Top 10 Best Engines for Under $50,000: The Short List

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

There are good engines and there are bad engines…

Some deliver much more than you’d ever expect while others should have never left the drawing board. Indeed, there are some truly great ones available today, powerplants that truly elevate the vehicles they’re installed in.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Worst Performance Cars

And guess what? You don’t have to spend a mint to get something brilliant these days. Arranged roughly in order of how much we like ‘em, here are 10 of our favorite engines that can be had in vehicles costing less than $50,000.

10. Volkswagen EA888

One that’s tickled our proverbial fancy year in and year out is Volkswagen’s venerable 2.0-liter turbo-four. In EA888 form, it’s silky smooth, torquey and even sounds nice. Simply put, it’s a joy to wring out, especially in something like a Golf R where it churns out 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque.

9. FCA L630

But if you really want twist, you’ve got to go with an oil-burner. And a fine choice is the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel offered most notably in the Ram 1500 pickup. It may be supplied by Italian industrial concern VM Motori, but it’s refined and amazingly efficient in such a portly, returning up to 27 MPG highway. As for output, how does 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet sound?

8. Volvo B4204T9

By using both a turbo- and supercharger, Volvo has managed to make a 2.0-liter four-cylinder feel like an EV off the line and pull with V8 authority at higher speeds. The Swedish firm’s twin-charged B4204T9 is rated at 302 ponies and 295 pound-fee of torque in the S60 R-Design. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with those figures, or the fact that this vehicle costs less than 50 grand. Sounds like a win-win!

ALSO SEE: 2018 Volvo XC60 Review

7. Ford 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6

Another intoxicatingly good – and affordable engine – is Ford’s 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6. Refined and torquey, this mighty little motor is used to great effect in the Ford F-150, Edge and Fusion as well as the MKX and Continental. In Lincoln trim, it delivers up to 335 horsepower.

6. GM LT-1 V8

But enough of these four-bangers and tiny sixes; it’s high time for a proper engine! GM’s Gen-V LT-1 small block V8 is absolutely jim-dandy; it’s a real hoot in the Chevy Camaro SS for instance, where it cranks out 455 horses. Compact and reasonably efficient, this engine pulls like a mule from idle to redline all while making glorious noises.

5. FCA 6.4-liter Hemi

And it’s basically the same story with FCA’s splendid 6.4-liter Hemi, that’s 392 cubic inches for those of you that still grasp old-school figures. Available in a wide variety of products, this wailing V8 is rated at 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque in the Dodge Challenger, a healthy step up from the smaller 5.7-liter Hemi.

4. Mercedes-AMG M133

Next up, the heroic Mercedes-AMG M133. This engine may only displace 2.0-liters, but that doesn’t stop it from delivering a Herculean 375 horses with 350 units of twist in the CLA 45. That’s enough sausage gravy to jazz this four-door coupe to 60 miles an hour in just 4.1 seconds. Sure, this car’s price is a few hundred bucks beyond or 50-grand cap, but it’s close enough… SO DEAL WITH IT!

3. Honda K20C1

But perhaps even more intoxicating is Honda’s delicious K20C1 found in the new Civic Type R. Boosted to the point of bursting with nearly 23 PSI crammed into its four cylinders, this 2.0-liter engine is smooth, snarly and absolutely savage. Delivering 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, it won us all over in recent testing.

ALSO SEE: Honda Civic Type R vs Subaru WRX STI vs VW Golf R vs Ford Focus RS

2. Ford 5.0-liter Coyote V8

One of our favorite two-by-fours is Dearborn’s five-point-oh. Silky smooth with an intoxicating rumble, this broad-shouldered engine would not be out of place in a Ferrari, that’s how impressive it feels. Newly invigorated, it delivers 460-horse stampede with 420 pound-feet of peak torque in the 2018 Mustang.

1. BMW B58B30M0

But one could also argue a papa bear-sized V8 is simply too much. If a baby-bear four-banger is insufficient, all that’s left to do is split the difference. BMW’s buttery B58B30M0 engine is a jewel. With six cylinders in a row, it’s perfectly smooth whether you’re lugging it in too-high a gear or winding the thing out on a racetrack. Offered in the sublime M240i, this engine is rated at waaaaay-more-than-adequate 335 horsepower with 369 pound-feet.

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Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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2 of 3 comments
  • Yokel Yokel on Dec 11, 2017

    I wish that Ecodiesel was an option for the Chrysler 300.

  • Jonny_Vancouver Jonny_Vancouver on Dec 12, 2017

    I wanted to do more research on some of these engines, but my Netscape browser froze. Good list though, and good video.