Many of us grew up learning the ropes of engine work on our favorite 4-cylinder engines, and many of those platforms are still as relevant today as ever. In PASMAG issue #151, we investigated which 4-bangers are considered the best in tuning history with some digging through the files, talking to performance shops, and asking our audience. Here are the top 10:
Popular In: Civic, CRX, Integra
Year Introduced: 1988
- First usage of Honda’s VTEC system that we all know and love.
- 1.6L, 1.7L, 1.8L, and 2.0L variants.
- B16 bottom end + B20 CRV head = B20VTEC (badass NA four-cylinder).
Popular In:Civic, CRX, RSX
- Two short block options, differentiated by deck height. K20 deck height is 212 mm, whereas K23 and K24 deck height is 231.5 mm.
- Possibly the best four-cylinder engine ever based on versatility, reliability, and ease of modification.
- Developed specifically for S2000.
- 9,000 RPM redline.
- Most brake-horsepower-per-liter and quickest piston speed upon initial release.
Popular In: 180sx, 240sx, Silvia, Pulsar GTi-R
Year Introduced: 1989
- Some of the greatest turbocharged engine noises in the world.
- Factory forged pistons in later generations (S15 Silvia).
- Lightweight and easy to work on. Just try not to open the bottom end unless you know what you’re doing.
MITSUBISHI SIRIUS 4G63T
Popular In: Galant VR-4, Lancer Evolution
- Probably the most heavily-modifiable four-banger in any production road car ever.
- Frequently built to four-digit horsepower.
- Insane builds have seen the 2,000 horsepower region with 13,000 RPM.
GM L850 ECOTEC
Popular In: HHR SS, Saturn Sky, Solstice GXP
- Factory forged rods and crankshaft.
- High-pressure fuel injection system.
- The final kickass move by GM Performance Division before the program’s cancellation.
Popular In: E30 M3
- No direct successor or predecessor.
- Made specifically for BMW’s phenomenal E30 M3.
- Based on M10 block and M88 head, minus two cylinders.
Popular In:AE86 Corolla, Celica, MR2
- Rev-happy iron block straight from the factory.
- Supercharged in 1988 (4AGZE) with forged internals and oil squirters.
- Famous “Silver Top” and “Black Top” 20v models introduced in JDM AE101 and AE111 Trueno models.
Popular In: Celica, Altezza
Year Introduced: 1984
- Best known for the “BEAMS” (Breakthrough Engine with Advanced Mechanism System) model among enthusiasts.
- Pulled off the greatest motorsports cheat of all time in a 3S-GTE Celica GT-4, earning a two-year ban from WRC in 1995 (look it up –it’s amazing).
- Cast iron block with alloy cylinder heads.
VAG 1.8T 20V
Popular In:Golf, Jetta, TT, A4
- Used in every generation of VW Golf from 1998-present.
- Five valves per cylinder.
- Head designed by Cosworth for maximum flow.