The 1980s was a transition period for engine technology in America. During this time, the iconic carburetor was increasingly phased out in favor of EFI technology. Cubic inches were out, and liter designations now marked a new engine era — an era when power and fuel economy were no longer mutually exclusive. This modern engine age has featured some of the best innovation, technology, and performance yet.
So what have been the best powerplants of these last 30 years? We asked you to help us answer that very question via Facebook and Instagram. Factoring in your votes and comments, we’ll unveil the Top 10 over the next couple of weeks.
We’ll start, though, with the engines that just missed the cut.
GM 3800 Series II V6
In 1995, GM introduced the 3800 Series II V6 engine — a brand new version of its 3.8L V6. It was essentially a lighter, more compact version of the existing V6, yet produced a respectable 205 horsepower and 230 ft.-lbs. of torque. It could be had in the Camaros, Impalas, and Firebirds of the day and made Ward’s 10 Best Engines from 1995-97. Later recall issues ultimately prevented this engine from landing in our Top 10.
Ford 5.2L Flat-Plane V8
There’s a lot to like here.
The 5.2L V8, which is found in the new Shelby GT350, is the most powerful naturally aspirated Ford V8 ever (over 500 horsepower). It’s also the first Ford production V8 to utilize a flat-plane crankshaft.
So why no spot in our Top 10?
File this one under the “Too Early to Tell” category, since the engine was just introduced about a year ago.
Chevy Gen. V Small Block (LT1/LT4)
640 ft.-lbs. of torque.
Yep — the Gen. V LT4 looks great on paper. In theory, this engine picks up where the LS9 left off in the power department; however, the supercharged LT4 and its naturally aspirated LT1 brother were initially knocked by some for overheating and heat soak issues. Chevy says it has fixed any problems that may have existed. If true, we’ll make room for the LT4 and its Gen. V small block family in our Top 10 soon.
By the time the Viper V10 found its way to the 2013 SRT Viper, it was churning out 640 horsepower — a far cry from its 400-horse beginnings. Based on the venerable Chrysler LA engine family, the V10 first appeared with the Dodge Viper in 1992. Chrysler steadily increased the displacement over the years, and the V10 was one of the first pushrod engines to use variable valve timing.
GM Duramax 6.6L V8
For those who love torque, we give you the GM Duramax 6.6L V8.
Introduced as an option for 2001 Chevrolet and GMC HD trucks, the 6.6L Duramax isn’t the first modern diesel engine. However, it helped ignite a diesel performance war within the HD truck market. The engine’s 300 horsepower and 520 ft.-lbs. of torque was top of the mark in 2001, pushing competitors to make more power and torque.
The diesel market continues to roar.
Stay tuned for the Top 10…
The Ford Gen 1&2 SHO engines deserve a nod. I own a 99 SHO and that engine, despite it only displacing 208 ci, really is awesome.