Back in the day, if you wanted more power, you had to have an engine with a big volumetric capacity. Take, for instance, Malcolm Campbell’s Campbell-Napier-Railton Blue Bird record-breaking car of 1931 that was a 25-foot-long behemoth powered by a 23.9-liter airplane engine developing 1,450 horsepower.
Nowadays, however, with the advent of turbocharging as well as other clever mechanical solutions, we no longer need engines the size of a bedroom to get the oomph we want. Point in case? Each and every car on this list.
- 1 10. Ferrari 488 Pista – 182 hp/liter
- 2 8. Bugatti Chiron – 185 hp/liter
- 3 FAQ
Everything gets downsized nowadays but not the power
Remember that ‘Top Gear’ special where James May and Jeremy Clarkson joke around about the woefully underwhelming outputs of their “V-8 motors”? In that material covering the worst cars in history, Clarkson claims that his Lincoln Continental Mk. IV’s seven-liter V-8 engine puts out just 200 horsepower, merely 40 more than May’s Buick LeSabre Custom that comes with a 5.7-liter engine. Sure, we can forgive those malaise queens since they were born in the post-fuel crisis era when catalytic converters nurtured everything in order to give glaciers a higher chance of survival. Or something like that.
TOPSPEED VIDEO OF THE DAY
Anyway, those days are way behind us now and, since the world hasn’t exactly become ‘green’, we still desperately need to reduce our carbon footprint and that also means having more economical cars that don’t harm the environment as much, despite being powered by fossil fuels. Since we can’t go back to the ’70s when it didn’t matter if you reached 60 mph from a standstill in a fortnight, automakers have come up with ways to extract more and more power from small-capacity engines. Here, today, we celebrate those small engines with big power and those that are behind these real feats of auto engineering in a list that prizes the often forgotten horsepower-per-liter value.
10. Ferrari 488 Pista – 182 hp/liter
It’s weird to see a Ferrari rounding out a top 10 list focused on a performance parameter. Having said this, the 488 Pista is an impressive car in all areas including horsepower-per-liter and, as the lighter, stiffer, and more track-focused version of the also amazing 488, the Pista is powered by an upgraded 3.9-liter, twin-turbocharged engine which, at the time of the car’s launch, was the most powerful V-8 engine in the Maranello marque’s history. It produces 710 horsepower and revs all the way to 8,000 rpm making it more powerful than stuff like Bentley’s ultra-limited GT Supersports.
Ferrari 488 Pista specifications
Engine3902cc twin-turbo V8Power710bhp @ 8000rpmTorque568lb ft @ 3000rpmLength4605mmWidth1975mmHeight1206mmDry weight1280kg0-62mph2.85sec0-124mph7.6 secTop speed’Over 211mph’
Read our full review on the Ferrari 488 Pista
It wouldn’t be particularly bad that Ferrari came tenth in this list if, for instance, it would’ve been beaten by some ludicrous hypercars but, lo and behold, we’ve got a Volvo in ninth and it’s a wagon too. The car we’re talking about is the improved V60 Polestar that was on the market in Europe between 2016 and 2018.
At the time, Volvo decided the 3.0-liter six-pot engine originally offered in the V60 (and the S60 sedan) had to go and, as such, the Swedes brought in a 2.0-liter (1,969 cmc, to be precise) unit that develops 362 horsepower thanks to a meaty supercharger.
Having said that, the Alfa Romeo is still in production while Volvo has yet to offer a souped-up version of the latest S60/V60 generation.
Volvo V60 Polestar specifications
DrivetrainFront engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door wagonEngine2.0L/362-hp/347-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4Transmission8-speed automaticCurb weight (F/R DIST)3,953 lb (60/40%)Wheelbase109.3 inLength x Width x Height182.5 x 73.4 x 58.4 in0-60 MPH4.9 secQuarter mile13.5 sec @ 102.4 mph
Read our full review on the Volvo V60 Polestar
8. Bugatti Chiron – 185 hp/liter
Since its revival, Bugatti has aimed to break all sorts of automotive boundaries and records and, currently, the Chiron is the most powerful car on the market powered by a 16-cylinder engine. That, however, isn’t a particularly impressive feat in and of itself since nobody is in the business of making cars powered by 16-cylinder engines but, still, the eight-liter (7,993 cc), quad-turbocharged W-16 in the middle of the standard Chiron makes an eye-watering 1,479 horsepower while the Super Sport 300+ ups the ante with 1,578 horsepower.
However, we decided to include the ‘normal’ Chiron in this listicle since the Super Sport 300+ is sold out and we thought there may be some of you out there reading this that will proceed to go out and buy a car you see here and getting your hands on the Super Sport 300+ would be quite tricky.
What we can say, without giving it away, is that even in Super Sport 300+, the Chiron wouldn’t have topped the list because, well, you can’t with an eight-liter engine. A good example of that is the Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye. Powered by arguably the most powerful muscle car engine, the uber-Challenger’s supercharged V-8 puts out almost 800 horsepower but the caveat is the size of the engine: 6.2-liter (the supercharger itself displaces 2.7-liters!). This means that the Dodge can do no better than 128.5 hp/liter. To put it in perspective, that figure is worse than, say, what a Ford Fiesta 1.0-liter EcoBoost can do. Its water bottle-sized engine cranks out 138 horsepower making the tiny Fiesta the most powerful three-cylinder car in the world.
Bugatti Chiron specifications
Engine8.0-liter quad-turbocharged W-16Horsepower:1479 hp.Torque:1,180 lb-ft.0-60 MPH:2.5 Seconds.0-250 MPH:32.6 Seconds.60-0 Braking:103 ft.Top Speed:261 mph.
Read our full review on the Bugatti Chiron
There was a time when the Honda S2000 with its marvellous N/A engine was the queen in the horsepower-per-liter chart by beating its stablemate, the Integra Type R.
In its last iteration, the now-retired RX-8 delivered 231 horsepower out of the 1.3-liter Renesys rotary which equates to 174 hp/liter. By anyone’s standards, that’s an impressive figure but it pales to insignificance next to the Ford GT’s 185.1 hp/liter.
Sure, we moaned when Ford announced that the 2017 Ford GT would feature a turbo V-6 instead of a naturally aspirated V-8 but, hey, look at it this way: while the 2005 Ford GT’s SVT-built V-8 barely edged over 100 hp/liter, the twin-turbo 3.5-liter Ecoboost V-6 produces 647 horsepower to almost double the hp/liter value of the ’05 model. Oh, and it’s also fast. Really fast as attested by a sub-3.0-second 0-60 mph time and a top speed of 216 mph.
Ford GT specifications
Vehicle layoutMid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupeEngine3.5L/647-hp*/550-lb-ft* twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6Transmission7-speed twin-clutch autoCurb weight3,300 lb (est)Wheelbase106.7 inLength x Width x Height187.5 x 78.9 x 41.7-43.7 in0-60 MPH2.9 sec
Read our full review on the Ford GT
is ludicrously powerful so here we are.>
The Nissan GT-R R35 has been around for a decade and, more recently, Nissan decided something had to be done to revive people’s interest in its flagship sports car. Luckily, Italdesign had already done the heavy lifting by creating a futuristic body for the GT-R platform.
It was decided that the ‘Italian’ GT-R will be made in a limited run of just 50 units to mark the GT-R’s 50th anniversary. Probably as a way to justify the insane $1.1 million price tag, Nissan got to work and upgraded the familiar VR38DETT 3.8-liter, twin-turbo V-6.
While 710 horsepower is enough for 186.9 hp/liter, we all know the VR38DETT can be tuned to make much more, much, much more, in fact. Think some 2,800 horsepower over what the GT-R50 already makes…
Nissan GT-R50 specifications
Performance And DrivetrainNissan GT-R50EngineTwin-turbo 3.8-liter V-6Horsepower710 hp @ 7,100 rpmTorque575 pound-feet @ 3,600 rpmDrivetrain LayoutFront-/mid-engine, AWDTransmission Reinforced dual-clutch sequential 6-speed
Read our full review on the Nissan GT-R50
The McLaren Senna is quite ugly, isn’t it? Certainly not as good looking as the Honda NSX from the ’90s, a car that wasn’t named after the dearly missed Brazilian three-time F1 World Champion but one that Ayrton actually helped develop. On the flip side, however, the Senna honors its name by being good around a track, just like Senna the man.
That’s why you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find it on a list of hp/liter since we all know brute power isn’t the no. 1 most important thing you need when you’re out breaking records on the world’s most famous tracks.
Having said that, you still need power because those you’re up against have loads of it already and McLaren knows it. The solution is simple: take the 4.0-liter (3,994 cc) V-8 off the 720S, add 79 horsepower to its already impressive tally to come out with 789 horsepower, and call it a day. 197.5 hp/liter is impressive but a car 10 years its senior humiliates the Senna in this area.
McLaren Senna specifications
Engine4.0-liter V-8Horsepower789 HPTorque590 LB-FTTop speed208mph0-62mph2.8s0-124mph6.8sBraking 62-0mph97 ft124-0 mph328 ft
Read our full review on the McLaren Senna
Remember the SSC Ultimate Aero TT? The car that stole Bugatti’s laurels by becoming the world’s fastest production car back in 2007 with a two-way average of 256.15 mph.
And whilst others came and beat the SSC Ultimate Aero TT since that bright, sunny September day in Washington, America’s ludicrous mid-engine hypercar remains a performance stalwart with 202.8 hp/liter as the updated SSC had its 6.3-liter, twin-turbo V-8 engine modified to produce 1287 horsepower.
SSC Ultimate Aero TT specifications
EngineTwin-turbocharged 6.3 L SSC V8Horsepower1,287 hp 6075 rpmTorque1,112 lb⋅ft 6150 rpmRedline7200 rpmMax Speed257.41 mph
Read our full review on the SSC Ultimate Aero TT
You’ll be happy to find out that you’ll get bragging rights over any SSC Ultimate Aero TT simply by getting a $64,000 Mercedes hatchback. Well, actually, let us be more specific. We’re talking precisely about the range-topping Mercedes-AMG A45 S which, in any case, won’t be available Stateside as a hatchback but the sedan (named CLA S) will be and that too will be powered by the more-than-peppy 415 horsepower 2.0-liter four-pot.
Wonder what the most powerful engine with half the amount of cylinders is? You’ll have to look for the Fiat 500 TwinAir, then. Powered by a 0.9-liter (875 cc) Multi-Air inline-two, the 500 TwinAir buzzes along thanks to a max output of 104 horsepower or 118.9hp/liter for the purposes of this list.
Mercedes-AMG A45 specifications
Engine2.0-liter turboOutput416 horsepower (S trim)Gearbox:Dual-clutch eight-speedTop speed168 mph0-60 mph:3.9 sec
Read our full review on the Mercedes-AMG A45
We’re in rarified air now, just one spot behind the car with the highest horsepower-per-liter number so you’d expect to find something cool and exotic in P2 but, as it’s been the case before in this list, ordinary sedans and even hatches and wagons have a place in this arena too. So, remember how we previously stated that the A45 S is the most powerful four-pot you can but today? That’s because the most-powerful four-pot ever can be found under the hood of the company with the three-diamond badge, Mitsubishi. While its constant nemesis, Subaru’s Impreza, tried to come close to it but failed miserably with the WRX STI Diamond Edition (missing two diamonds, eh?) that could do no better than 141.6 hp/liter.
As the name suggests, the most powerful production Evo ever makes 440 horsepower. Only 40 were made six years ago and, to everyone’s dismay, it could’ve only been the beginning. Mitsubishi showed that the 2.0-liter engine can take even more punishment in early 2015 when it unveiled the Evo X Final Concept at the Tokyo Auto Show. With 473 horsepower thanks to an engine bay overflowing with HKS parts, the Final Concept would’ve been the most powerful Evo ever but it remained a concept. But, for the sake of the argument, try to wrap your mind around this figure: 236.5 hp/liter.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X FQ-440 MR specifications
Engine typeTurbo Inline-4, DOHC, 16vDisplacement2.0 l (122 ci)Power440 hp at 6,800 rpmTorque412 lb-ft 3,100 rpmGearboxsix-speed twin-clutch
Read our full review on the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X FQ-440 MR
The Final Concept would’ve certainly made for a mind-bogglingly quick sedan and it would’ve meant that Mitsubishi had the car with the highest power-per-liter figure ever. At least until the Jesko came along. Looking just like you’d expect the car with the highest hp/liter number to do, the Jesko is a technical marvel. From the intricate nine-speed gearbox, to the engine, it’s all been engineered to the extreme.
With a displacement of five liters (5,032 cc), the Jesko puts out 1,578 horsepower when fed with an E85 ethanol/gas mix.
Koenigsegg Jesko specifications
Engine5.0-liter twin-turbo V-8Power1,578 horsepower.Torque1,106 pound-feet.0 to 60 mph2.5 seconds.Top speed300+ mphGearboxnine-speed multi-clutch
Read our full review on the Koenigsegg Jesko
What car has the most powerful four-cylinder engine
The AMG A45 S is the most powerful car with a four-pot that you can buy today but its 415 horsepower output is surpassed by the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X FQ 440-MR powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder developing 440 horsepower
What is the most powerful car engine?
If we take into account gas-powered cars only, then it’s the 1,578 horsepower Koenigsegg Jesko (when fuelled with E85)
Q: Is the Sasquatch Package Available on All Trim Levels?
Ford offers it as standard on the Wildtrak and First Edition models, but it is optional on every other Bronco trim level, including the base model.
Q: How Much Does the Sasquatch Package Cost?
Ford hasn’t announced the pricing for the Sasquatch package yet, but we speculate it to be priced somewhere between $5000 and $10,000, given the sheer amount of equipment that it includes.