Maximum Horsepower Comparison Guide for Common Engine Make and Models

January 27, 2012

Achieving the maximum horsepower is possible though the type of engine and size of the combustion chamber. These will be the main factors in setting a maximum for the type of horsepower that can be achieved. When trying to determine the most powerful vehicle, also look at the maximum torque ratings as well, besides the horsepower, as these 2 measurements are related and contribute to the vehicles performance. Many times it is possible to take a blown engine and then build it up to a high horsepower vehicle.


The number of cylinders is factored into the amount of horsepower an engine will produce. In general, a V8 engine has a greater maximum horsepower than a V6, and a V6 has more horsepower than a V4 engine. The more cylinders, then the greater the energy production. The internal combustion tends to occur in the cylinder, as it will fill with air and gasoline, compress the air and then ignite it to produce energy. The more cylinders in an engine, the more energy that can be produced.

Engine Displacement

The engine displacement refers to the amount of volume in all of the pistons, from top dead center to bottom dead center. It does not refer to the combustion chamber, but the total possible volume in the cylinder. This is normally measured in liters, cubic centimeters or cubic inches. A 2.0 L engine can contain a total of 2.0L of air and fuel mixture. Then this mixture is compressed and ignited within the cylinder. Ultimately, the greater the volume within the piston, the greater the horsepower, as this allows for more compression. A V6 engine that is 2.0L will have a lower maximum horsepower than a V6 engine with a 4.0L engine displacement. Additionally, an engine with more cylinders and a greater displacement will be able to create more horsepower than an engine with lower displacement and less cylinders.

Compression Ratio

The compression ratio refers to the amount of compression the cylinder can achieve when it is fuel of fuel/air. Once this mixture is compressed, it can be ignited and energy released. By increasing the compression ratio, it is possible to increase the horsepower output.  However this kind of high compression also requires higher octane fuels. The octane refers to the compression that is needed for the fuel to ignite. This can be a great way to get more horsepower out of a heavier engine. However higher octane fuel is more expensive. Adding a supercharger or turbocharger is a great way to get additional compression in the engine, which increases the horsepower production.

Engine Horsepower Ratings

One of the largest and heaviest V8 engines from Ford, the Windsor, has a maximum horsepower range of 140 to 170hp. However, there are many versions of this engine, such as 221, 260 and 289, of which all have different cylinders and engine displacements. The Subaru boxer engine has a 170 hp, though with turbocharger, it is possible to achieve up to 156 hp on their 6 cylinder engine. Toyota MZ engines come in several different versions, though the most powerful can produce 225 hp. Ultimately, the engines found in high performance or top end sports cars will provide a lot of horsepower. Heavy duty vehicles also have very high maximum horsepower ratings, though they will not be able to achieve high speeds.

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