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20 of the Best-Sounding 4-Cylinder Engines Prove You Don’t Need a V8

4-Cylinder Cars Aren’t as Bad as Portrayed

If you want your car to have the most awesome engine sound there is, then you should look no further than a V8. There are numerous ways of enhancing the engine sound like custom exhausts, turbos, mufflers, etc., but we’ll remain in stock territory here. Since V8s aren’t exactly that desirable anymore due to their gas-guzzling habits, you might want to try and find the best-sounding straight-six for example. Oh, wait, we’ve already done that for you. Naturally, our next move is to downsize even more. And what’s the lowest we can go (not counting the extremely rare and not that enthusiastic 3-cylinders)? It’s the 4-cylinder, of course. Whether naturally aspirated or turbocharged, here are twenty of the best-sounding 4-cylinder engines ever produced.

Fiat 1.4L Fire TurboJet I4

Found in: Fiat 500 Abarth

I know how it looks like, but I don’t really care. Fiat 500 Abarth might be riddled with issues, but sweet 1.4L I4 ain’t one of them. Especially its sound. Fire stands for Fully Integrated Robotised Engine and although that alone sounds badass, it’s nothing other than reference to its robot assembly plant construction. Abarth 500’s 1.4L turbo four produces 160 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque unless you opt for automatic which will take 3 hp from that score, but add 13 lb-ft of torque instead. Moreover, there are numerous aftermarket exhaust made especially for it.

Ford 2.3L EcoBoost I4

Found in: Ford Focus RS

New generation of Focus RS can now boast with 350 horsepower and 350 feet-pound of twist. Not only that, but thanks to revised Ford Mustang 2.3L EcoBoost four banger, it also boasts one of the most incredible engine notes we’ve recently heard. And it’s a new 4-cylinder car which means it’ll be available for quite some time now. This means you can have it as well. If you have north of $35,000 for a compact hatch, that is.

Porsche 587/3 flat-four

Found in: Porsche 904 Carrera GTS

Porsche 587/3 flat-four is still dubbed the most complex Porsche engine ever created, and probably the most complicated 4-cylinder engine overall. 2.0L DOHC flat-four drove the rear wheels of the race-spec 904 Carrera GTS back in mid-sixties, and delivered 153 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque. it also had two Weber carburetors which further enhanced its engine note.

Mitsubishi 4B11T

Found in: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X

Sadly, Lancer Evo X had just recently gone from this world and effectively killed of the Lancer nameplate. What will remain, apart from its impeccable performance and handling, is its incredible exhaust note. Last generation of Evo Lancers had the updated 2.0L turbo four which was a part of the 4B1 engine series produced since 2007. It generated 291 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque which are superb figures for any four banger.

Honda B18C

Found in: Honda/Acura Integra Type R

Year was 1995 when Honda introduced the Integra Type R back home in Japan. Its B18C version of the 1.8L VTEC four banger managed to produce extremely respectable 178 horses and 126 lb-ft of torque considering it was normally aspirated. It could rev all the way to 8,200 redline and accelerate to 60 in just north of 6 seconds. US-spec B18C1 engine didn’t really differ in any department. It’s interesting that Honda actually lost money on every Integra Type R sold but they needed them for homologation purposes. So in order to thank them for that, we’ve put the engine on our little list. Deservedly so, I might add.

Any Offenhauser Indy I4

Found in: Offenhauser-powered sprint and midget open-wheel racers

Offy Racing Engines were established in now distant 1933 and they were ever-present in American open-wheel racing until the late seventies. Apart from being successful, Offy 4-cylinders also sounded great. All of them did. What else to expect from displacements as high as 4.4L and power outputs north of 400 horsepower? We’re still talking about the four bangers, mind you.

Toyota 3S GTE

Found in: Celica, MR2, Caldina

Toyota S engines have always been reliable choices no matter the application in which they were found. 3S GTE, however, was more than that. Normally aspirated and turbo 2.0L I4 made an appearance in the likes of 3rd, 4th and 5th gen Celica, and 2nd and 3rd gen MR2. It produced anything from 182 hp in Celica ST165 to 252 hp in MR2 ST205. And that sound!

Ford Taunus V4

Found in: Ford Mustang I

This oddball Ford engine first debuted in 1962 Ford Taunus, in Germany. It also powered the Mustang I prototype and various overseas Fords over the years. Furthermore, it was behind Saab 95 and 96 as well. Displacements varied from 1.2L to 1.7L, and so have the power outputs. Mustang I itself was powered by 1.5L version of the engine producing either 89 hp or 109 hp depending on road or track setup.

Fiat I4 – Lancia Delta Integrale

Found in: Lancia Delta Integrale

Giugiaro-designed Lancia Delta Integrale wasn’t only a thing to behold, but also a 4-cylinder car one could listen to for hours. It was powered by otherwise uninspiring Fiat 2.0L I4, but since Integrale was Group B rally car version of the Lancia Delta, it came with all-wheel drive, Garrett T3 turbocharger, and Weber fuel injection. Final versions of the car developed 212 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque, in 1993.

Nissan SR20DET

Found in: Nissan Silvia

Nissan’s 2.0L turbocharged DOHC I4 with the electronic fuel injection has made its home in numerous Nissans including Pulsar, Sunny, and most notably Silvia. S13, S14 and S15 Nissan Silvia used to make between 202 hp and 250 hp thanks to it. It wasn’t only powerful, but loud as well. SR20DET isn’t one of the best-sounding 4-cylinder engines for nothing, after all.

Honda B16B

Found in: Honda Civic Type R

Honda B engine or B16B to be more precise, is the heart and soul behind the first Civic Type R. 1.6L 4-cylinder was more than capable of putting up 182 hp and 118 lb-ft of torque. First Civic Type R wasn’t as powerful or fast as the successive models, but it did manage to produce the best sound. It also had the 8,500 rpm redline and 9,000 rev limiter.

Peugeot XU9 JA/K

Found in: Peugeot 205 GTi

Peugeot might not be the most prolific of automakers – at least not to the US buyers. Still, Peugeot 205 GTi was one mean little hatchback and GTi was its fastest iteration. 128 horsepower yet again, might not sound like much, but you have to remember that 205 GTi weighted less than 2,000 pounds. And its exhaust note is simply superb.

Cosworth YBT

Found in: Ford Escort RS Cosworth

YBT Cosworth engine has graced the engine bay of the rally special Ford Escort RS Cosworth between 1992 and 1994 before being replaced by YBP Cosworth engine. They both had 2.0L displacement and delivered upwards of 227 hp and 229 lb-ft of torque. Although Ford Escort RS Cosworth had never won the World Rally Championship, it was still one highly capable performer not to be trifled with. And, as you might have guessed, it sounded magnificently.

BMW S14

Found in: BMW M3 (E30)

Few of you will remember that the original M3 actually had the 4-cylinder engine. Straight-four was available throughout the entire first generation, and it practically created the M badge. It was offered in two displacement groups: 2.3L and 2.5L. Former delivered between 197 and 217 ponies while the latter produced 235 horsepower. Although sufficient for the original M compact sports car, 4-cylinder setup was abandoned in favor of the 6-cylinder layout in second generation M3.

Mitsubishi 4G63T

Found in: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution I through IX

Although Lancer Evo X has one superb-sounding engine, all prior Lancer Evos came with the older 4G63T mill which generally delivered between 244 hp and 286 hp. It too featured the same 2.0L displacement and came with a turbocharger. It too purred like a kitten and roared like a lion if needed. It too is one of the best-sounding 4-cylinder engines ever to have graced the car markets.

Toyota 4A-GE

Found in: Corolla, Celica, MR2

4A-GE was mostly famous for its appearances in Toyota Corolla. This 1.6L displacement 4-cylinder was produced in 16-valve form between ’83 and ’91. 20-valve version called Silver Top replaced the 16-valve and lasted until 1995. Finally, Black Top rounded up 4A-GE’s lifespan between ’95 and ’98. First of the options developed between 115 and 128 horsepower, while Silver and Black Tops generated 158 hp and 163 hp respectively. And they sounded just right as well.

Subaru EJ25 Boxer

Found in: Subaru Impreza, WRX STI

Subaru Boxer engines are widely considered as some of the absolute best-sounding 4-cylinder engines in the world. Their unique note can’t be matched by anything, and so can’t their extreme durability and impeccable reliability. EJ25 family of engines all feature the same 2.5L displacement. They’re best known for their role in powering the Subaru Impreza and later the WRX STI. In their final versions, they pushed up as much as 305 horsepower.

Honda F20C

Found in: Honda S2000

2.0L 4-cylinder VTEC engine is best known for its appearance under Honda S2000’s hood. Never had the naturally aspirated engine sounded so good as it had in the S2000. It produced a ludicrous 240 horses in Europe and North America and even crazier 247 ponies in Japan. Should I remind you this is the naturally aspirated four banger? Not only that, but it also had the ultra high 8,800 rpm redline which put it ahead of much more prominent rivals during its heyday.

Ford RS200 I4

Found in: Ford RS200

Group B rallying was so strong back in the eighties, and Ford RS200 is yet another proof of that statement. Although it didn’t have that long of a life span due to Group B being abolished in 1986, RS200 will remain remembered thanks to its original engine sound note. 1.8L I4 generated as much as 444 hp and 361 lb-ft of torque, but that wasn’t all. Ford had plans of evolving the RS200 by fitting it with 2.1L version of the engine making between 550 hp and 815 hp depending on setups. Strongest versions could allegedly accelerate to 60 mph in 2.1 seconds. FIA European Championships for Rallycross Drivers is the only event they ever competed in, however.

1750 Turbocharged I4

Found in: Alfa Romeo 4C

Alfa Romeo 4C is one contemporary piece of engineering and so is its 1.75L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Sports coupe and roadster (Spider version) is assembled in Maserati plant which speaks plenty by itself. It weighs just north of 2,000 pounds, produces 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, accelerates to 60 mph in as little as 4.2 seconds and reaches the top speed of 160 mph. And that engine simply sounds the way Beethoven’s 9th symphony would have sounded had it been composed for this piston-powered instrument of sheer quality.

Categories: List Articles

Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Although driving a piece of junk, Nikola is a true car enthusiast. Very few things move him as muscle cars do - especially those from the golden era. Which makes him wonder: why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been able to enjoy the likes of Pontiak Aztek, Fiat Multipla, and the likes this way - right?