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Here are our top 3 2018 Engines of the Year

2018-12-30 08:00

Lance Branquinho

Image: Tesla via AP

The automotive engine theme of 2018 has been electrification. At every auto show, one of the established automotive manufacturers would reveal a new hybrid or pure battery powered vehicle. 

Issues surrounding the viability of diesel engines in many developed markets and the success of Tesla’s all-electric vehicles in capturing the imagination of an audience beyond its owners have pressured a reprioritisation of R&D budgets.

READ: Sani, Caravelle, Land Cruiser... Here are some of South Africa's weird and wonderful SUV icons of the 80s

Most technical resources are now being directed towards developing battery powerplants, yet some phenomenal internal-combustion engines also came to market in 2018. Which were the three most memorable engines of 2018? We list them below. 

Third-place: BMW quad-turbo 3-litre inline six

In the logic of turbocharging, if one boost producing turbine is good, then more should be better, right? Well, BMW has put this theory to test with its latest X5. Powering the large German SUV is an engined coded rather elaborately as the B57D30S0.

READ: It's finally here! BMW unleashes all-new flagship X5 SUV in SA - the founding father of the X family

In configuration it appears quite conventional, even for a BMW: an in-line six cylinder, displacing 3-litres.

BMW quadturbodiesel

                                                                          Image: Net Car Show

The tricky bit is that it doesn’t have merely one turbocharger. Or two. Or even three. Its four turbochargers create such a harmony of pressure to help optimise combustion, that BMW’s 3-litre six delivers 294kW and 760Nm with its quad-turbocharged configuration. 

If you cruise and allow the staged turbine system to alternate its boost sourcing for efficiency, this massively powerful BMW diesel engine will return fuel economy of 7.2l/100km. Remarkable efficiency as its current South African application is in the new X5, which isn’t exactly light. 

A quad-turbocharged diesel from the German brand most renowned for prioritising engines, which is what BMW’s USP has always been, is heartening. If the ‘Werke are still producing diesel engines of this calibre and sophistication in 2018, then perhaps the diesel engine story isn’t quite over just yet. 

Second-place: Porsche’s 4-litre flat-six

There are more powerful 4-litre engines than this Porsche flat-six. But none are a purer execution of the engine builder’s art. Unlike most, all its rival 4-litre high-performance engines, the Porsche MA1.76 motor achieves its liquid fuel to energy conversion without the help of turbocharging.

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In the pursuit of linear power delivery and millimetre perfect throttle response, Porsche briefed its engineers to agonise over every detail of gas-flow and combustion efficiency, to build an engine which cranks out 383kW at 8250rpm.

Porsche-911_GT3_RS engine

                                                                               Image: Porsche

And this is what merits the 911 GT3 RS’s engine in second place for engine of the year. On the most technical of roads, you can keep it in a gear of choice for much longer than any comparable turbocharged engine, and fewer gear changes, mean a more balanced and immersive driving experience. 

The privilege to run an engine which only initiates fuel cut-off at 9 000rpm is rare. Very rare, indeed. And this is fundamental to the magic of Porsche’s contrarian 4-litre flat-six. AMG, Audi and BMW might all have 4-litre turbocharged V8s which make more power, but none match the Porsche GT3 RS’s purity of design. 

Engine of the year: Tesla’s powertrain

You might question how environmentally sound the sourcing of all those rare metals are that constitute its batteries, but there is no arguing with the numbers.

WATCH: Take your pick! Would you buy a Tesla Model 3 or a BMW M2 Competition?

Or the reliability. Whilst fit and finish quality issues continue to plague its cars, there were virtually no complaints of Tesla’s Model3 failing to start or running ill in 2018.

                                                                            Image: AP

The range-topping Model3 is powered by a 75kWh power pack which does the remarkable in providing 340kW of peak power, good enough for a supercar rivalling 0-100km/h time of 3.3 seconds… And 500km of combined driving range. It’s impressive. It works. It is the future.

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