Some cars don’t give you much choice other than color and equipment. There’s the same engine and transmission across the board, which makes it easy for the automaker and the dealers. But for buyers who want choice, there are some cars that are powered by lots of things.
Trucks traditionally have numerous engine combinations, so I ruled those out in favor of cars and SUVs. Still, here are four models from four different classes that have numerous powertrain combinations you might encounter when shopping.
It’s amazing how many different engines have powered the current generation Volkswagen Jetta, and how many different types of fuel they use. Most Jettas until 2014 used a 2.5-liter five-cylinder gas engine with 170 horsepower. It was replaced by a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with the same power, but vastly improved acceleration and fuel economy figures.
Performance buyers will go for the GLI and its 2.0-liter turbo four with 200 horsepower.
A popular version is the Jetta TDI, using a turbodiesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine good for 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The TDI model gets up to 43 mpg according to the EPA, although owners often report far higher figures on long highway runs.
Efficiency conscious buyers unswayed by the diesel, however, might be tempted by the Jetta Hybrid. It uses a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated with an electric motor to get 42/48 mpg city/highway. Available in limited numbers since 2013, though, they are much harder to come by than the Jetta TDI.
But whatever you do, avoid the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine found in the lowliest Jettas. With just 115 horsepower, it’s an overburdened old motor that returns the worst fuel economy in the lineup.
Since its 2013 redesign, the midsize Ford Fusion has come with a number of engines powering some of the most popular configurations, as well as two fuel-efficient options.
A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is found on base cars that are targeted mainly at fleet shoppers. Unless you’re looking for a Fusion with plastic wheel covers and the base radio, you’re unlikely to stumble upon this engine.
The 178-horsepower, 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbo four was the mainstream engine when the current Fusion launched in 2013, which is mated to either a six-speed automatic or a seldom-ordered six-speed manual. It was superseded in 2014 by a 1.5-liter version with an identical horsepower rating.
The 2.0-liter Ecoboost with 240 horses provides a usable bump in power and is the engine you’ll find in top Titanium trim and some mid-level SE cars.
Then there’s the full hybrid, with a 2.5-liter four mated to an electric motor and a combined output of 188 horsepower. For some EV-only range, there’s the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid.
Being possibly the best-selling luxury sport sedan (and wagon and “GT” hatchback) around, the BMW 3-series can afford to offer a lot of different engine combinations.
The 320i starts off with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and 180 horsepower. In sedan form at least, it’s available with the standard eight-speed automatic or an optional six-speed manual.
Most buyers, however, go for the 328i that uses the same 2.0-liter turbo four as the 320i, but gets a bump in power to 240 horses. Fuel economy takes a 3 mpg hit on the highway, though.
Then there’s the 335i with its turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine. It gets to 60 mph from a stop in less than 5 seconds, thanks to 300 horsepower.
Introduced for 2014, the 328d tries to be the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too BMW. With up to 44 mpg according to the EPA, the 328d makes for one of the most efficient non-hybrids you could buy – but it’s still a 3-series. It’s also offered with all-wheel drive in sedan and wagon configurations. While rare, it’s worth seeking out for mileage-minded BMW shoppers.
Finally, there’s the ActiveHybrid 3. A turbocharged 3.0-liter engine and an electric motor mean that the ActiveHybrid 3 is the horsepower leader in the lineup, at 335. The downside is that it’s far from the most efficient, and it’s extremely rare.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Aside from two-wheel drive, two different four-wheel drive setups and a choice of suspensions, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has a few different engine options. Most come with the 3.6-liter V6 with 290 horsepower, and most of those are blessed with the eight-speed automatic introduced in 2012.
For more speed and towing capacity, there’s a 5.7-liter V8 and its 360 horsepower. The ubiquitous Hemi option is one of the few V8s left in the midsize SUV class. That means it’s your choice if you’re a fan of the V8 soundtrack.
But for torque and fuel economy, Jeep introduced the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel for 2014. Using a turbodiesel 3.0-liter V6, it’s capable of just 240 horsepower, but 420 pound feet of torque (30 more than you get from the V8). Through the eight-speed automatic, it’s also capable of a 30 mpg highway rating in two-wheel drive form, although that’s unlikely to be achieved if you’re using the diesel’s towing capacity.