Ward’s Best Engine List for 2016 Includes Ford and Hyundai

For 23 years, Ward’s has compiled an annual list of the best engines in the automotive world. This list, which recognizes ten exceptional engines based on “horsepower, torque, comparative specs, noise attenuation, observed fuel economy and the application of new technology,” has become something of a holiday treat for automakers over the years; what better present could an automotive engineer receive than to know that the heart of their vehicle is among the best in the business?

But this year’s Ward’s list is unlike any before it: for the first time in its 23 years of engine evaluation, not a single V-8 engine has earned a spot on the Best Engines list.

The writing for this particular shift is on the wall; as WardsAuto Senior Content Director Drew Winter put it, “Automakers see downsizing, turbocharging and electrification as key strategies for delivering no-compromise powertrains that also are fuel efficient, and this year’s list clearly affirms that strategy.” Automakers are working overtime to get more performance out of smaller, more efficient engines, and the omission of the legendary V8 from Ward’s list seems to indicate that carmakers’ efforts to squeeze great performance out of smaller engines is working.

At Butler, we’re pleased to see engines from two of our dealerships earn a spot on Ward’s list.

The 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder from the Ford Focus RS made the list, which comes as no surprise to us. Drew Bechard, who is now one of our finance managers, was a Ford salesman when the first Focus RS landed on our lot, and the video we recorded of him putting the Focus through its paces was mostly just Drew giggling like a schoolboy.

We were very happy to see the Hyundai Elantra Eco’s 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder get some much-deserved recognition. The fact that Hyundai engineered such a small engine to produce such normal, responsive performance is a modern marvel. Few cars are as efficient as the Elantra Eco while still driving like a satisfying, adequately-powered car, and it’s gratifying to see that Ward’s felt the same way that we do about the peppy little 4-cylinder.

As exciting as it was to see some of our vehicles on this year’s list, we can hardly wait for next December’s edition of Ward’s 10 Best Engines! Will the V8 make a triumphant return? Will the 2017 Ford Raptor’s 3.5-liter V6 get its just desserts? We’ll be sure to let you know next year!

2017 Hyundai Elantra

Overview:

The Elantra is Hyundai’s 4-door compact car and is the smallest sedan in Hyundai’s lineup. The Elantra is Hyundai’s second best-selling vehicle behind the larger Sonata.

What’s New for 2017:

The Elantra is all-new for 2017. The exterior has been completely redesigned, and its smooth lines coupled with its adoption of Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille makes it look like the Sonata’s smaller, sporty sibling.

The Elantra’s interior is significantly more upscale for 2017, and the back seat now has slightly more leg-room. Also new is an upgraded sound system, and a host of available technologies in higher trim levels, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

SE and Limited models come with Hyundai’s new 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, and drivers interested in sacrificing some power for increased fuel economy can now choose the Elantra Eco, whose turbocharged 1.4-liter engine returns better gas mileage than the 2.0-liter engine.

Driving:

All Elantra models come in front-wheel drive, although the base trim-level can be had with a manual transmission for those who prefer their cars to come with three pedals. The Elantra’s 147-horsepower puts it ahead of perennial best-sellers like the Corolla and base-level Camry, and Hyundai has made major strides with the Elantra’s suspension, making it much quieter and smoother at highway speeds.

Automatic Elantras return a highly-respectable EPA-estimated 32 combined MPG, and the six-speed automatic transmission has been widely praised for offering smooth driving around town and at highway speeds.

Interior:

While the average consumer would notice the Elantra’s stylish new exterior before anything else, people familiar with previous generations of Hyundai’s compact sedan will be absolutely bowled over by what Hyundai has done for the Elantra’s interior.

Everything, from the buttons on the steering wheel to the various available infotainment systems, is intuitive and comfortably within reach. The Elantra is a touch wider for 2017, and no-where is that more apparent than on the dash, where big, clearly labeled buttons make every aspect of the in-car experience a treat.

Attractive leather seats are available in higher trim levels, but every trim level now has better interior materials and more tastefully-designed trim – the Elantra’s interior now features smoother plastic and brushed metal that make it look legitimately futuristic.

Who It’s For:

If you, like many American consumers, are looking for an affordable, dependable sedan that offers a smooth ride, good fuel efficiency, and attractive styling, then the Elantra is worth your serious consideration. Its competitors, like the Civic and Corolla, have been among the nation’s best-selling vehicles for decades, but 2017 sees the Elantra leapfrog Toyota’s perennial volume-leader in both Car and Driver’s and the U.S. News and World Report’s compact car rankings.

The Elantra has arrived, and the rest of the industry is officially on notice.