Perhaps “defined” is a better term than “dominated” when talking about the relationship between an engine and a car. Yet, for some cars on this list I feel that dominated may be the more appropriate verb. The engine intrinsically is the most important aspect of a car. Without a power source for the automobile there would be no motion, there would be no transportation and there would be no fun. All other major mechanical components of a car aim to utilize power provided by an engine. The tires attempt to grip the road, the suspension attempts to keep the tires in contact with the road, the transmission attempts to use this power efficiently and the steering wheel attempts to direct this power effectively.
The objectively “better” cars will blend these elements of the vehicle more effectively and will harness the power in such a way that defines their character. A luxury car will offer seamless shifts, a smooth, quiet ride and gentle power delivery while a sports car will produce fast, aggressive shifts accompanied by a violent engine noise responding to your request for a wide open throttle and supplemented by a screaming exhaust note.
All of the cars listed here have an incredible blend of all of the attributes that make a great driving car, but they all have different personalities. However, in my opinion, it is by far and away the engine that defines and even dominates the personality of all of these cars.
2017 Mustang GT350
The new Mustang GT350 is Ford’s latest iteration and improvement upon a car that was originally introduced over 50 years ago in 1964. The Ford Mustang represented a lightweight, affordable sports car for the masses and while a lot about the car has changed since then it is better than ever. The GT350 has a 526 HP 5.2 Liter Flat Plane Crank (see footnote) V-8 engine that redlines at 8200 RPM. A V8 engine of this displacement revving to 8200 RPM is incredible. This ability is thanks to Ford’s innovative flat-plane crank design and new firing order that allows the engine to rev out with out shaking itself into pieces. However, due to packaging issues Ford was forced to give the Mustang only one air intake instead of the traditional two that you would find in something like a Ferrari V8. This combined with the slightly different firing order of the engine give the GT350 a distinctive and recognizable American muscle car sound.
*A Flat Plane Crank V8 is a tradition V8 engine (Two banks of four cylinders arranged in a “V” formation) that has a crankshaft that is “flat” rather than in a “plus sign” like a cross-plane crankshaft. Cross-plane crankshafts are used to keep engines from producing excessive vibrations throughout the car, but are intrinsically heavier. This extra mass means they will not respond to “blips” of the gas pedal as quickly and also cannot spin as fast because of the extra momentum they carry with them. However, through new technologies flat-plane crankshafts have been developed that can respond faster and rev higher.
2014 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta
When the F12 went into production it was the most powerful production Ferrari ever. The LaFerrari uses a tuned version of the F12’s 6.3 Liter Naturally Aspirated V12. In the F12’s application the engine makes 731 HP and 508 lb-ft of torque. This massive engine sits in front of the driver, but pushed back behind the front axle giving the nose of the F12 a long and imposing snout-like look to it. This engine revs until power is cut at 8700 RPM and screams along the way. It is in my never humble opinion the best sounding V12 engine in the world. It also will propel the F12 to a blistering 211 MPH and will completely overwhelm the rear tires with power.
2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
The SLS AMG was the first Mercedes-Benz to be designed and built entirely by Mercedes-Benz performance division, AMG. In typical AMG fashion the internally designated M159 V8 stole the show. The 6.2 Liter naturally aspirated V8 was the last non-turbo charged engine AMG has produced and was able to produce 583 HP. This engine was loved by all and like the F12 completely overwhelmed the rear tires. The car’s gullwing doors harkened back to the original Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing and gave the SLS an awesome stance and appearance, but were not able to bless the car with positive handling characteristics. AMG improved and improved the car until the introduction of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series which was finally able to control the power that the incredible engine provided. With the introduction of the Black Series it seemed that engine was finally tamed and the car became a well balanced masterpiece, still centered around the bellowing 6.2 Liter V8.
2004 Honda S2000
The least powerful car on this list, by far, the Honda S2000 was named after the 2.0 Liter (2000cc) displacement of its engine (The engine actually displaced 1997 cc). The tiny naturally aspirated engine only produced 237 HP and 153 lb-ft of torque, but did so on its way to an insane 9000 RPM redline that completely defined the car. It had competitors like the Porsche Boxster, BMW Z4 and Mazda Miata and while all of these cars had similar offerings in terms of handling none came close to the excitement that the screaming engine offered.
2012 Tesla Model S
A rebel in every sense of the word, the Tesla Model S needed to be included on this list. While it certainly does not have a traditional combustion engine the Tesla Model S was the car that convinced the world of how capable an electric car could be.. When this car was first introduced its practicality and performance capability shocked the world and this was all thanks to its innovative and technologically advanced battery power plant. To this day Tesla continues to shock the world with introductions of faster and even more efficient cars and batter packs.
2015 Dodge Challenger / Charger SRT Hellcat
With the Horsepower bargain of the century the 6.2 Liter supercharged Hemi V8 produces a staggering 707 HP and 650 lb-ft of torque making it the second most powerful V8 in the world only outdone by the $1.2 million McLaren P1. The Chrysler group put all of their time and money into learning how to cool and operate this engine effectively for long periods of time and it paid off. While the car is said to handle like a boat and weighs as much as two Honda S2000’s put together the engine paired with the twin-screw supercharger have proven themselves to be remarkably reliable and consistent. It will even power the Challenger / Charger to over 200 MPH!
2015 Jaguar F-type Coupe R
The last car on the list boasts the best sounding V8 in the world (again, in my never humble opinion) that, with the addition of a supercharger, gives the car an amazing 550 HP. This engine sits underneath a massive front hood that gives the car amazing proportions and an aggressive look. While the engine is amazing the rear tires cannot handle the power and it becomes a power sliding monster. The car loves to over steer and in this application the car is dominated by the engine. Unfortunately, the car would have been better off if it were defined by the engine, not dominated by it.