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With so many cars either downsizing or going all-electric, we think its high time we look at some automotive icons with the largest engines.

20 Oct 2022

With the latest Mercedes-AMG C63 now getting a plug-in hybrid drivetrain and subsequently having its engine downsized to a 2.0-litre unit, we think it's high time we take a look at some of the other great automotive icons which have been defined by their oversized engines.

Here's out list of some of the models (both past and present) that we think deserve special mention!

Blower Bentley

Bentley's supercharged unit in racing tune pushed close to 130bhp, which was plenty for the standards of the day
Developed in 1923 to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the sheer displacement of the Bentley 4.5 Litre would eventually be eclipsed by models such as the Bentley 8 Litre.

But for sheer historical prominence, the supercharged racing variant of the engine in the 4.5 Litre is rather hard to beat.

Developed and built despite W.O. Bentley's refusal to allow the design of the original engine to be modified to accommodate forced induction, the Bentley 4.5 Litre made do with housing its Roots-type supercharger ahead of its radiator, a move that would go on the make the Blower Bentley recognisable even amongst the rest of Bentley's pre-World War Two lineup.

And it saw reasonable success as well, with Woolf Barnato and Bernard Rubin finishing first in the 1928 24 Hours of Le Mans. And, as further proof of the historical significance of the supercharged 4.5 Litre, Bentley itself would eventually go on to manufacture 12 new Continuation examples of the Blower Bentley in 2020, all equipped with newly machined Amherst Villiers superchargers.

Mercedes-Benz 450SEL

The 6.8-litre V8 in this 450SEL makes even modern AMG engines look small in comparison
The 6.2-litre and 4.0-litre V8s that used to grace the C63 will be sorely missed, but they aren't the largest engines Mercedes has yet fitted into a road going vehicle.

If it's sheer displacement you're after, we reckon the 6.8-litre unit shoehorned into the 450SEL should take the cake. Based off the already sizable 6.3-litre W100 V8, the 6.8-litre in the 450SEL pushed out a total of 286bhp and 546Nm of torque.

These figures may not look like much today, but in 1975, this output was still enough to ensure that the sedan's top speed would only be eclipsed by some of the best sports cars of the period.

Throw in the fact that the Mercedes 450SEL also came with a clever hydropneumatics suspension system, heat-insulating glass, a heated rear window, central locking, cruise control, power windows, as well as a head light cleaning system; all premium features back in the day, and we think its hard to not include this 450SEL amongst the greatest cars that have come from the brand.

New Beetle RSi

3.2-litre six-cylinder in this New Beetle RSi sent 222bhp to all four wheels
You've heard of the Golf R32, but did you know that Volkswagen also shoved the 3.2-litre V6 under the bonnet of the Beetle?

That's right. And we think that despite the New Beetle RSi ought to be equally ranked as an automotive icon as the Golf R32, thanks to that dichotomy between that hippy bug exterior and the engine's 222bhp output and generous 320Nm of torque.

Carbon fibre bucket seats in the cabin, widened fenders, and that enlarged rear spoiler all add further credence to the idea that this Volkswagen Beetle RSi deserves a spot on this list we think.

Porsche Cayman GT4 RS

Hair-raising performance is practically expected of any sports coupe that takes itself seriously, but Porsche have arguably gone and overdone it with the Cayman GT4 RS.

4.0-litre unit in this Porsche 718 GT4 RS is plenty for a small and light sports coupe
With most rivals making do with 3.0-litre units, the engine in the Cayman GT4 RS displaces a total of 4.0 litres of capacity.

The end result of this large engine: 493bhp and 450Nm of torque.

Add the fact that there's a quick shifting dual-clutch transmission to send power to the rear wheels, and the fact that this coupe weighs in at only 1,415kg despite that sizable engine, and what you get is a car that is capable of completing the century sprint in just 3.4 seconds.

That means you'll sprint harder to 100km/h off the line than even something like the 469bhp all-wheel drive Audi e-tron GT.

And with Porsche now working on developing synthetic fuels with the Porsche Cayman GT4 RS as a test vehicle, the legacy of Porsche's compact sports coupe looks set to live on even further still.

TVR Cerbera Speed 12

The engine in this TVR Cerbera Speed 12 displaced a total of 7.7 litres
Ok, so perhaps you never were able to put this TVR Cerbera Speed 12 onto the public road. However, we are adding this car into the list, given that there originally was an intention to make a road-legal version of this hairy sports car.

And of course, it also has the large engine capacity to hang with the rest of the cars here. Where the 450SEL makes do with a 6.8-litre engine, this TVR Speed 12 dons a 7.7-litre unit, apparently said to be fashioned by combining two of the six-cylinder units of the Cerbera.

Power output here, of course, is also equally ridiculous: TVR stated that the unit employed here was capable of up to 1,000bhp, although the car eventually competed selected races in the FIA GT1 class with an output of close to 800bhp.

For its absurd power output, and the fact that it was the ultimate vehicle available in the video game Project Gotham Racing 2, we think this TVR Cerbera Speed 12 deserves it place amongst the ranks of iconic large engine cars.

Enjoy you large-engined vehicles? Here are some other article that might interest you:

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