These 10 naturally aspirated cars have the most horsepower per liter
Squeezing the most performance per liter is a battle normally dominated by turbocharged engines, with more power coming at the push of a few keys. However, for those who prefer a lag-free powerband, naturally aspirated engines still deliver the goods when tuned correctly.
Lag issues aside, naturally aspirated engines sound better and, in many cases, feel better to drive too. All the greatest race cars of the 60s and 70s used nothing but atmospheric pressure to produce the biggest bang. But can a naturally aspirated engine still cut it in today’s climate? Looking at McLaren’s F1, the fastest former production car that still holds the record for fastest naturally aspirated car, then yes. Internal combustion may be fighting a losing battle against cleaner cars, but it’s not over yet, with a handful of automakers sticking to gasoline and highly-tuned naturally aspirated engines for their sports cars.
ten Gordon Murray Automotive T.50
McLaren’s F1 takes two? Well almost, from the same creative genius, the T.50 is another V12 mid-engined hypercar pushing the boundaries of what is possible with current technology. There are plenty of similarities to the rare 90s hero, but this time around Gordon Murray opted for a custom designed engine produced by Cosworth.
Raising the rear deck exposes a naturally aspirated 4-liter V12 making 654bhp, giving the T.50 an eye-watering 163bhp per liter without resorting to hybrid or forced-induction engines for extra grunt. Nail the throttle and sixty climbs in 2.8 seconds, hold it down and with enough space the T.50 will top 217 mph.
9 Lexus LFA
Will they or not? Lexus hasn’t entirely ruled out another supercar project, the 2011 LFA showcased not only a very capable two-seater supercar, but the Japanese also know a thing or two about engines. A look under the LFA’s hood reveals a naturally aspirated 4.8-liter V10 that produces 562 hp or 117 hp per liter in Nürburgring guise.
Mated to a slick six-speed automatic, it dragged to sixty in 3.5 seconds with a top speed of over 200 mph, far from the fastest on paper, but around a track, the LFA was more than a game for its rivals.
8 Porsche 918 Spyder
At 887bhp, the Porsche 918 Spyder is one of the most powerful production cars of all time and could hit sixty in 2.2 seconds and go on to a top speed of 218mph, thanks to a kick of welcome thumb provided by two electric motors.
Theoretically canned electric motors, the Porsche 918 under the sole power of internal combustion is not left out, decked out with a formidable 4.6-liter naturally aspirated V8 of 599 hp equivalent to 130 Germanic horses per liter, easily to on par with non-hybrids and outperforming most, if not all, other production car engines.
7 TVR Speed 12
At a little-known factory on the outskirts of Blackpool, TVR has for decades built some of the most expensive sports cars on the road, using simple tube frames, big engines and outrageous fiberglass bodywork. For owner Peter Wheeler, that wasn’t enough, so he ordered the Project 7/12, loosely based on the Cerbera.
Loosely covering many bases, the Cerbera received a heavily revised body adorned with vents, grilles and fenders, alluding to what’s under the hood. Instead of the usual inline six-cylinder and V8 engines, TVR installed a 7.73-liter V12 developing “800 hp”. In reality, the official internal figures were much closer to 1000bhp, with the Speed 12 boasting 129bhp per litre.
6 Lamborghini Huracan Evo
For now, Lamborghini is sticking to its guns, with the Huracán sticking with a proven 5.2-liter V10. In the Evo, it develops 631 hp, giving the “entry level” rabid bull an output of 121 hp per litre.
Choose wisely, as not all Huracáns have the same specific horsepower, Spyder variants are often slightly detuned, only RWD cars compensate for small power losses with less weight. Although the Huracán and Audi’s R8 V10 share a common engine design, it’s the Italian that steals the show when it comes to power and performance.
5 Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z06
You’ll have to take our word for it, Chevrolet’s move to a mid-engine layout for their eighth-generation Corvette makes viewing one of the biggest V8s ever made difficult at best, crammed behind the cockpit and dressed in acres plastic fittings. However, unlike the Stingray, the Z06 uses a smaller 5.5-liter V8, but one that develops 670 hp.
Less, in this case, is definitely more, with an impressive 121 hp per litre, the Z06 goes to sixty in 2.6 seconds, charging towards the horizon with a v-max of 186 mph. It’s not subtle, but that’s exactly how we like our Vettes – loud and proud.
4 Ferrari Daytona SP3
The special doesn’t quite do Ferrari’s Daytona SP3 justice, reverting to naturally aspirated power units for a limited-run supercar that promises a sub-three-second dash to sixty with a top speed of 211 mph. Until Ferrari put the SP3 around Fiorano, the SF90 remained Ferrari’s fastest road car.
Powered by a 6.5-litre variant of the marque’s 6.5-litre V12 Tipo F140 HC, likely to be Ferrari’s last V12-powered road car, moving to a smaller displacement and cylinder count and to turbocharging. Coming out with a bang, the SP3 claims 840 hp, or 129 hp per litre.
3 Pagani Huarya R
Unintentionally mimicking the V12-powered F1 cars of yesteryear, Pagani’s track-only Huarya R emits a high-rpm screech capable of sending shivers down your spine. Basically, still an engine sourced from Mercedes-AMG, only stripped of its turbochargers and down a few notches to 6 liters.
A smaller displacement allows the Huarya to rev harder, delivering its peak 838 bhp at 8250 rpm, making the Pagani not only the highest specific power per liter at 139 bhp, but also the naturally aspirated car. the most powerful currently on sale. Naturally the true hallmark of any supercar is speed, here the Huarya does not disappoint, with a top speed of 240mph.
2 Brabham BT62
Built exclusively for the track, the Australian-built Brabham BT62 delivers on its performance aspirations with a 700bhp 5.4-litre Ford Modular V8, putting the BT62 among the most powerful cars money can buy.
Built in small numbers to commemorate Brabham’s racing pedigree, only 70 examples were planned as of 2018 with an asking price of $1.8 million. Is the BT63 worth its asking price? Without a shadow of a doubt, yes, with 129 hp per liter on tap, the BT62 can reach speeds of over 200 mph.
1 Honda S2000
Surely the S2000 can’t mix it all up in this supercar royalty company for the most power per litre? In fact, despite the tiny 2-liter four-cylinder engines, yes it can. Developing 247 bhp at a high 8,300 rpm, the S2000 boasted a figure of 124 bhp per litre, which stands up well to today’s most expensive and technologically advanced cars.
The S2000 hit a storm when it launched, it wasn’t the fastest, but in terms of thrills, the high-rpm naturally aspirated VTEC mass produced an exhaust note like that of a banshee that accompanied his tingling power. Honda in one fell swoop changed affordable sports cars for good.
10 Cool V8-Powered Cars You Can Still Buy For Under $15,000
About the Author