Volt, LEAF Powertrains Among Ward’s 2011 “10 Best Engines”

By Charles Krome

The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF continue to rack up the awards, with the propulsion systems from both being named to the annual “10 Best Engines” list put together by Ward’s.

Per the editor’s, the former’s “‘Voltec’ propulsion system is brilliant—a technological masterpiece,” with editor-in-chief Drew Winter adding that “General Motors engineers have changed the course of history by creating an electric vehicle with true mass appeal.” But is it really an EV? Well, Ward’s says “Some consider it a glorified hybrid while others just don’t understand it.” Make of that what you will.

As for the LEAF, Ward’s points out an interesting factoid, especially when you consider the name of the award in question: Technically speaking, the Nissan doesn’t even have an engine, “just a battery-powered electric motor that turns the wheels through a single speed reducer.” Regardless, it’s “affordable” and “a thrill to drive,” and despite some concerns—including range anxiety—”As a propulsion system” the Volt’s powertrain “truly deserves recognition.

The rest of the Ward’s 2011 10 Best Engines:

•            The 3.0-liter TFSI supercharged DOHC V6 in the Audi S4

•            BMW’s 3.0-liter N55 turbocharged DOHC I6 from the 335i

•            The 1.6-liter turbocharged DOHC I4 holstered by the Mini Cooper S

•            Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar DOHC V6, specifically as used in the 2011 Dodge Avenger

•            The Ford Mustang GT’s 5.0-liter DOHC V8

•            Hyundai’s new 5.0-liter Tau DOHC V8 for the Genesis

•            The 2.0-liter DOHC I4 turbodiesel from the VW Jetta TDI

•            The 3.0-liter turbocharged DOHC I6 from the naughty Volvo S60

Interestingly, the team at Ward’s does no instrumented testing to come up with the list, now in its 17th year. Instead, “editors spent October and November driving the vehicles in their routine daily commutes around metro Detroit and scored each engine based on power, technology, observed fuel economy and noise, vibration harshness.” The chief criterion here is a simple one, as Ward’s looks for the powertrains that “set new benchmarks in their respective vehicle segments.”

My two cents: Assuming there’s no sudden disaster and both the LEAF and Volt actually hit the road before the year is out, I don’t see how you can leave them off this list.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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