OK, we've all read the articles on "the 10 worst engines ever made". The same bunch seem to come up all the time. The Olds 5.7 Diesel, Chevy Vega 140ci, Caddy V8-6-4, Triumph Stag V8, PRV V6, Chrysler 2.2, etc.
So instead of beating a dead horse I thought it would be fun to get a list of the best/worst engines made since 2000. You'd think that a "modern" car would have an engine free of inherent major design defects, but being close to the auto repair industry, this is sadly not true from my observations.
So here's my list in no particular order:
Jeep 4.0L inline six. The history of this all cast iron engine dates back to the sixties, but they were modernized with fuel injection and electronic controls and sold in Wranglers, Cherokees, and Grand Cherokees until 2004. These engines are famous for being tolerant to neglect and abuse without stopping. They are like Harley-Davidson motorcycles - old technology, modernized for today. Sadly, the old design could not meet emissions and was finally retired in 2004. Known for its silky smoothness (inline sizes are inherently balanced) and low end torque - the 4.0 was perfect for Jeeps. The 4.0's are favored by people who actually take their Jeeps offroad.
Audi/VW 1.8T inline 4.- This engine, despite its small size, has been factory tuned to push out over 220hp with a torque curve like a V6. (earlier versions were 150hp) The low pressure turbo provides boost just off of idle speeds for virtually no lag. That combined with the long stroke design and high (at the time) compression, provide torque that provides snappy acceleration in everyday driving without having to wring it out. 30 mpg fuel economy doesn't hurt, either! Some may dispute this engine as being a "best" because of engine sludge issues. But the sludge problem was similar to Toyotas, where customer neglect was the cause in most cases. Most newer engines are just not as tolerant to neglect as the old school engines like the above 4.0 six. But then again, the 4.0 six does not provide more than 100hp per liter like this smooth running Audi does!
Buick 3800 V6. - The origins of this engine date back to the sixties, when Buick lopped 2 cylinders off their V8 to produce a V6. The resulting odd firing engine shook, rattled and rolled. They sold the design and tooling to Jeep in the sixties, and bought it back in the seventies. They then modified the crankshaft for an even firing order, which helped smooth it out. (this generation was the basis for the rip snortin' Grand National turbo V6) Then GM added balance shafts in the 90's to really help NVH. Versions of the 3800 have been supercharged with no long term reliability issues. This engine was smooth, powerful and offered near 30 mpg economy in GM's large sedan's. Tolerant to neglect, the 3800 will happily run with a crankcase full of sludge. There are literally millions of these things still on the road today. Production stopped in 2004.
Chrysler 3.3/3.8 V6. - This Chrysler designed engine started out in the early nineties as the replacement for the Mitsubishi sourced 3.0 V6 they were using in their minivans. Its pushrod design turned out to be very reliable and the torque curve was perfect for moving their minivans and large sedans. While nothing special as far as performace goes, millions of them serve quietly and reliably every day hauling families around. They are also fairly tolerant to neglect, as I've seen many with gobs of sludge under the valve covers with perfect oil pressure still running smooth. The 3.3 was built until 2010 and the 3.8 departed in 2011.
Ford 2.0 CVH - This gem has its roots from the eighties and was finally put out to pasture in 2004. It was last used in the Ford Focus, and it spoiled what was otherwise a competent little car. CVH was an acronym for "Compound Vortex Hemispherical" head, but most people would agree that "Considerable Vibration and Harshness" would fit the bill better. While the later CVH engines didn't suffer from the blown head gaskets, snapped timing belts and bent valves of the earlier versions, its general lack of power and tractor like characteristics should have relegated it to history about 10 years earlier than it did.
Ford 3.8 V6 - Can you say blown head gasket? I knew you could! This loser of an engine will keep eating head gaskets as long as you keep putting them in. Back in the eighties, Ford engineers must have bought a Buick V6 and copied it. Both the Buick and Ford V6's were pretty much par for the course at the time. Not particularly powerful, but got better fuel economy than a V8. Both have had their performance versions, where Buick used turbos and superchargers and Ford used supercharging for the T-Bird Super Coupe. Difference is that Buick continually developed and refined their V6 with balance shafts. Ford pretty much left the design alone and got left behind. Many Ford 3.8's have bit the dust because of a leaking head gasket letting coolant into the oil, destroying the lubricating properties of the oil. By the time the coolant warning light turns on, some damage to the bearings has already been done. It was finally shelved in 2004. (although its big brother the craptastic 4.2 V6 soldiered on until 2008)
Chrysler 2.0/2.4 - Another head gasket nightmare. Except this one doesn't make chocolate shakes with your motor oil and coolant. This one "marks its territory" wherever it goes. Pull in to the service station to fill the oil and check the gas. Ever wonder why you don't see many Neon's, Stratus, and Cirrus on the road anymore? These underachieving nightmares are why. They were replaced with a new engine family in 2005.
Subaru EJ25 2.5L four - I know people are going to get upset at this one, but once again this one suffers from head gasket issues. But to add insult to injury, Subaru has prescribed a cooling system sealer be added to the coolant to stop them from peeing coolant on your driveway. They will put this goop in your radiator everytime you bring your subie to the dealer whether you like it or not. Eventually, it'll clog up your radiator an heater core - but your head gaskets are just fine. Also - go to youtube and search for "subaru rod", watch the videos and turn up the volume!
GM 3100/3400 V6 - These are the updated versions of the ubiquitous GM 60 degree 3.1 V6, which has a decent reputation. But GM chose to cheap out on the lower intake manifold gasket. (or it was the Dex-Cool coolant that ate the gaskets) In any case, coolant would leak into the oil slowly and if you kept topping off the coolant reservoir, you'd eventually cook your bearings from the lack of lubrication. If caught early and you had the gasket replaced, you could have future problems if the mechanic overtorqued the rocker arm bolts, causing the threads to pull from the pot metal head and taking out a cylinder - one at a time. There are still plenty of these things clanking along only because they put this engine in just about everything they made for over a decade. It was retired from use in 2005.
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