Before buying a car, it is helpful to understand what car brands have the best engine. This review offers insights into what factors determine the quality of an engine and which car manufacturers are known to produce the most reliable and high-performance engines. Car owners that love their current vehicle and do not want to purchase a new one can also determine how long they can expect their engine to last by better understanding what makes an engine reliable. 

Factors that determine the best car engine

To eliminate bias and subjective opinions, it is important to understand the way car engines are reviewed and judged for quality. The factors that are the most notable when searching for the best engine are failure rate, performance, fuel efficiency and emission levels. 

Failure rate

The failure rate shows how often car engines stop working well enough to drive. For many, this is the most important measure of the overall quality of an engine. There are many reasons why a car engine may stop working, all of which are included in the “failure rate.” 

Performance

Engine performance refers to the power output of the engine. The performance metric does not necessarily measure the long-term reliability of an engine, but rather it shows how effective the engine is at its best and how easy the car is to drive without constantly having to increase the revolutions per minute (RPMs) while driving. 

Fuel efficiency

Most are familiar with fuel efficiency. This measures the amount of energy the car is able to extract in fuel. Being able to general more energy from fuel allows the car to go farther with less fuel. This is most commonly measured through miles per gallon (MPG). 

Emission levels

Emission levels, also called emission ratings, measures how much the car contributes to air pollution. This is typically in correlation with the engine that is in the car, although other factors may contribute to emission levels as well. Understanding which car engine is the most beneficial to the environment is certainly helpful for car owners and prospective buyers to understand.

Honda

Honda engines check every box. The car industry touts them as one of the best engines every year. Honda Motor Company has an astounding failure rate of just 1 out of every 344 car engines. This is about half the rate of the second-best engine failure rate, which is Toyota at 1 out of every 171. 

Notably, Honda’s Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC Technology) has led to impressive engine results. The RPMs stay low most of the time with the majority of Honda models. At low RPMs, Honda has excellent fuel efficiency and at high RPMs, Honda produces excellent performance. 

Toyota

Like Honda, Toyota is also a Japan-based automotive company that is well-known for producing high-quality engines and vehicles. As mentioned, Toyota has a failure rate of 1 out of every 171 car engines, which ranks second among well-known car manufacturers. They also offer exceptional fuel-efficiency. 

The Toyota Prius is the best model for fuel-efficiency, giving drivers 54 miles per gallon. Along with exceptional fuel efficiency, most Toyota models have excellent emission levels. Toyota car engines are not well-known for their power and performance at higher RPMs, but they are not likely to disappoint either. 

Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz is more of a luxury car, so it may not be as much of an overall value as the Honda or Toyota models, but the Mercedes-Benz engine holds up well. The engine failure rate for Mercedes-Benz is 1 out of 119. Most Mercedes Benz models get excellent gas mileage, and the Mercedes Benz CLA 250: 4MATIC® gets up to 33 miles per gallon. They are not known for their power, but they have excellent performance at high RPMs when necessary. Mercedes-Benz models typically do not have any issues with emission levels either. 

Volvo

Volvo is a Swedish automobile company. They produce sports cars, sports utility vehicles (SUVs), sedans, hatchbacks and station wagons. The failure rate for Volvo is 1/111 failed engines. This is an excellent rate as less than one percent of all of their cars experience a failed engine. Volvo models typically range between 29 and 33 MPG and have above average performance when the car produces higher RPMs. There are also very few reported issues with Volvo emission levels. 

Jaguar

When comparing engine failure rates, Jaguar also ranks among the best and has less than a one percent failure rate (1 in 103). Jaguar Cars is a luxury vehicle company based in Whitley, Coventry, England. This rate includes Land Rover and Range Rover vehicles as these models are a part of Jaguar. Jaguar vehicles have excellent performance as well when compared against other top-brands. Models such as the Jaguar XF get up to 34 MPG, and they are continually improving on their electric car technology (2020 Jaguar I-Pace). 

Lexus

Lexus has an engine failure rate of one failed engine per 101 engines produced, ranking it just below Jaguar but still less than the desired one percent failure rate. It’s a Japan-based luxury car manufacturer. Their cars are on average more expensive than Honda and Toyota as they are more stylish and offer more advanced features (infotainment, safety features, etc.). However, when comparing engines, Lexus has a higher failure rate. The Lexus IS, perhaps their most popular model, gets up to 30 miles per gallon, which is similar to the top Honda and Toyota models. However, Lexus has an advantage with performance and does not have any concerns with emission levels. 

The bottom line of the best car engine lineup

Honda, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Jaguar and Lexus are all excellent choices when looking for a reliable engine. Of course, there are other factors to consider when car buying, but choosing one with a reliable engine is important. Also, those who drive a model from one of the aforementioned manufacturers can feel confident that their car will last reliably for years, despite increased mileage.

Aaron Westbury
Aaron is a content writer with a passion for cars. He enjoys learning new things and loves to share what he learns with others. Aaron also has a Bachelor's in English and years of experience as a writer, and he constantly seeks to improve and make his writing more informative and helpful for readers. Although a writer by day, Aaron enjoys his free time by getting outdoors and staying active anyway he can.

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    5 Comments

    1. Definitely wasn’t surprised by the top two. Honda and Toyota are superior, just face it.

    2. when in doubt take a look at the drag strip .. the motor brands that are most popular on the race track are usually the best in performance for you… honda is legendary for making big power on a small block.

    3. Having worked in car sales, I always had to deal with people comparing the honda to the Toyota. Honestly I always believed Honda was better.

    4. It’s interesting that it doesn’t matter what brand the car is the engine is the most important part of the car since it’s what going to have the car going.

    5. See whats recalled and test drive all the vehicles you can. You have to research and actually drive the vehicles to see how you feel about them

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