Crate Engine Showdown: The Cost of Horsepower in 2018
2018 is a strange time. With the ever-looming threat of global warming and environmentalism on the rise, nobody could have predicted that we’d be locked in the most heated horsepower war since the ‘70s. With the big three (GM, Ford and Mopar) all offering their most powerful production vehicles in history, their respective parts departments have answered the call of the home-built hot rodder, making their most powerful production power plants available as a crate engine option. Putting brand-loyalism aside (briefly), we aimed to find out which one of these top-of-the-line crate engines (and a bonus one) really gives you the most bang for your buck.
Ford 5.2L Aluminator XS
First on our list is the Ford 5.2L Aluminator XS. Derived from the engine currently produced for the Shelby GT350 Mustang, the cross-plane crankshaft engine from Ford is the most powerful crate engine they offer. It’s also dubbed as the most powerful naturally aspirated modular crate engine ever built by Ford Performance. However, at 580hp and 445 lb-ft of torque, it’s at the bottom of our list as far as power numbers go, and priced at $19,995.00. This earns the Aluminator a $34.47 per horsepower rating.
GM 6.2L LT5
There’s no questioning the LS platform's possibilities. GM has enjoyed nearly two decades of success with this engine platform, with each model year’s production vehicles such as the Camaro and Corvette showing off the best of what GM has put into their LS lineup. Perhaps more impressive is their list of crate engines—one for any project you have in mind. At the top of their list sits the all new LT5, which currently sits in the 2019 Corvette ZR1. The 6.2L supercharged LT5 is the most powerful engine ever offered in a Chevy production vehicle, rated at 755hp and 715 lb-ft of torque. Currently being sold at a sale price of $17,915.00, the LT5 crate engine gets a rating of $23.73 per horsepower rating.
Mopar 6.2L Hellcrate
While we’re not going to address the Hellephant in the room (because Mopar hasn’t released an official MSRP for it yet), we’re including Mopar’s current most powerful crate engine, the Hellcrate. Also a 6.2L supercharged format, the Hellcrate is essentially the same engine that comes in the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcat. Pushing 707hp and 650 lb-ft of torque, the Hellcrate doesn’t quite meet the LT5 standard, but it’s also two years older. Currently being sold for $19,530.00, the Hellcrate gets a rating of $27.62 per horsepower. It's a bit more expensive than the GM LT5, but the more modern Hellephant may change that once it’s official price is released.
Mercury 7.0L SB4
We couldn’t leave this crate engine out of our list simply because its engineering and specifications are so impressive. Engineered and manufactured by the automotive division of Mercury Racing Engines, a company known mostly for its marine engines, the SB4 breaks all the rules. Mercury set the bar high with this DOHC small block, pushing 750hp and 559 ft-lbs of torque at a staggering 8000 rpm, all without forced induction. But all that technology and engineering comes at a price—specifically $32,995. The SB4 comes complete with wiring harness and ECU, so you get a little extra for your dollar, but the math comes out to a spendy $44.00 per horsepower.
Of course, there are plenty of other factors that determine why one would pick an engine over another, but from a purely economic and power output stance, these are our findings. While Ford’s 5.2L Aluminator may be the crate engine of choice for the blue oval purists, it’s not exactly the most economical choice for big power. Mopar fans will need to wait until the Hellephant comes to the market to get their 1000hp monster crate (likely with a hefty price tag), but until then, the Hellcrate does a good job for its age and price. Coming in at the cheapest per-horsepower crate engine is the GM LT5, perhaps proving once again why the LS-platform seems to have an ever tightening grasp in the aftermarket performance V8 world. And, while we did include the Mercury SB4, you really have to want to be different to consider spending $33,000 on a crate engine that brings you LT5 power numbers. Or maybe you just want your ride to match your boat? We don’t judge here.