Words & Photography: Canadian Auto Review
Published: January 26, 2018
Engines are the beating hearts of an automobile, the soul and the ethereal essence that gives way to its personality, dynamics, and overall character. We have been lucky enough to sample hundreds of engines in 2017, everything from a paltry three-cylinder engine to a gargantuan twin-turbocharged V12.
Here we have ranked our ten best engines of 2017. Now these do not have to be engines that debuted in 2017 but had to have been on sale to the Canadian public, and our team of editors must have been able to sample it. It took us a while to narrow down our choices but here they are in grand spectacle, ranked with consideration of subjective and objective factors such as power output, NVH (noise, vibration, harshness), fuel economy, technical advancement, and overall character that it brings to the driving experience.
10. Jaguar | 2.0L turbocharged inline-four | F-PACE 25t
This one came as a bit of a surprise for us. We did not expect Jaguar’s new lineup of Ingenium engines to show up on this list, let alone the less powerful variant of its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. We recently tested it in the 2018 Jaguar F-Pace 25t, and were smitten away by its broad powerband and mid-range torque. For such a small four-pot to propel this hunk of an SUV forward in such a smooth and efficient manner is nothing short of remarkable, and this is not even the 296-hp tune in the 30t. Furthermore, we averaged exceptional fuel economy numbers with the 25t, and its small packaging allowed for better weight distribution throughout the F-Pace which paid dividends in handling. Well done, Jaguar. We can not wait to see how it fares in other vehicles downstream like the XE and XF sedans.
9. Mazda | 2.0L inline-four | MX-5
While the Ingenium engine may have come as a surprise, Mazda’s naturally aspirated four-cylinder should not. High revving, free breathing, and audibly rewarding, the MX-5 Miata’s engine sounds thrilling, and provides a rewarding amount of boost even without a turbocharger. If you need more proof, try out the turbocharged four-cylinder that Fiat put inside their Miata-twin, the 124 Spider. That was nothing short of a mess. We are still patiently waiting for the return of the rotary engine though, Mazda.
Though it may lack any sort of exhaust noise whatsoever, Infiniti’s new V6 engine impressed us with neck-breaking power all throughout its rev range. 400 horses is nothing to scoff at either, and the build up to said speed is brutal and unrelentless. A brilliant engine and technical achievement for the brand - we hope to see it in more Nissans and Infinitis in the future. It has major potential, and we cannot wait to see if it makes it under the skin of the upcoming Nissan 370Z replacement. A more thrilling and exciting exhaust noise from the engine would have put this V6 higher on the list.
General Motors have slotted this high-output engine into a few of their performance vehicles, including the Corvette Z06 and CTS-V, and we were lucky enough to evaluate them on both road and track, the latter including a track day at MoSport. This blown V8 is brilliant with near instant power delivery and a broad powerband that made us feel both terrified and excited to have such power and responsibility at the command of our right foot. Of course, 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft is nothing to scoff at. The CTS-V we tested had a detuned version of it, with only 640-hp and 630 lb-ft but still provided wicked acceleration and an intoxicating V8 soundtrack that isn’t muffled by any turbochargers. All hail the small block V8.
6. Volkswagen | 2.0L turbocharged inline-four | Golf R
In what is perhaps the most common engine displacement and arrangement in small vehicles in Canada, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder that is slotted inside the Volkswagen Golf lineup is notably one of the best designed. With varying outputs from the low 200s to nearly 300-hp in the spicy Golf R, this steamrolling powertrain not only delivers an insane amount of thrust in the low rev range but it is smooth, fuel efficient, exhibits barely any turbo lag, and its small packaging allows for a wide range of uses and arrangements in the Volkswagen portfolio. Good things really do come in small packages.
5. Land Rover | 3.0L turbocharged V6 diesel | Range Rover Sport Td6, Range Rover Td6
Ahh, the diesel. Our regular readers already know that the team at CAR are incredibly fond of diesels, but unfortunately the public eye and EPA think otherwise, with skewed perceptions and corporate scandals. Volkswagen has pulled out their diesel lineups, and Mercedes-Benz is thinking twice about bringing theirs back into Canada as well. Jaguar Land Rover on the other hand is investing a lot of money into marketing their diesels, and we are a big fan. We would steer away from their 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel due to its rough and unrefined drive, but the 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 is a darling. Exhibiting nary any hints of diesel clatter, this potent V6 has an incredible amount of torque on tap, and though it may not have the horsepower some may long for, power delivery is fluid, refined, and best of all, it saves money at the pump relative to its supercharged gasoline counterparts. Not all diesels are created equally, but this Td6 shines above the rest.
With nearly legendary status for being inherently smooth, high revving, and sounding great, the straight-six is one of the hallmarks of BMW engineering. Though harder to package and costlier than a traditional V6, BMW has kept with their long standing tradition and it has truly paid off. The 3.0-litre single-turbo straight-six is possibly one of the creamiest, most characterful, efficient, and vigorous powertrains in the segment it competes in. There’s really no other feeling than revving one up to its 7,000 rpm redline with a screaming exhaust behind you and landscapes beginning to blur. Even Mercedes-Benz has taken note, and is bringing back the inline-six in conjunction with a hybrid powertrain. As they say, a rising tide raises all ships.
3. Lexus | 5.0L V8 | LC 500
Natural aspiration is a thing of the past, as fuel emission regulations become stricter than ever. However Lexus has found a way to extend the lifespan of this dying animal, and have stuck with a 5.0L V8 to power their high performance vehicles like the RC-F and GS-F. It is the specific tune that is found in the LC 500 that really got our attention, though. It may be low on torque, and its horsepower figure may not be enough to challenge the likes of the Porsche 911 or Jaguar F-Type, but it is the way that V8 howls up to its 7,300 rpm redline that gives us a sense of nostalgia and excitement that we hardly feel in any of today’s sports cars. Free breathing and quick to rev, Lexus’ V8 reminds us what the good old days were like, and its eventual demise gives it that much more appeal.
The aptly named Voodoo engine conjures up what is possibly the finest exhaust noise from a factory muscle car in the past decade. They GT350 utilizes a flat-plane crank V8, which is unique as it is like two inline-fours conjoined together at the hip, and their crankpins are arranged in one single plane, hence the term “flat plane.” They are smaller, lighter, offer better packaging, and can rev a lot higher (just ask the Ferrari 458 Italia that uses the same setup) than bent V8s, but they do suffer from a lot of vibration.
Ford engineers have refined it however, and in return have created the most powerful naturally aspirated engine in their arsenal: 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque screaming up to a baleful 8,250 rpm redline. Yes, you read that right. An 8,250 rpm redline in a V8. That’s just absurd, and for its armageddon exhaust and distinctive drive characteristics, this eight-cylinder gets the runner-up prize. What a glorious time to be living.
1. Audi | 2.5L turbocharged inline-five | TT RS
Surprised by the winner? We are not. As the only five-cylinder currently on the Canadian market, this odd-firing engine (1-2-4-5-3) not only provides a unique exhaust note, but also an incredible amount of power for such a small powerplant. Think of a nuclear bomb packaged into a box the size of a beer keg. The fiver offers smaller packaging than the inline-six, and though scarce, we have seen its use in cars like the Volkswagen Golf and Volvo S60. However, it is Audi that has been slowly perfecting this odd-firing layout since the day that the Audi Quattro was born and took the spotlight in the days of rallying. Audi engineers have somehow squeezed out an mind-boggling 400 horsepower and 354 lb-ft. from this compact engine, and the soundtrack that follows is nothing short of intoxicating, with mechanical howls and surgical pops. For these reasons, Audi’s 2.5L turbocharged five-cylinder is CAR's Best Engine of 2017.