One hybrid package and two 50-state diesels have been singled out for overall excellence in the 15th annual Top 10 Best Engines list compiled by the industry trade publication Ward's AutoWorld. The sole hybrid to make it is the gas/electric combination used in the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid (and its Mazda Tribute Hybrid clone), which was enhanced by the adoption of more efficient Atkinson cycle valve timing on its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as well as upgrades to the controller that collectively yield better economy and smoother intermodal transitions.
The 2009 diesel contingent was represented by a pair of new, ultra-clean turbocharged and direct-injected engines from two German automakers. BMW received the accolade for its twin-turbo 3.0-liter in-line 6 used in the 335d Sedan while VW earned similar honors for its 2.0-liter single turbo four in the Jetta TDI Sedan and Sportwagon.
"A decade ago, few consumers in the U.S. paid serious attention to hybrids or diesels. This year, they have to, if they don't want to be pinched the next time fuel hits $4 a gallon," says Tom Murphy, executive editor of Ward's AutoWorld magazine. "The diesels from VW and BMW and the Ford Escape Hybrid all got better than 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km) during our testing, and often they topped 40 mpg (5.8 L/100 km)."
Filling out the remaining spots in Ward's Top 10 Best Engine roster for 2009 are the 3.0-liter in-line 6 in the BMW 135i, Chrysler's 5.7-liter HEMI V8, GM's 3.6-liter V6 in the Cadillac CTS, Honda's 3.5-liter V6 in the Accord, Hyundai's new 4.-6-liter "Tau" V8 created for the new Genesis and Toyota's 3.5-liter V6 used in the Lexus IS 350.