EclipseDog - Not too long ago I did some number crunching on how long it would take a UFO to reach Earth from Mars according to their maximum velocity. The Small Scout would take 2 Years, 69 days and change to reach Earth (799 days). The Battleship would take 351.9 days or a little less than a year at its maximum velocity!
On average, Earth is 48,600,000 miles from Mars. So let us assume a one-month trip to get to Earth is a tolerable amount of time. To get a speed out of this you need to divide 48,600,000 miles by 730.5 (the average number of hours in an average month in an average year). The result is 66,530 mph, 107,069 kph, 57,813 knots, or over Mach 87.5! NASA's space shuttle returns from earths orbit at a speedy Mach 25 but this is nowhere near the Mach 88 average sustainable velocity necessary to reach Earth in one month!
I also determined the fuel efficiency of X-COM crafts a while ago. Each ship was sent from my base in northern Mongolia to the north pole for a round-trip of 12,210 miles. The Avenger is the most fuel efficient craft in the game using up 20% of its fuel or 2.4 units of Elerium out of 12 for this mission. On a full tank of 12 units of Elerium, the Avenger could theoretically fly 61,050 miles non-stop. Just to get to Mars, it would use 9553 units of Elerium, and require 796 refuelings! This is assuming that the Avenger gets the same velocity on Earth as in space, which is a bad assumption.
The reason you do not see UFOs carrying huge stockpiles of Elerium on board is because they already do! Each Power Source has 50 units of Elerium to use - the Avenger only has 12 units for 2 engines! This is why the larger UFOs can out-distance the Avenger any day of the week.
The Avenger, with 2 Power Sources, is more fuel efficient than the Firestorm with 1 Power Source - but not by much. The law of deminishing returns must start to apply with craft with 2 or more engines. Most likely, the 2nd engine only adds to the range of the craft and not much to the velocity. The Battleship and Terror Ship have 4 Power Sources and 200 units of Elerium to draw upon. Even with 4 engines, these UFOs get about the same velocity as the Avenger, but the main point is that they can out-range your Avengers without even trying!
Each additional engine beyond the 1st one adds to the range. So with 4 engines, and assuming the same fuel efficiency as the Avenger, the range of the Battleship and Terror Ship should be 1,017,500 miles or roughly 42 times around Earth's equator! WOW!
So to summarize:
All craft probably get way-better velocity and fuel efficiency in space than on Earth. This is because of air friction and the density of air in Earth's atmosphere. In space there is hardly any friction and almost zero density because the molecules are spread so far apart. Also, these craft can keep accelerating in space, whereas on Earth acceleration is capped because of friction and the like. The maximum velocity the game gives is probably the maximum velocity on Earth, not in space - meaning these craft are capable of much higher velocities than shown.