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15 Optional Engines Worth Stepping up to

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 10/21/2014 Alex Nishimoto

There's nothing wrong with saving a little money, but sometimes opting for the base engine can be a big mistake. Whether it's because upgraded engines produce more power, get better fuel economy, or a combination of the two, the optional engines available for these 15 vehicles are worth ponying up for.

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Audi A6 TDI

© Provided by MotorTrend The U.S. finally got a TDI version of the Audi A6 in 2014, and the wait was definitely worth it. A 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 produces 240 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. While that might not sound like enough power, the diesel's ample low-end torque allows the A6 TDI to accelerate to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. We found power delivery to be smooth and linear thanks to an eight-speed automatic that makes the best use of the diesel's powerband. In addition, the 2014 Audi A6 TDI is EPA-rated at 24/38 mpg city/highway.

Buick Regal Turbo

© Provided by MotorTrend The Regal helped reinvent the Buick brand, and it can be a nice, upscale car with the right equipment. One thing that helps in that mission is the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4, which makes 259 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. With that engine, the Regal offers refinement and fun that's not that far off of its German rivals. All-wheel drive became available for 2014, and is another option we'd check off if we wanted a not-too-shabby German entry-lux alternative.

Ford Fiesta EcoBoost

© Provided by MotorTrend The Ford Fiesta's base 1.6-liter I-4 is nothing special, but it'll get the job done. But for $995 more than a 1.6 SE, you can upgrade to the more powerful, more efficient, and infinitely more fun to drive EcoBoost 1.0-liter I-3 engine. While it may not sound like much of an upgrade, the EcoBoost's turbocharged three-cylinder churns out 123 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque. Peak torque arrives early in the rev band, which means the Fiesta EcoBoost doesn't skip a beat when you step on the gas. If you want even more fun, step up to the Fiesta ST.

Jaguar F-Type

© Provided by MotorTrend There's absolutely nothing wrong with the Jaguar F-Type's base supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, but the supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 offered in the F-Type V8 S roadster and R coupe is so good you'll be kicking yourself the moment you hear a V-8-powered Jag roll past you. The engine produces 495 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque in the roadster, and 550 hp and 502 lb-ft in the coupe. The R coupe accelerates from 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds, but the real reason you'll buy the V-8 is for the sounds it makes. We've compared the pops and burbles from the exhaust to gunfire, and that's not really an exaggeration.

Kia Optima

© Provided by MotorTrend We're fans of the Kia Optima for its sharp looks and impressive equipment list. Another one of the sedan's highlights is its optional turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-liter I-4. That engine makes 274 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque, and is EPA-rated at 20/31 mpg city/highway. In our tests, an Optima Turbo hustled from 0-60 mph in a respectable 7.2 seconds -- more than a second faster than its base model counterpart.

Subaru WRX

© Provided by MotorTrend The Subaru Impreza is a great compact for the driver that needs all-weather capability, while the WRX is the four-door sports car for the boy racer in us all. Unlike the extreme WRX STI, which gets a carryover turbocharged 2.5-liter engine, the standard WRX gets a turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-liter boxer-four that's mostly new. The engine makes 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, which is routed to all four wheels via Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive system. The result? A whole lot of fun for right around $30,000.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

© Provided by MotorTrend There's no denying the regular Golf is a great little hatchback -- especially now that it comes standard with the new 1.8T engine. But upgrade to the GTI, and you end up with a car that's so much more than the sum of its parts. The 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 making 217 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. In our tests, a GTI with a six-speed manual transmission scooted to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. But acceleration is only half the fun of a GTI. Upgrade and you'll also get a car that loves to be thrown around corners.

Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel

© Provided by MotorTrend The 240-hp, 420-lb-ft 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 option is just what the doctor ordered for the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The engine helps the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel 4WD achieve an EPA-rated 21/28 mpg city/highway, which is 4 mpg better in both city and highway driving than a gas-powered 3.6-liter V-6 4WD model. And with gobs of low-end torque at its disposal, the SUV is anything but boring both on and off the pavement.

Mazda CX-5

Our one big complaint about the Mazda CX-5 when it debuted was that it just didn't have enough power. Its 155-hp, 150-lb-ft 2.0-liter I-4 really needed to be flogged in order to get anywhere in a hurry. But for 2014, Mazda offered a Skyactiv 2.5-liter I-4 unit with 184 hp and 185 lb-ft. Compared to the standard model, the front-drive 2.5-liter is 1.3 seconds quicker to 60 mph while still returning 25/32 mpg city/highway -- just 1 mpg less in the city.

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Lexus IS 350

© Provided by MotorTrend The Lexus IS' base 2.5-liter V-6 simply isn't very good. It's old, underpowered, and not very efficient. If you want a Lexus sport sedan, you need to spring for the IS 350. That model is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 306 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. In our tests, an IS 350 F Sport sprinted to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, and completed the quarter-mile in 14.0 seconds flat. The performance the bigger V-6 offers is well worth the extra $3500 or so over the anemic IS 250.

Ford F-150 3.5-liter EcoBoost

© Provided by MotorTrend We've had no shortage of good things to say about the Ford F-150 EcoBoost. An outgoing truck equipped with the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 outperformed the 5.0-liter V-8 option and nearly matched the 6.2-liter in our tests. The 2014 F-150 EcoBoost makes 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, and is EPA-rated at 16/22 mpg city/highway in two-wheel drive trim. The aluminum-intensive 2015 model, however, adds a 325-hp, 375-lb-ft 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 option, which may be the one to get in the new truck. We'll have to wait until we test one to find out.

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

© Provided by MotorTrend The Ram 1500 was named Motor Trend's 2014 Truck of the Year thanks in no small part to the newly available EcoDiesel engine option. That engine, which is shared with the Jeep Grand Cherokee also on this list, makes 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. The Ram EcoDiesel aced our towing tests, pulling a load with ease thanks to its plentiful torque and eight-speed transmission. EPA fuel economy is rated at 20/28 mpg city/highway for a two-wheel-drive EcoDiesel, 3 mpg better in both the city and highway than a 3.6-liter Pentastar model.

Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

© Provided by MotorTrend OK, so no one really needs 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. But for $60,990 including destination, why not? Especially when a lesser 485-hp, 475-lb-ft Challenger SRT 392 is only $14,000 cheaper. If our math is correct, that works out to $63 for each horsepower over the regular SRT Challenger's output when you upgrade to the Hellcat. Not a bad deal, if you ask us. If you don't want to use all of the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8's 707 hp, there's a valet mode that limits it to a mere 500 ponies.

Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG

© Provided by MotorTrend The SL65 AMG doesn't make that much more than its twin-turbo V-8-powered SL63 AMG stable mate, but if you can afford to splurge on the SL63 you might as well go whole hog. The SL65 AMG uses Mercedes' potent twin-turbo 6.0-liter V-12, which produces 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes says the car will hit 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, but that's likely a conservative estimate given an SL63 did the deed in 3.5 seconds in our tests.

Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

© Provided by MotorTrend For the track junkie, there's no question about which Camaro to buy. The Z/28 can hang with -- and in some cases beat -- many exotics on a road course, and to the driving enthusiast is well worth the premium over other Camaro trim levels. The Z/28's hand-built 7.0-liter LS7 V-8 is borrowed from the C6 Z06, and in the Camaro makes 505 hp and 481 lb-ft of torque. The rest of the magic went into the Z/28's suspension and chassis, which was tuned on Germany's punishing Nürburgring.

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