2018 is here, and with it comes a fresh list of the year’s 10 Best Engines from WardsAuto, one of our favorite sources for car news and insights. WardsAuto has been around since 1928, giving them 90 years of experience covering the auto industry.
They’ve also been ranking their top 10 engines of the year since 1995. Competing vehicles must have a base price no higher than $63,000, and only new or vastly improved powertrains – plus the previous year’s 10 winners – are eligible.
The biggest takeaways from this year’s list? Well, the future is here! 2018’s list features an all-electric powertrain, a hydrogen fuel cell system, multiple hybrid powertrains, and a slew of ultra-modern turbocharged engines. It’s a continuation of trends from 2017’s 10 Best Engines list, which also featured mostly turbocharged and hybrid powertrains. However, there were no German winners this year, which is a little unusual. 2018’s winners also included something absent from last year’s list: a naturally aspirated American V-8, bringing some good old-fashioned muscle to the party.
This year’s best engines are a great mix of sensible practicality, exciting performance, and futuristic technology. Let’s dig into each of 2018’s top 10 motors and drivetrains, listed in alphabetical order, for an in-depth look at what they’re all about and how they make their vehicles perform.
1.Chevrolet Bolt EV: 150-kW Electric Propulsion System
The Chevy Bolt is an all-electric compact crossover designed to bring affordable, zero-emissions motoring to the masses. It’s powered by a 150-kW electric system that features a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery pack mated to a single motor and gearset driving the front wheels. That means it pushes 200 horsepower with instant delivery of 266 foot-pounds of torque, so it can hit 60 miles per hour in less than seven seconds. It’s also good for more than 200 miles on a single charge. Plus, with an available fast-charging system, you can get 90 miles of range in just 30 minutes. For most people’s daily commute, errands around town, and even small day-trips, the Chevy Bolt EV is a real contender, with a state-of-the-art powertrain of the future.
2. Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: 3.6L Pentastar DOHC V-6/PHEV
For most car enthusiasts, combining the terms “hybrid” and “minivan” won’t exactly be cause for excitement. But, the hybrid powertrain in the new Chrysler Pacific Hybrid is a different story. It combines a strong 3.6-liter, naturally aspirated Pentastar V6 that makes 220 horsepower with two small electric motors , bringing the total power output up to 260 horses. That makes it one of the most powerful minivans on the market today. It can also drive up to 33 miles as an all-electric vehicle, using its gas engine only when the batteries run low, or acting as a plugin hybrid with an electric charging port. It even features regenerative braking, charging its batteries using the vehicle’s own momentum. It’s a minivan you’ll actually enjoy driving with unmatched fuel efficiency. That’s why this powertrain is one of only two repeat winners returning from 2017’s 10 Best Engines list.
3. Ford F-150: 2.7L Twin-Turbocharged DOHC V-6
Ford’s redesigned 2.7-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 brings you 325 horsepower and boosts its torque all the way up to 400 foot-pounds for the 2018 model. It’s also incredibly quiet, smooth, and efficient. Cutting-edge features like dual injection (direct and port) and seamless stop-start technology help bring the fuel economy as high as 26 miles per gallon on the highway. Plus, it features plenty of grunt, giving you up to 8,500 pounds of towing capacity. Ford has successfully combined the power of a V-8 with the light weight and fuel efficiency of a V-6.
4. Ford Mustang GT: 5.0L DOHC V-8
There are few engines more iconic than the Ford Mustang’s 5-liter V-8. It’s been a legend in muscle cars and motorsport for decades, but the 5.0 in the 2018 Mustang is all-new. It brings this old-school piece of American muscle into the 21st century, with all kinds of cutting-edge tech like direct injection. But, it does this without sacrificing everything that makes a Mustang’s V8 awesome – it’s naturally aspirated, it pushes big-time power, and it sounds incredible. With 460 horsepower and 25 miles per gallon on the highway, the new Mustang GT is the future of American muscle, and the future is bright indeed.
5. Honda Clarity: 130-kW Hydrogen Fuel Cell/Electric Propulsion System
Just a few years ago, the idea of a hydrogen fuel cell powering a normal passenger car seemed closer to science fiction than reality. Now, Honda has brought this technology to the road with the Clarity Fuel Cell. Its compact and lightweight proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) system converts hydrogen into electricity, leaving water as the only exhaust substance. The Clarity’s powertrain features 174 horsepower and 221 foot-pounds of instant torque from an electric motor driving the front wheels, so it’s certainly not slow. It also has a range of 366 miles per tank, refueling with the speed and convenience of normal gas pumps. With the Clarity Fuel Cell, Honda is showing the world that a car powered from readily available compressed hydrogen can be safe, practical, and affordable.
6. Honda Civic Type R: 2.0L VTEC Turbocharged DOHC 4-Cyl.
The new Honda Civic Type R is a high-performance sport compact featuring the most powerful engine Honda has ever sold in the U.S. This 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder combines legendary VTEC variable valve timing and direct injection to pump out 306 horsepower. That fires the Civic Type R to 60 miles per hour in just 4.9 seconds, and on to a top speed of 170 miles per hour. It also gets 28 miles per gallon on the highway, so it’s perfect for the daily commute or the track. It’s been 20 long years since Honda last sold a Type R on American soil, but this engine makes its latest top-spec Civic well worth the wait.
7. Infiniti Q50: 3.0L Twin-Turbocharged DOHC V-6
Infiniti’s Q50 sedan and Q60 coupe are designed to combine smooth, relaxing luxury with serious power and performance. The new 3-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 powering these cars pushes out a huge 400 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of torque, making the sprint to 60 miles per hour in less than five seconds. The engine is also smooth, quiet, and efficient for cruising, making up to 26 miles per gallon on the highway. WardsAuto calls this engine “a sophisticated brute,” which we think is a perfect description of its Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. It’s also one of only two repeat winners from 2017’s list of 10 Best Engines, for very good reason.
8. Jaguar XF: 2.0L Turbocharged DOCH 4-Cyl.
For the new XF, Jaguar developed their own 2-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine from the ground up, independent of their previous partnership with Ford. It’s easy to see why they’re proud of this new “Ingenium” engine, too. It’s available with two power output levels: 247 horsepower or 296 horsepower. WardsAuto tested the 247-horsepower version and loved its combination of punchy power, luxury cruising, and fuel economy of up to 34 miles per gallon on the highway. World-class stuff from our friends across the pond, giving Jag their first spot on the 10 Best Engines list.
9. Kia Stinger: 3.3L Turbocharged DOHC V-6
The Kia Stinger is an all-new, rear-wheel-drive sport sedan that’s powered by an equally new 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6. It’s another engine that combines smooth luxury cruising with neck-snapping power when you put your foot down. It cranks out 365 horsepower and 376 foot-pounds of torque, with a soundtrack that’s more V-8 than V-6 at high revs. This engine actually beat out BMW’s comparable B58 3-liter turbocharged inline-6 engine, which took the prize last year. That’s a major win over their German rivals, who have set the standard in luxury sport powertrains for decades – and it’s the first 10 Best Engines award for Korean company Kia.
10. Toyota Camry Hybrid: 2.5L Atkinson DOHC 4-Cyl./HEV
The Toyota Camry Hybrid’s all-new 2.5-liter gasoline engine combines with an electric motor to create a total of 208 horsepower and 163 foot-pounds of torque. It’s also good for as much as 50 miles per gallon on the highway, and most drivers will see at least 40 or 45 mpg on the combined cycle. This is achieved thanks in part to a specialized “Atkinson-cycle” gas engine, which holds the intake valve open a little longer than normal to reduce the effective compression ratio, capturing more energy from the combustion process and improving overall efficiency. The result is top-of-its-class fuel economy, along with plenty of passing power. With this powertrain, Toyota beat out their archrival, the Honda Accord Hybrid, which won the award last year in 2017.