11 unexpectedly normal-looking cars with huge engines

CY Foong · Feb 28, 2021 04:00 PM

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When it comes to modifying cars, the sky is the limit. We’ve seen big engines fitted onto some of the hottest supercars and hypercars and even heard of epic engine swaps by tuners. Our BM colleague even compiled a list of some awesome engine swaps ever transferred onto a Proton.

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There's a W12 engine under this Golf GTI, but it doesn't count since it's a concept

But this list isn’t about the aftermarket scene, rather we’re focusing on some maddening engine swaps offered by manufacturers from the factory. No, we’re not simply taking one-offs or special skunk work projects, that would be for another day.

Some of these cars were offered for a limited time but all eleven of these cars were sold to the public.

Caterham Levante

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Admittedly, a Caterham isn’t what you might call a normal-looking car. With a design that dates back to the Lotus Seven from the 1950s, the Caterham is a lightweight sports car for those who want a feel of Lotus’ founder Colin Chapman’s lightness philosophy.

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But in 2008, Caterham decided to plonk a 2.4-litre supercharged V8 engine onto the Levante that produced over 500 PS into a lightweight body frame that weighed 520 kg. The end result was a power-to-weight ratio that measured close to 1,000 PS per tonne.

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And we have lift off!

Only eight of these were built, costing £115,000 each. Those lucky eight buyers were rewarded with a literal rocket on wheels. But like any aspiring astronauts, owners must attend two days of mandatory driver training to come to grips with their car.

Ford Capri Perana

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The Ford Capri was the European Ford Mustang and was originally supposed to be called the Colt. However, Mitsubishi owned the rights to the name and the horse connection was never turned into reality.

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Even both cars were powered by entirely different engines with the most powerful Capri only powered by a V6 engine. The people of South Africa though had other plans for the European pony car.

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Ford South Africa replaced the Essex V6 engine with a 5.0-litre V8 (281 PS/406 Nm) from a Mustang and thus, the Capri Perana was born. Just like its name, the Capri Perana has a lot of bite, but since it is only offered in one market, it is very rare.

Lexus IS-F

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The latest Lexus IS500 might sound mad but this isn't the first time that a V8 engine is placed into an L-badge compact executive sedan. Nearly 15 years ago, Lexus launched the IS-F as its first F performance model.

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Powered by a 5.0-litre V8 engine that was jointly developed with Yamaha (yeah, that Yamaha), the IS-F produced 421 PS and 503 Nm. Power was sent to the rear via an 8-speed automatic.

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The IS-F was distinguishable by its sporty looks, especially in the back with a pair of vertically-stacked exhaust tips on each side. However, these tips were merely for show as they weren’t connected to the actual exhaust.

Mercedes-Benz 500 E

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Even though it was a Mercedes-Benz, the 500 E was really a Porsche, or to be precise, the car that saved Porsche. Based on the utterly bulletproof W124, the 500 E was a joint development between Mercedes-Benz and Porsche as an indirect rival to the BMW M5.

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In order to fit in the 5.0-litre M119 V8 engine from the Mercedes-Benz SL R129, the whole body had to be redesigned but Mercedes-Benz realised that this wouldn’t fit in their production line in Sindelfingen. That’s when Porsche came in to offer a hand in assembly.

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Porsche’s plant in Zuffenhausen was underutilized and worse, the company was in dire straits. Hard to imagine now but if it wasn’t for this V8-powered super saloon, we won’t get to see the Cayman GT4. As for the 500 E, it was quick but being paired to a 4-speed automatic might hamper its credibility.

Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback

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When Mitsubishi launched the Lancer Sportback in Malaysia in 2016, fans of the infamous three diamonds were in for a surprise when they saw what was powering this bootyless Lancer.

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Only a 2.4-litre 4B12 engine shared with the Outlander was offered here. Producing 168 PS and 226 Nm, the Lancer Sportback was as powerful as it was practical.

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Because of its Lancer name, many buyers here tend to modify their Lancer Sportback and giving Evolution-inspired bodykits. Should you be interested to get one, used models go for under RM 40,000 based on our observations.

Mitsubishi RVR-X3/Mitsubishi Chariot Resort Runner GT

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The Mitsubishi Chariot Resort Runner GT

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution’s 4G63T engine is a legend among tuners and Proton fans. But apart from powering a rallying legend and the most epic Proton Wira model, it also powered a pair of MPVs in the 1990s.

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Mitsubishi RVR-X3

We’ve covered the RVR Open Gear as one of the most bonkers Japanese cars but its sibling was as mad. Alongside its bigger brother, the Chariot Resort Runner GT, the RVR-X3 combined practicality and performance nearly a decade before the Lancer Evolution IX Wagon.

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Power output from both the RVR-X3 and the Chariot Resort Runner GT was 230 PS with a 5-speed manual transmission or 220 PS with the 4-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine was later used on the Mitsubishi Airtrek Turbo, which was sold here for a while.

Nissan Caravan GT

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It’s common to see MPVs being powered by a V6 engine these days like the Toyota Alphard and Vellfire twins but back in the eighties, this was just insane. Mainly because the idea of an MPV was just conceived and some brands just sold windowed vans like the Nissan Caravan.

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The Nissan Caravan was a more upscale version of the Nissan Urvan commercial van, equipped with luxurious features like soft fabric seats, a digital speedometer, alloy wheels, and cruise control. But when the Caravan GT was introduced in 1986, it packed a punch underneath.

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Powered by a 3.0-litre VG30E V6 engine that was also taken from the Nissan 300ZX and the Nissan Laurel, this power-packed powertrain was placed in the front below the passenger seat, like a conventional van. The engine produced 155 PS and 247 Nm but despite the massive engine, the Caravan GT was more for luxurious cruising like the Laurel than for performance like the Z-car.

Nissan Juke-R

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Nissan is slowly getting its groove on with their recent models but one wonders if the engineers will put a GT-R engine into the Almera just like what they had done with the Juke-R in 2015.

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Originally revealed as a prototype concept in 2012, Nissan commissioned British race and engineering specialist, Ray Mallock Ltd (RML) to produce a limited-production version of the potent Juke. In the end, around 20 units of the “world’s first supercar crossover” were built with a price tag of around 500,000 euros in 2015.

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Like a glove

So, what do you get for that moolah? A 3.8-litre V6 that produced 600 PS, all-wheel drive, double-clutch gearbox, extensive carbon fibre bodywork, and a racing harness in the back in lieu of the rear seats.

Renaultsport Clio V6

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Even though hot hatches these days are mostly reserved for the Japanese, German, or occasionally Korean brands, the French also played a part here, and let’s not forget that they produced one of the maddest hot hatches of all time. The Renaultsport Clio V6 was Frankenstein’s monster with a baguette for a nose.

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It was powered by a 3.0-litre V6 engine from a humble Renault Laguna that was placed in the middle, or to be precise, directly behind the driver, which produced up to 255 PS and 300 Nm. This was paired with a 6-speed manual transmission that powered the rear wheels.

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With the engine placed in the middle, gone were the rear seats and boot space, which makes this more of a supercar than a hot hatch. Granted, the Clio V6 is rare, and production is divided into two phases, with a total of 2,822 units produced.

Toyota Blade Master

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Exclusively offered in Japan, the Toyota Blade was based on the Toyota Corolla hatchback/Auris albeit more upscale. Nothing about the Blade shouts sporty, even on the Blade Master.

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Toyota might want the performance of the Blade Master to be felt than being seen. Underneath its unassuming looks, the hatchback was powered by a 3.5-litre V6 engine that produced 280 PS.

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Apart from the bigger engine, the Blade Master also had larger brakes and an updated suspension compared to the regular Blade. Unlike the Golf R32, the Blade Master was less of a hot hatch and more of a highway cruiser with its smooth ride.

Volkswagen Golf R32

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Even though the Volkswagen Golf GTI is considered a classic hot hatch, it is the Golf R32 that represents the ultimate form of the German hot hatch.

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Volkswagen made a couple of generations of the Golf R32 which are based on the Mk4 and Mk5 Golf. However, for this article, we would like to put the focus on the MK5 R32.

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Debuting worldwide in September 2005 with the Malaysian launch in November 2007, the Mk5 R32 was powered by an updated 3.2-litre V6 engine that produced 250 PS and 320 Nm. Though overseas markets were available with a 6-speed manual, Malaysians had to make do with a 6-speed DSG which is still quick with a century sprint time of 6.2 seconds.

Those are some of the most bonkers engines ever fitted to a car from the factory. Which of these do you think is the craziest?

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