’s dealing in 300-hp V-8s for 25 grand. The Acura crowd’s boiling 86 hp/L out of a normally aspirated, luxury-sedan V-6. ’s Hemi is at 340 hp and later this year, the 6.1L variant’s coming with 425. If I bought one of those, my insurance agent would be dancing for a month in Rio.
And to think I was worried the Ward’s 10 Best Engines competition is preoccupied with performance.
It’s the auto makers – and by extension, their evidently big-brained powertrain engineers – who keep raising the ante. Mid-market SUVs and family sedans now are expected to be packing heat that not long ago would have shamed an exotic.
Once the province of supercars, vehicles with 300-hp engines now fight it out in virtually every segment of the market.
For perspective, Porsche’s ’95-vintage 928 GTS, one of the era’s more thundering performance cars, got 345 hp from its 5.4L DOHC V-8 (64 hp/L). It cost $80,000.’s 10 Best Engines-winning 4.6L SOHC V-8 generates 65 hp/L and can be had in a car that costs $25,000.
At first, I thought it strange that five of the 36 engines nominated this year make 300 hp. The old worry crept in: ‘Are we nuts? Regular people don’t shop vehicles with 300 hp. We’re throttle junkies.’
But a closer look reveals: Of the five engines making precisely 300 hp, just two cars they power – the Mustang GT and the Subaru WRX Sti – are considered performance models. The other 300-hp-on-the-nose vehicles are Ford’s F-150 pickup, GM’s TrailBlazer SUV and Acura’s RL flagship.
Except for the Mustang, all have four doors, for heaven’s sake.
It gets better. For 12 of the 36 engines tested – one-third – 300 hp is the minimum.
Contemporary engine development is so bombastic, you can be gunning with 300 hp in just about anything. There are 300-hp 4-cyl. engines (WRX STi), 300-hp V-6s (RL) and 300-hp V-8s (Mustang, TrailBlazer).
And I don’t have to tell you it took way more gasoline to conjure 300 hp out of an engine a decade ago than it does today. Porsche 928: 12 mpg city/19 mpg highway (19.5 L and 12.3 L/100 km); Mustang GT: 17/25 (13.8 L and 9.4 L/100 km).
Last year’s election brought hand-wringing about liberal bias in the media, but after considering the atomic-powered group of 10 Best Engines nominees for 2005 at least I’m no longer worried Ward’s journalists are horsepower-biased.
We’re just reporting reality.