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The 15 Most Power-Dense Force-Inducted Cars of 2015

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 2/2/2015 Benson Kong

Specific output, power density, or, in its simplest representation, horsepower produced per liter of displacement, is a largely trivial metric by its lonesome. Unless you're in charge of a racing team faced with engine-size restrictions, and then hp/liter would be pretty important.

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You could get a better picture of an engine's overall efficiency and cost if specific output were tag-teamed with other yardsticks such as brake-specific fuel consumption, brake mean effective pressure, recorded cylinder pressure, and volumetric efficiency across the powerband. But ranking cars not destined to spend their lives on racetracks by hp/liter is meaningless. So why do it at all? Because numerical order has its appeal, too.

The qualifications list is short. The cars must have a force-inducted engine and be federalized for sale in the U.S. within the 2015 model year. We also have to know the stock horsepower and liter ratings, and, most critically, we must be able to divide.

Ferrari California T

2015 Ferrari California T With Sunset© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ferrari California T With Sunset Specific output: 141.8 hp/liter

Engine: 3.9L/553-hp/557-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8

Peak power engine speed: 7,500 rpm

One of the most revered Scarlet Horses of all time also has a twin-turbocharged V-8. Although the F40 boasts a superior hp/liter rating (162.4 out of its 471-hp, 2.9-liter V-8), the California T enjoys 82 more horsepower and 131 more lb-ft of torque.

Bentley Continental GT3-R

2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R Front Three Quarter View© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R Front Three Quarter View Specific output: 143.0 hp/liter (148.0 with 15-second turbo overboost)

Engine: 4.0L/572-hp*/518-lb-ft* twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8

Peak power engine speed: 6,000 rpm

The house that W.O. built updates its bread-and-butter Continental with ruthless efficacy, so of course there'd eventually be one with the back seat missing. The two-person GT3-R is not the most powerful Conti on offer -- that'd be the 626-hp GT Speed -- but it does boast the brand's highest specific output.

*592 hp/553 lb-ft with 15-second turbo overboost

Nissan GT-R

2015 Nissan GT R© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Nissan GT R Specific output: 143.4 hp/liter

Engine: 3.8L/545-hp/463-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6

Peak power engine speed: 6,400 rpm

Speaking of updates, the R35 GT-R's giant-slaying legacy is secured in part by Nissan's dedication to its annual improvements. When deliveries first began way back in June 2008, the 2009-model GT-R put out only 480 hp. Talk about progress.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Specific output: 145.5 hp/liter

Engine: 2.0L/291-hp/300-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4

Peak power engine speed: 6,500 rpm

After 10 generations (the U.S. received exactly three) the Lancer Evolution will be sent off with a more powerful final-gasp edition due later this year. Because we didn't know its horsepower yet, 12th place is as high as the enthusiast-favorite Mitsu goes.

Volkswagen Golf R

2015 Volkswagen Golf R Front Three Quarter In Motion 6© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Volkswagen Golf R Front Three Quarter In Motion 6 Specific output: 146.0 hp/liter

Engine: 2.0L/292-hp/280-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4

Peak power engine speed: 5,400 rpm

The 2004 Golf R32 was an intriguing sporty compact for its time, what with its 3.2-liter, narrow-angle V-6 pushing out 240 hp at 6,250 rpm to an all-wheel-drive system. A decade later, turbocharging helps unleash an unquestionably faster and substantially more efficient heir to the Golf's R throne.

Audi S3

2015 Audi S3© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Audi S3 Specific output: 146.0 hp/liter

Engine: 2.0L/292-hp/280-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4

Peak power engine speed: 5,400 rpm

The 2000-2002 S4 gave us a glimpse of what was in store for Audi's S lineup, and it was about the S3's size. The B5 S4 needed a twin-turbo, 2.7-liter, 30-valve V-6 to generate 250 hp at 5,800 rpm. The S3, less two cylinders, 14 valves, a turbo, and a cylinder bank, makes 42 more hp at a 400-rpm lower peak.

Porsche 911 Turbo S

2014 porsche 911 turbo s© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 porsche 911 turbo s Specific output: 147.4 hp/liter

Engine: 3.8L/560-hp/516-lb-ft* twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-six

Peak power engine speed: 6,500 rpm

Force-inducted engines are able to create more power with less displacement because they can dramatically increase cylinder pressure with an external compressor(s). Porsche quotes a 17.4-psi max boost pressure for the Turbo S, with 19.6 psi available temporarily in the midrange.

*553 lb-ft with 20-second turbo overboost

Bugatti Veyron Super Sport/Grand Sport Vitesse

2011 Bugatti Veyron Super Sport© Provided by MotorTrend 2011 Bugatti Veyron Super Sport Specific output: 147.9 hp/liter

Engine: 8.0L/1,183-hp/1,106-lb-ft quad-turbo DOHC 64-valve W-16

Peak power engine speed: 6,400 rpm

It'll depend on the Francophile you ask, but some say the Veyron is the most famous French car ever. Had we employed the metric horsepower output of 1,200 (derived from the formal European power rating of 882 kilowatts), the Bugatti's specific output would calculate to a nice, round 150 hp/liter.

Volvo S60

2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive E© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive E Specific output: 151.0 hp/liter

Engine: 2.0L/302-hp/295-lb-ft turbo- and supercharged DOHC 16-valve I-4

Peak power engine speed: 5,700 rpm

Volvo's S60 T6 Drive-E finds a 1,969cc inline-four beneath its hood assisted by compounded forced induction. A supercharger is sized for low-end response, and the turbo sustains the pressurized air supply at higher speeds. The 302 hp is currently routed solely through the front wheels.

Volvo XC60

2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive E© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive E Specific output: 151.0 hp/liter

Engine: 2.0L/302-hp/295-lb-ft turbo- and supercharged DOHC 16-valve I-4

Peak power engine speed: 5,700 rpm

What's the biggest difference between the S60 T6 Drive-E and XC60 T6 Drive-E, you ask? The 295 lb-ft torque peak is 300 rpm later on the crossover opposed to the sedan (2,100 vs. 1,800 rpm). But both are happy sipping on recommended regular-octane gas.

Nissan GT-R NISMO

2015 Nissan GT R Nismo© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Nissan GT R Nismo Specific output: 157.9 hp/liter

Engine: 3.8L/600-hp/481-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6

Peak power engine speed: 6,800 rpm

Higher-capacity turbos plus 400 more rpm plus enhanced spark control collude to give the GT-R NISMO another 55 hp over the Premium and Black Edition models. If that doesn't sound serious enough, the carbon-fiber rear spoiler surely indicates the car means business. Fast business.

McLaren 650S

2015 Mclaren 650S Spider© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Mclaren 650S Spider Specific output: 168.7 hp/liter

Engine: 3.8L/641-hp/500-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8

Peak power engine speed: 7,250 rpm

McLaren claims the 650S' M838T is among the world's most efficient engines if we sorted by the rate of power produced to carbon dioxide emissions: 0.42 gram per kilometer, per metric horsepower. Interesting observation for a company defined by its Formula 1 and sports-car racing history and fabled V-12 supercar.

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG

2014 Mercedes Benz CLA45© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Mercedes Benz CLA45 Specific output: 177.5 hp/liter

Engine: 2.0L/355-hp/332-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4

Peak power engine speed: 6,000 rpm

The CLA45 AMG is a small car, but it commissions a large engine for duty in the best way. Not physically large, of course. Mercedes tabs the AMG mill as "the most powerful four-cylinder production engine in the world." Too bad the Lancer Evo FQ-440 MR was sequestered in the U.K. (and is long sold out).

Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG

2015 Mercedes Benz GLA45 AMG© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Mercedes Benz GLA45 AMG Specific output: 177.5 hp/liter

Engine: 2.0L/355-hp/332-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4

Peak power engine speed: 6,000 rpm

The silliest thing about this "crossover" is you can option it to wear a ridiculous rear decklid spoiler and front canards. And the backup camera will cost you $450.

McLaren P1

2014 Mclaren P1© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Mclaren P1 Specific output: 191.3 hp/liter

Engine: 3.8L/727-hp/531-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8

Peak power engine speed: 7,300 rpm

Do the bonkers 650S and extra bonkers P1 share engines? No. The P1's M838TQ needs a specific block to house its 176-hp electric motor, the torque peak sits 2,000 rpm lower (4,000 to the 650S' 6,000), and it makes 86 more gasoline-fueled hp than its little brother. Not bad for a 3.8-liter.

Most Power Dense Force Inducted Cars© Provided by MotorTrend Most Power Dense Force Inducted Cars
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