One of the key components of just about every car is the engine, or the electric motor nowadays. The engine is what makes most cars move, but it's also what gives them their unique sound, and a huge part of their personality behind the wheel. It's also a major contributing factor to a car's reliability: a badly engineered engine results in frequent repairs and maintenance.
Like cars and automakers themselves, people also tend to pick their favorite engines based on the region where they were made. European cars do sometimes struggle in this aspect, as while they have some truly excellent engines, they tend not to be quite as reliable as, say, an Asian car's engine. Still, there are some European engines out there that definitely deserve more recognition.
While Volkswagen is charging forwards with electrification, and they're determined to dethrone Tesla and become every consumer's favorite EV manufacturer, things were very different 25 years ago. Back in the late 90s and the early 2000s, Volkswagen went absolutely crazy with their powertrains. Not just with the engine designs themselves, but also the cars that got them.
This includes the Mk4 Golf. For most of its production run, from 1997 to 2003, you could have a Mk4 VW Golf with a V5 engine. This powertrain was very similar to the VR6, but as the name implies, it had five cylinders. It put out a decent 170 hp, and it was available in other VW products too. The noise it produced was pretty great, and reliability wasn't bad at all.
Early 2000s Mercedes-Benz models are perhaps infamous for being unreliable and expensive to maintain. While this is certainly true of a lot of different four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines made by Mercedes during this time, this reputation exists in North America because the continent didn't get to enjoy some of the automaker's best engines.
One of those is the OM646 four-cylinder diesel, which was usually under the hood of cars wearing the 220 CDI badge. Displacing 2.1 liters, and ranging in output from 87 hp to 168 hp, this humble turbodiesel can easily crack 600,000 miles with proper maintenance. These are particularly popular with cab drivers in Eastern Europe, as OM646-powered C-Class and E-Class models are still being used to this day.
If there's any country in the world where the cars built in it get a bad rep for reliability, it has to be France. People make fun of the French all the time for their terribly unreliable cars, and especially their electrical faults. However, while not always the case, if you take proper care of a French car, you might be surprised how reliable it is.
The peak of durable French powertrains has to be the DW10 2.0-liter turbodiesel, otherwise known as the 2.0 HDI. This engine was made by the PSA Group for the better part of the 2000s, and it found itself under the hood of just about every manner of Peugeot and Citroën, as well as various Fords and Volvos. Hundreds of thousands of miles are indeed possible with this engine, no matter how unlikely it seems.
When the conversation is about reliable Volkswagen engines, you simply can't leave out the 1.9 TDI. Although everyone makes fun of the 1.9 TDI for its total lack of concern for the environment, and the fact that it smokes out of the exhaust more than a chimney in the middle of January, there's one thing that no one can deny about the 1.9 TDI: its durability.
VAG vehicles with the 1.9 TDI are still trundling along like tractors all over Europe. This engine will simply never let you down. The choice of power outputs was pretty expansive, but we're going with the AWX (TDI-PD), which put out 130 hp. Another strongsuit of the 1.9 TDI is that it has very little difficulty starting in the winter. It even powered some US-bound Volkswagens, notably the Mk4 Golf, the New Beetle, and the Mk4 Jetta.
While Audi tends to keep things fairly simple with their powertrains, they have put together some gems over the years. One of them is undeniably the 4.2-liter FSI V8, which found itself under the hood of various different RS models. The B7 RS4, which has gone up in value significantly, the original RS5, and of course, the R8 supercar, were just some of the cars that played host to this fantastic V8.
It also found a home in the Audi Q7 and the Volkswagen Touareg. In the fast Audis, this powertrain revved to over 8,000 RPM, and it produced a fantastic sound. In some of them, it was even paired with a manual transmission. Audi's engine reputation tends to be pretty spotty, but if you take care of the 4.2 FSI, you'd be surprised how long it'll go for.
Possibly the worst reputation for reliability, even worse than French cars, belongs to British cars. Everyone constantly makes fun of British cars for either constantly breaking down, or not being put together properly in the first place. That's certainly the case with a lot of the stuff that came out of JLR, but luckily, it's not all bad.
If Jaguar and Land Rover engines are the rough, then the AJ34 V8 is undeniably the diamond. Displacing 4.2 liters, and coming with or without a supercharger, this engine powered various Jaguar and Land Rover products, including the X350 XJR, the Range Rover Vogue, and a few others. As well as being powerful and very characterful, the AJ34 V8 is surprisingly reliable. In truth, Jaguar has made more than a few reliable cars over the years.
Back to Volkswagen's bizarre powertrains of the 90s and the 2000s. One of the highlights has to be the VR6, which was known under the engine code BUB when it found a home under the hood of the R32. A VR6 has six cylinders, but the angle between them is very small, so it only needs one cylinder head, which makes it more compact and viable for a transverse engine layout.
In the Mk4 Volkswagen Golf R32, it put out 237 hp, which then went up to 250 hp in the Mk5 Golf R32. It also produced one of the best exhaust sounds of its day, and maybe even of all time. While the VR6 is a somewhat complicated powertrain, it's actually pretty over-engineered. Some examples have clocked in over 180,000 miles, and it's notorious for being able to take a beating when it comes to mods.
Just about all Italian cars have something in common: they all have some pretty fantastic powertrains that are full of personality. Like so many other European automakers, Fiat dabbled into the five-cylinder craze back in the 90s in the 2000s. The most prominent vehicle to use the Family C 2.0-liter turbo I5 was the super underrated Coupe.
This engine also found a home under the hood of the underrated Bravo HGT. In the Coupe, it put out a maximum of 217 hp and 229 lb-ft of torque. While it may not be as reliable as some engines, the 20V Turbo is surprisingly over-engineered, and if you maintain it properly and take care of some of the ticking timebombs, it will last quite a long time.
You're probably thinking this is blasphemy, as Ferrari is incapable of producing a truly reliable powertrain. It also wouldn't make that much sense, considering that Ferraris never really cover that many miles. But, one Ferrari powertrain towers above the others in terms of durability, and that's the F133 V12 that powered the awesome 550 Maranello.
Displacing 5.5 liters, the F133 put out 478 hp and 419 lb-ft of torque. It also produced a fabulous sound, and it was the last V12-powered Ferrari model ever to be available with a manual transmission. Proper maintenance and servicing is expensive, as you'd expect, but the 550 Maranello has the potential to outlive just about every other Ferrari.
Alfa Romeo has done the whole engine thing properly for decades now. Not really in terms of durability, but rather in terms of character, power, and amazing noises. North America only recently got to enjoy the lustful 2.9-liter V6 in the pretty Giulia Quadrifoglio. Over in Europe, however, things were a little different in the 2000s.
The 2.4-liter JTDm powered the gorgeous Alfa 159, the even more gorgeous Brera, and the Kinder Egg-shaped Fiat Croma station wagon. Developing up to 207 hp and a whole lot of torque, the 2.4 JTDm was a surprising performer, even though it was a diesel. What's more, thanks to the cast iron block and the good design, this powertrain is more reliable than you might think, being able to do well over 250,000 miles.2023-06-04T15:08:57Z dg43tfdfdgfd