Average Gas Engine Specific Output Isn't Quite 100 HP/L, Yet

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson
average gas engine specific output isn t quite 100 hp l yet

It was nearly 15 years ago that Honda was touting their magic number — 118.5 hp/L. This was the specific output for the U.S.-spec Honda S2000 powered by a high-strung, 237-horsepower, 2-liter engine and it was a marvel of engineering, trumping the Viper and many other more expensive machines.

Fast forward to today and there are only a few naturally aspirated vehicles that top Honda’s claim to fame, but many that easily beat it with some form of forced induction. Yet, even with this plethora of new high-output, small-displacement engines, the average specific output of gasoline and flex fuel vehicles in the United States is still below the record set by Honda back in 1999.

Thanks to data provided by iSeeCars, we came up with some interesting data when it comes to specific output for 2015 model year vehicles.

For one, the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 (pictured above) and the GLA45 with which it shares its turbocharged, 2-liter, four-cylinder engine are the top performers with specific outputs of 177.5 hp/L. It should be no surprise that turbocharged engines dominate the top 100 engines ranked by specific output, but there are some exceptions. The top naturally aspirated mill in the mix — the 597-hp, 4.5-liter V-8 in the Ferrari 458 Speciale — has a specific output of 132.7 hp/L. Porsche’s 911 GT3 is solidly mid-pack with 125 hp/L.

On the other end of the scale, trucks score quite low on the specific output meter, as the Ford F-350 equipped with a 316-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 struggles to make 51 hp/L. The lower output may not be representative of a behind-the-times engine, but rather it could be characteristic of their applications. Trucks need torque more than horsepower to do the work they were built to do.

Overall, the average for specific output for non-hybrid, gasoline and flex fuel engines sits at 93.3 hp/L, just 25.2 hp/L shy of the naturally aspirated benchmark set by the Honda S2000. However, as more automakers downsize their engines and boost output with turbocharging, we may just see the overall average crest this high-water mark in the coming years.

Below is a list of the top and bottom 10 vehicles available on the retail market for the 2015 model year ranked by specific output.

Top 10

  1. Mercedes-AMG CLA45/GLA45

    2-liter turbocharged I-4, 355 horsepower

    177.5 hp/L
  2. McLaren 650S Coupe/Spider

    3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, 641 horsepower

    168.7 hp/L
  3. Nissan GT-R NISMO

    3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, 600 horsepower

    157.9 hp/L
  4. Volvo S60/XC60

    2-liter twincharged I-4, 302 horsepower

    151.0 hp/L
  5. Porsche 911 Turbo S

    3.8-liter twin-turbocharged H-6, 560 horsepower

    147.4 hp/L
  6. Audi S3/Volkswagen Golf R

    2-liter turbocharged I-4, 292 horsepower

    146.0 hp/L
  7. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

    2-liter turbocharged I-4, 291 horsepower

    145.5 hp/L
  8. Nissan GT-R

    3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, 545 horsepower

    143.4 hp/L
  9. Bentley Continental GT3-R

    4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, 572 horsepower

    143 hp/L
  10. Ferrari California T

    3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, 553 horsepower

    141.8 hp/L

Bottom 10

  1. Ford F-350 Super Duty

    6.2-liter V-8, 316 horsepower

    51.0 hp/L
  2. Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 3500HD

    6-liter V-8, 322 horsepower

    53.7 hp/L
  3. Nissan Titan/NV Cargo/NV Passenger/Armada

    5.6-liter V-8, 317 horsepower

    56.6 hp/L
  4. Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana (Cargo/Passenger/Cutaway)

    6-liter V-8, 342 horsepower

    57.0 hp/L
  5. Volkswagen Jetta

    2-liter I-4, 115 horsepower

    57.5 hp/L
  6. Ram Chassis 3500

    6.4-liter V-8, 370 horsepower

    57.8 hp/L
  7. Toyota Tacoma

    2.7-liter I-4, 159 horsepower

    58.9 hp/L
  8. Toyota Tacoma

    4-liter V-6, 236 horsepower

    59.0 hp/L
  9. Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana (Cargo/Passenger/Cutaway)

    4.8-liter V-8, 285 horsepower

    59.4 hp/L

  10. Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 2500HD/3500HD

    6-liter V-8, 360 horsepower

    60.0 hp/L
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2 of 72 comments
  • Ktm Ktm on Jul 28, 2015

    Yeah, this is a useless metric. All one needs to do is look at 600/1000cc sport bikes to see that they rule the n/a HP/L roost and make car engines look silly.

  • Orenwolf Orenwolf on Jul 30, 2015

    My RX8 handily beats those numbers with its' 1.3L engine. ;)

  • Carlson Fan I think it is pretty cool & grew up with a '75 Ford window van so I can attest to their utility. $60K is a lot for any vehicle and I'm not convinced EV's are ready for prime time for a number of reasons. It would make an awesome 2nd or 3rd vehicle in a multi-car household but again the price would keep most from considering it.I agree with the other comments that those who have to have it will buy it and then sales will drop off. Offer a panel version for the commercial market, that could have possibilities.
  • Wjtinfwb Panther Black? or Black Panther? Shaped like a decade old Ford detectives sedan? Seems like an odd way to send out your marquee car...
  • Kwik_Shift Instead of blacked, how about chromed? Don't follow the herd.
  • Carlson Fan Nicest looking dash/gage cluster ever put in any PU truck. After all these years it still looks so good.
  • Wheatridger Correct me if I'm wrong, but has the widescreen digital dash usurped the space formerly occupied in every other car by an HVAC vent? I see one prominent vent well right of center, where there should be two. I rely on twin driver's side vents to warm my hands on cold mornings, and I wouldn't give that up for more screen area.