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There are a lot of new hybrid and electric powertrains out there. But sometimes, it’s nice to look at some old-school cool. The combustion engine isn’t dead just yet, and these five engines are here to make some noise before it’s all over.

The GR Corolla 1.6-liter 3-cyl turbo is the best small combustion engine in 2023

GR Corolla engine
2023 Toyota GR Corolla | Toyota

I want to kick this off with the smallest engine here, because it is a perfect encapsulation of why we love internal combustion. This 1.6-liter three-cylinder turbo fizzes and pops its way to 300 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. That’s no small feat for such a small engine. It’s that power-to-displacement ratio that earns it our top spot, even if it isn’t the most powerful thing on the market right now.

If there are any downsides to this engine it would be its lack of tuning options. But considering Toyota is giving us twice as much power as a 1.6-liter engine is normally good for, there’s not much room to complain.

The Audi RS 3 five-cylinder turbo is just weird enough to be great

Audi RS 3 five-cylinder engine
2023 Audi RS 3 Engine | Audi

Speaking of unique cylinder counts, our second favorite gas-burning powerplant is the 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbo in the Audi RS 3. This punchy five-pot is good for 401 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. And thanks to Quattro all-wheel drive, it launches the RS3 from zero to 60 mph in just 3.3 seconds.

In addition, Audi’s five-cylinder has a unique 1-2-4-5-3 firing order, which gives it an eccentric exhaust note. The combination of rasp and rumble is always ear-catching, and it’s one of the few modern cars that doesn’t need an aftermarket exhaust to annoy enthrall the neighbors. That alone helps make it one of the best combustion engines of 2023.

BMW’s S58 inline-6 turbo combines technology and raw power

BMW M2 S58 is the best combustion engine of 2023
2023 BMW M2 S58 Engine | BMW

BMW’s S58 engine lands in everything from the M2 to the X3/4 M SUVs, and for good reason. The high-performance version of the B58 gets forged pistons and rods for added durability. And the closed-deck block means it’s inherently reliable, even if it means some added weight.

The twin single-scroll turbos do mean a bit more lag, but they also allow a higher redline, at 7,200 rpm versus 7,000 in the B58. In addition, the S58 uses a larger cylinder with a shorter stroke to maintain a 3.0-liter displacement while making more power.

And speaking of power, depending on the model, the S58 makes between 453 and 503 horsepower. And its 443 pound-feet of torque packs a wallop once those turbos spool up. In the BMW M3 Competition xDrive, that means zero to 60 mph in just 2.8 seconds.

VW’s EA888 2.0-liter turbo-four continues its legendary run

EA888 Golf R Engine
2023 VW Golf R Engine | Volkswagen

It’s the oldest engine here, but it’s been around for this long for a reason. The EA888 is Volkswagen’s best combustion engine, even in 2023. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder is available with a range of turbo sizes, making 241 horsepower in the GTI and 315 horsepower in the Golf R.

More than that, though, the EA888 has been around long enough for aftermarket engineering to catch up.

With full bolt-ons including the IS38 turbo from the Golf R, the EA888 can make nearly 500 horsepower on stock internals. The biggest change required to get there are high-performance fuel injectors. The cylinders, rods, and crankshafts are all from the Volkswagen factory.

The 6.2-liter V8 in the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is an all-time great muscle car powerplant

Modern muscle cars take many forms, but the 6.2-liter V8 in the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is our choice among the best combustion engines in 2023. The supercharger noise alone is worth the price of admission. But the 668 horsepower and 659 pound-feet of torque is nothing to sneeze at, either.

It may be slower than a BMW M5, but that doesn’t matter. That engine paired with its manual transmission and rear-wheel drive make the CT5-V Blackwing among the most enjoyable driving experiences anywhere, for any price in 2023.

Let us know: what makes your list of best combustion engines on sale in 2023?

There’s a case to be made for Ferrari, Lamborghini, or even Corvette to land on this list. But ultimately, these five engines are some of the best. A combination of uniqueness, rock-solid reliability, and giggle-inducing performance are worth more than cylinder counts and four-figure power numbers. But let us know what you think in the comments!

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