best 4 cylinder turbo engine

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There are a variety of reasons manufacturers choose to fit a 4-cylinder engine in their cars. They’re compact, lightweight and typically more fuel-efficient compared to all other mainstream alternatives. This makes them ideal for smaller cars – particularly those with economy being top of mind – but can serve just as well in heavier cars (which are often AWD) with a turbocharger providing some assistance.

Honda F20C/F22C

Suggested by Sxizofrenis
Suggested by Sxizofrenis

240bhp from a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine is an impressive enough feat from the F20C, before you consider the variable valve timing. And the 9000rpm redline. And the fact it’s pretty much bullet proof. It powered the Honda S2000 until the car’s discontinuation in 2009, with some markets receiving the larger ‘F22C’ variant (pictured).

Mitsubishi 4G63

Suggested by Stunt
Suggested by Stunt

It was around for decades and powered countless cars in myriad forms – SOHC, DOHC, carb’d, injected, N/A, turbocharged, you name it – but arguably the 4G63’s most famous application was in the Evolution line of Mitsubishi Lancers. The last Evo it appeared in was the IX, where it produced anything up to 366bhp.

VW EA888

Suggested by Freddie Skeates
Suggested by Freddie Skeates

It may be one of the more clinical engines here, but you can’t argue with the EA888’s flexibility, and its performance potential. In the VW Golf R and Audi S3 it’s good for a mighty 297bhp, and although that doesn’t sound quite as impressive as the 366bhp 4G63T in the Mitsubishi Evo IX FQ360 we just talked about, it’s important to note that you get all that power with some pretty decent fuel economy.

It’s moved the game on, and proves that you can have cars as punchy as the recently departed Evo X and current (and ludicrously thirsty) Subaru WRX STI with fewer drawbacks. And there’s more to come: should the Golf R400 survive VW Group’s post-emissions scandal cutbacks, we could be seeing a 395bhp version in production before too long.

Alfa Romeo Twin Spark

Suggested by Chris Gunn
Suggested by Chris Gunn

It may be the ‘Busso’ V6 that gets all the attention when people reminisce about Alfa Romeo engines of the past, but we shouldn’t forget about the old Twin Spark four-banger. It utilises a second, smaller spark plug for each cylinder at the edge of the combustion chamber, all in the name of improving combustion efficiency.

It’s a technology that’s never really caught on – indeed, Alfa itself gave up on it, replacing the TS line of engines with the direct-injected JTS series – but it’s a characterful unit with a distinctive zingy induction noise. Displacement ranged from 1.4 to 2.0 litres, with the latter size producing 150bhp.

Subaru EJ25

Suggested by Daniel Ace
Suggested by Daniel Ace

The EJ25 is a bit of an awkward one. It was a popular choice in the original community question we put out, but there are plenty of reasons why it shouldn’t be here. Certain versions are known to be prone to head gasket failures, and they’re not what you’d call economical – as alluded to earlier, the current EJ25-powered Subaru WRX STI is made to look shockingly thirsty next to the current crop of as-powerful hot hatches.

But this list wouldn’t be complete without a Subaru boxer engine, and we love the fact that the EJ25 still exists. It’s a glorious oddity in a world of relatively characterless inline-fours, and while it may not sound as burbly as the older unequal-length header-equipped Subaru boxers, the most recent EJ257 version makes a lovely distinctive noise.

Volvo B230FT

Suggested by Emil Wiselqvist
Suggested by Emil Wiselqvist

Part of Volvo’s ‘Redblock’ family of ‘slant-four’ engines, the B230FT has a well-deserved reputation for strength and durability thanks to a refreshingly simple design. The most powerful versions are good for 190bhp.

7. SR20DET

Suggested by Jiří
Suggested by Jiří

Like many of the engines here, SR20DET production started more than 20 years ago. And, many of its more famous applications occurred before 1995. However, since it powered the S15 Silvia – where it produced up to 247bhp – right into the Noughties, and since it’s a bonafide legend in our petrolhead circle, we could hardly not include it. It’s reliable, easy to tune, and cheap to maintain. What’s not to love?

Toyota 3S-GE

Suggested by Tristan Lopez
Suggested by Tristan Lopez

The actual suggestion was for all generations of 3S-GE, but the one I want to focus on is the fifth-generation version, also known as the ‘Blacktop’. Like all 3S-GE ‘BEAMS’ engines, this one was produced in conjunction with Yamaha, and it was the most powerful of the series, with 207bhp developed at 7600rpm. It powered just one car: the Toyota Altezza RS200.

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