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

Mercedes-AMG CLA45/GLA45
2-liter turbocharged I-4, 355 horsepower
177.5 hp/L
McLaren 650S Coupe/Spider
3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, 641 horsepower
168.7 hp/L
Nissan GT-R NISMO
3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, 600 horsepower
157.9 hp/L
Volvo S60/XC60
2-liter twincharged I-4, 302 horsepower
151.0 hp/L
Porsche 911 Turbo S
3.8-liter twin-turbocharged H-6, 560 horsepower
147.4 hp/L
Audi S3/Volkswagen Golf R
2-liter turbocharged I-4, 292 horsepower
146.0 hp/L
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
2-liter turbocharged I-4, 291 horsepower
145.5 hp/L
Nissan GT-R
3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, 545 horsepower
143.4 hp/L
Bentley Continental GT3-R
4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, 572 horsepower
143 hp/L
Ferrari California T
3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, 553 horsepower
141.8 hp/L

Bottom 10

Ford F-350 Super Duty
6.2-liter V-8, 316 horsepower
51.0 hp/L
Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 3500HD
6-liter V-8, 322 horsepower
53.7 hp/L
Nissan Titan/NV Cargo/NV Passenger/Armada
5.6-liter V-8, 317 horsepower
56.6 hp/L
Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana (Cargo/Passenger/Cutaway)
6-liter V-8, 342 horsepower
57.0 hp/L
Volkswagen Jetta
2-liter I-4, 115 horsepower
57.5 hp/L
Ram Chassis 3500
6.4-liter V-8, 370 horsepower
57.8 hp/L
Toyota Tacoma
2.7-liter I-4, 159 horsepower
58.9 hp/L
Toyota Tacoma
4-liter V-6, 236 horsepower
59.0 hp/L
Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana (Cargo/Passenger/Cutaway)
4.8-liter V-8, 285 horsepower
59.4 hp/L

Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 2500HD/3500HD
6-liter V-8, 360 horsepower
60.0 hp/L

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