There is quite no replacement for displacement. Except maybe turbochargers. We all know that large capacity engines with more than six cylinders have a) power, b) beautiful engine sounds, and c) power. Case in point, we can list pretty much an endless number of engines using this criteria. For example, a Masearti V-8, Alfa Romeo’s Busso V-6, every V-8 ever made in America and, everything that says V-12.
But the list gets substantially smaller as cylinders get lopped-off and displacement decreases. In these trying times large capacity engines are being replaced with smaller, turbocharged successors that offer the same power figures as the engines they are replacing while also sounding dull and lifeless. And as we all know, downsizing is a myth. The exercise we have below is quite difficult as we only get to list four of the best four cylinder engines ever made. There are many powerful ones like Ford’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost but its turbocharged. Therefore, it doesn’t sound good. It sounds angry and lopsided and it proves that having a large engine is still the way to go because it is a thirsty little bastard.
Without further adieu, here are the engines that will prove that you do not need to have a large capacity, multi-bored engines to have fun, have power, and above all else, sound good.
The engine is designed by Giuseppe Busso and the 1750 above is designed by Giorgio Guigairo. That alone says how great this car was. And that engine note is nothing short of heavenly. The Twin Cam range is composed of engines with capacities from 1.3- to 2.0-liters, all with a dual over-head camshaft and hemispherical cylinder heads. If only it weren’t that hard to find and expensive to tune, we’ll get one in a heartbeat. But a pristine example from Alfaholics costs upwards of £200k you could almost already buy a Ferrari.
Toyota 4A-GE “Black Top”
The Drifter’s Choice for being lightweight, this engine is up there with the greats like the 2JZ. This legend was the first four pot to have dual head-camshafts and a 16-valve head in 1982. Alfa above only had an 8-valve head until 1994. It is also cheap to acquire and tune. Maintenance is a breeze because, well, it’s a Toyota. You fix it with a hammer. Or not fix it at all since it is built to run forever. A good example might set you back by about £1000 and another £4000 for tuning but what you’ll have is a very special, and very rare engine. It has 20-valves! To put that in perspective, a ‘normal’ OHV muscle car ‘only’ has 16 valves but it has twice the number of cylinders.
This Toyota engine can take ridiculous amounts of boost, made to rev to 13,000rpm and not explode. Some example have been tuned to 900 hp which is McLaren Senna territory. But for the sensible chap in us, it can be stroked to 1753cc, make 197 hp, sound as good as the Alfa Romeo Twin Cam while revving at 8,200rpm – which is a rarity these days, you’d be lucky if you got ppast 7,000 – and be more fuel-efficient than Ford’s 1.0 inline-3 EcoBoost in the Fiesta. Like we said, ridiculous. And flat-out amazing!
A high-revving engine that produces 240 hp from only 2.0-liters. Without turbos. When you hear the sound of it you’ll think it is lifted right out of Honda’s F1 racing team. It screams at the top of its lungs as it approaches 9000rpm. This is the pinnacle of Honda’s VTEC technology as after they have stopped producing them, Honda started to make dull and lifeless cars.
This engine was chosen because, although high-revving, the B16 and B18 sounds like fart after a long night at a pub. Like the Toyota, it was also bullet-proof reliable. But unlike the Toyota’s virtually infinitely tuneable nature, the K20 starts having reliability issues past 600 hp. It’s not a deal breaker as that is still an awful-lot of power.
The only turbocharged engine in the group, this engine presents itself as an engineering marvel. This is also the largest capacity engine here at 2.5-liters. It has bullet-proof reliability because it is from Japan. See a pattern here? There is also a distinct growl for an engine that cancels secondary vibrations so that it will be inherently balanced. In its last days, stock power figures climb to 305 hp from 260 in the late 90’s. But it can be easily tuned past 500 hp by which time it will sound like an angry tractor. It also has the thirst of a proper V-6 but you do get to be unique by being a Boxer-4. I wonder why Porsche stopped producing flat-6’s for Caymans and Boxsters when they don’t sound as beautiful, and there are really no gains in fuel economy. But those exhaust pops…
What engines do you think are more deserving to be listed here? Comment below.