (Toyota Highlander Hybrid)
+ Beats or exceeds EPA fuel economy of 35 mpg combined
– Excessively loud and rough, bad NVH
= Fuel economy of a compact car in a large 3-row CUV

BEV 182 hp fuel cell single engine (Toyota Mirai)
+ Superb proof of concept for a propulsion system of the future
– Runs hydrogen range faster than miles
= Lack of hydrogen refueling infrastructure harms viability

2.5L I-4 PHEV 302 hp combined (Toyota RAV4 Prime)
+ Torquey EV response at low speeds
– Feels weak at higher speeds
= Excellent package offering up to 42 miles of EV range

2.5L I-4 HEV 219 hp combined (Toyota Venza hybrid)
+ Proven, high-performance and efficient hybrid propulsion
– Hard to get pure EV mode driving
= Ideal for those who want electrified efficiency in a simple package


Single engine BEV 201 hp (Volkswagen ID.4)
+ Soft response rather than hyper-aggressive
– Relatively mild torque rating as BEVs run
= The people’s BEV – an electric car for the masses


408 hp twin-engine BEV (Volvo XC40 Refill)
+ Offers longer range for superior performance
– Lacks some of the Polestar’s unique features
= Proves Swedes are all-in for BEV (picture below)

Tom MurphyDSC_0951.JPG
Previous Car battery maker QuantumScape faces shareholder suit
Next Chase launches a new top-up card: Chase Ink Business Premier