Porsche 944 Turbo
In 1983, Porsche presented the 944, which proved to be an important model for the brand. One of the main features of this new car was a 2.5-liter four cylinder that could deliver 170 HP at first. This may not be an impressive number today, but it was potent by mid-80’s standards. The evolution of the Porsche 944 included enlarging the 2.5-liter four to 3.0-liters to produce 211 HP in the S2 form.
But the most interesting version was the 944 Turbo S. It had a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine that could put out 250 HP. Due to its light weight, solid transmission and aerodynamics, the 944 Turbo S was a fast car. The 0 to 60 mph took only 5.5 seconds and it could top 162 mph. Even today, this little Porsche can outrun some modern sports cars.
BMW M3 E30
When most people think of BMW performance, they think of the “M” class cars. And, among the dozens of models that wore the M badge, the M3 E30 is the most iconic. BMW produced them from 1985 to 1992. The E30 M3 was a homologation special they designed to compete in the European Touring Car Championship. At first, BMW didn’t envision the performance version of their E30 3-Series.
However, when Mercedes introduced the 190E 2.3-16, BMW quickly reacted, and the M3 was born. The heart of the E30 M3 was the S14 straight four engine with 2.3-liters of displacement. At first, it produced 195, but later, the output was 215 HP. Since the car was light, the performance and road holding was great. In fact, the M3 was the most successful racing car in touring car racing history.
This little sports coupe comes with the signature flat-four, two-liter engine that delivers 205 HP. The BRZ is a light and nimble coupe, but its secret is in the engine position. Since Subaru has a flat four engine, the center of gravity is lower than the regular inline four-cylinder motor. The lower center of gravity plants the car to the ground, improving the driving dynamics.
This makes the BRZ easier to handle. It also has a six-speed manual gearbox, which helps the BRZ deliver a lively performance and engaging drive. The 0 to 60 mph sprint takes 6.7 seconds while the top speed is 145 mph. With the affordable price and those performance numbers, the BRZ is a highly desirable model.
Alfa Romeo 4C
In 2013, Alfa Romeo introduced the 4C. But nobody expected such a car from Alfa Romeo. The 4C was a “junior supercar” with a carbon fiber tub, cramped interior and lightweight construction. However, it had a four-cylinder turbocharged engine.
The heart of the 4C is that tiny, 1.8-liter engine with a turbocharger that delivers 238 HP to the rear wheels. And the performance numbers are impressive. The Alfa Romeo 4C can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and top 160 mph.
Ford Mustang EcoBoost
Even before the Camaro with a 2.0-liter engine, Mustang introduced the 2.3-liter EcoBoost with 315 HP, delivering a convincing performance. Ford was the first major manufacturer to introduce the downsized, turbocharged engine during the economic recession. It looked strange at first, but it proved to be a good business move since the biggest part of Ford’s global engine lineup includes turbocharged four cylinders.
This influenced the production of traditional muscle cars like the Mustang. So, when Ford presented the latest generation, the 2.3-liter EcoBoost had a place in their engine lineup. Soon, the engine proved to be capable and popular with consumers. With an acceleration time of 5.1 seconds to get from 0 to 60 mph and around 150 mph, it is fast.
While most people know the Z4 with the straight six is a good performer, many will be amazed at how good the four-cylinder performs. The heart of the Z4 is a turbocharged, 2.0 liter, four-pot engine that delivers 240 HP. That’s a powerful output that guarantees performance and economy.
The Z4 can go from 0 to 60 mph in under six seconds and top 155 mph, which is impressive for an engine that is the size of a two-liter soda bottle. The other advantage of this 2.0-liter turbo unit is the weight distribution. The Z4 has a nearly perfect weight distribution, which means it can provide great driving dynamics and neutral road holding.
Volkswagen Golf R
The R is the top of the line Golf with a powerful four-cylinder turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive. In fact, it delivers brutal performance for a family hatchback. The R version is the derivate of the mighty R32 Golfs from the early 2000’s. And those cars featured the 3.2-liter naturally-aspirated V6 engine.
However, the latest versions feature a smaller, more powerful 2.0-liter turbo four, which delivers almost 292 HP. As you can expect, the performance is quite brutal for what is basically a family compact. To get from 0 to 60 mph takes 4.5 seconds and this car can top 155 mph, which is amazing.
Mercedes CLA and GLA 45 AMG
Nobody expected Mercedes would enter the compact performance class or hot hatch class. After all, Mercedes is famous for big sedans that define luxury and comfort, rather than compact cars with screaming engines. And most of all, nobody expected Mercedes would do it so well.
The secret of the performance of the CLA, GLA and A Class 45 AMG is the unbelievably powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It started with 345 HP, and for the 2017 model year, it produced a whopping 381 HP. For a comparison, the 2.0-liter four delivers as much power as the 5.0-liter V8 from a couple of years ago.
Honda Civic Type R
The latest addition to the powerful four-cylinder car club is the fifth generation Honda Civic Type R. The new performance Civic looks like every racer’s dream with numerous spoilers, scoops and air vents all over the body. The aggressive design, great performance and JDM appeal make this Civic a valuable and highly sought-after addition to the hot hatch class.
Honda has resisted the temptation to turbocharge its performance engines for a long time. However, the Civic Type R has exactly that under the hood just like any other competitor in its class. The 2.0-liter turbo four delivers 306 HP and can propel this nasty-looking Civic Type R from 0 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. Best of all, it can top 170 mph.
Subaru Impreza WRX
Another street racing and rally legend is the famous Subaru WRX STI. For decades, Subaru has been one of most powerful four-cylinder cars on the market. And the latest generation of WRX STI doesn’t disappoint. Under the hood is a flat four engine with 2.5-liters of displacement, as well as a turbocharger. This combo delivers 305 HP, which goes to all four wheels via a six-speed manual.
It’s a true driver’s car with a proper manual gearbox, great road holding and enough power to make this car fly. The performance numbers are respectable, too. It goes from 0 to 60 in just 5.1 seconds and has a top speed of 160 mph. Since this is a four-door car, it is also quite practical because it can seat five people. Surprisingly, it has an ample-sized trunk, too.
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Everybody went crazy when Alfa released the new Giulia Quadrifoglio performance sedan with 510 HP. But what can you do if you can’t afford this Italian masterpiece but still want the Giulia design and performance? The answer is simple. Just buy a Giulia Turbo with 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and 280 HP.
Despite being an entry-level model, the Giulia Turbo boasts numerous interesting features. Also, it delivers a convincing performance and has a charming design. And better yet, the 280 HP engine can propel this sedan from 0 to 60 mph in six seconds. And that is more than enough for most drivers.
Chevrolet Cobalt SS
Although they discontinued it, most car fans will remember the Chevrolet Cobalt SS as one of the best, most powerful four-cylinder cars. It was available as a supercharged, turbocharged or naturally aspirated model. But the best SS was the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder they introduced in 2008.
The engine delivered 260 HP, which was astonishing by the standards of the day and more than any of their competitors. Also, the Cobalt SS had big tuning potential, so it is easy to get even more power from this engine.
The current F-Type sports car from Jaguar is quite a successful model. In fact, everybody seems to adore the crazy 5.0 SVR model with 550 HP and its thundering soundtrack. However, Jaguar introduced an interesting entry-level model in the form of the 2.0-liter turbocharged F-Type.
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder delivers 300 HP, which is enough to earn a sports car reputation. Unfortunately, it only comes with automatic transmission, so Jaguar fans are hoping they will introduce a manual option, as well.
BMW got its reputation for putting high revving straight six engines into compact sedans. However, lately, they’ve attracted a new generation of car enthusiasts by producing highly capable, small four-cylinder turbocharged engines. But the best example is the current 330i 3-Series sedan.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter four they equipped with twin turbo technology. And it helps this small unit produce 248 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque. Thanks to the intelligent eight-speed automatic transmission and a host of electronic systems, this compact executive sedan can accelerate to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds.
Fiat 500 Abarth
Although the 500 Abarth gets only 160 HP from its tiny turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, it’s a fast little car. And that’s mainly due to its light weight and compact dimensions. Also, it is extremely practical for everyday driving and easy to park as well.
Best yet, Fiat has enhanced the package with a small price and running costs. However, don’t be fooled by relatively small power output. Thanks to the tiny dimensions, this car is extremely capable and nimble, so it can leave a few V8s in the dust.
Porsche 718 S
The Porsche that is one of the most popular cars for sale is the 718. For those who don’t know, it is a fully restyled and redesigned Boxter with 2.0 and 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines. The smaller engine delivers 300 HP, while the bigger produces 350 HP thanks to turbocharging.
This kind of power guarantees a brutal performance. In fact, the 718 can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds, topping 170 mph. But if you choose the more powerful version, you can see the 60 mph mark in 4.1 seconds, but the top speed will stay the same.
Ford Focus ST
The third generation Ford Focus was a great economy compact car. However, when Ford introduced the ST model in 2012, car buyers got an almost perfect hot hatch. And under the hood was a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a turbocharger and 252 HP.
They perfectly tuned the car, so it represented a fantastic balance between performance and everyday usability. The Focus ST is popular because it’s the perfect daily commuter car, as well as driving enthusiast’s dream on the weekends. But best of all, with a base price of just $26,000, the ST is a great deal.
Mitsubishi Evo X
Even though Mitsubishi discontinued it, the Lancer Evo X is a legend among performance car enthusiasts. For sure, the automotive world misses this long-lasting series of four-door sedans with four-wheel drive and powerful four-cylinder turbocharged engines.
The latest version, called the Evo X comes with a 2.0-liter turbo engine delivering 291 HP. Experts say the engine’s output is more likely around 320 HP, but Mitsubishi markets it as 291 HP. However, the performance figures were astonishing. The 0 to 60 mph acceleration time is 4.5 seconds and the Evo X can almost top 160 mph.
Fiat 124 Abarth Spider
One of the most stylish roadsters currently on the market is the Fiat 124 Spider. They introduced the original 124 Spider in 1966. But now, 50 years later, Fiat has presented the new version with charming retro-futuristic styling. And best of all, Fiat added lots of interesting features and a chassis from the Mazda Miata/MX-5.
Fiat installed its own engine in the form of a tiny 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The displacement may be small, but this engine is big on power, producing 164 HP. And that is good enough to launch this small roadster from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. Also, it can achieve 130 mph in the Abarth trim level.
Audi S3 Sedan
Available as stealth compact sedan, the Audi S3 is rocket they disguised as a family car. Under the hood is 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 296 HP and all-wheel drive. This combo is extremely capable. In fact, the S3 Sedan can jump to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds.
Also, it delivers an electronically-limited top speed of 155 mph. Those numbers were supercar territory just a few years back. And they show how far those four-cylinder engines have come.
Mini John Cooper Works
Mini was always a benchmark car in terms of driving dynamics, precision steering and a pure hot hatch feel. And the newest John Cooper Works edition doesn’t disappoint. With its 228 HP four-cylinder engine, it is a capable urban runabout.
The acceleration from 0 to 60 mph is achievable in just 5.9 seconds while top speed is 140 mph. And that is more than enough to run away from most V8 engines.
The Honda S2000 is a true driver’s car with all the important features. They include its lightweight construction and ideal weight distribution. And they added a powerful, rev-happy engine and razor-sharp handling. But the best news, they took all of that and put it in an elegant open-top package.
Under the hood is a 2.0 or 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine with 240 HP, which was the main selling point of the car. This little gem of an engine features a 9,000-rpm redline and four valves per cylinder. But most importantly, it has the famous Honda V-Tec system that provides its power in high rpms with a wonderful screaming sound.
Dodge Neon SRT-4
Dodge introduced the Neon SRT-4 in 2003. And it was one of the best and the most affordable performance cars in America at the time. They transformed the compact Neon into a pocket rocket by adding a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
It produces 230 HP to propel Neon from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. However, many owners tuned their Neon SRT4 as soon as they left the dealership. In fact, some owners even managed to squeeze over 400 HP from its 2.4-liter engine.
A hidden gem in the BMW coupe range is the 230i. And although it’s not as powerful as the mighty M2, it is almost as fast. Look under the hood, and you’ll find a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a turbocharger that produces 248 HP.
With its compact dimensions, proper weight balance and rear wheel drive, the 230i delivers an impressive performance. For instance, the 230i is capable of reaching 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, topping 155 mph.
In the early â80s, Carroll Shelby teamed up with Dodge to create his version of the compact Omni. Dodge named it the Omni GLH and it was a proper hot hatch as well as one of the best affordable performance models in those days. Nobody expected Dodge could produce a hot hatch to beat their European competitors, but with Shelby’s help, they did just that.
Shelby took the 2.2-liter four-cylinder and added a turbocharger to produce a total output of 175 HP. Also, the Omni GLH could go from 0 to 60 mph in less than seven seconds. And that was not only impressive, but it was also highly competitive for the times.
Volvo V60 Polestar
The V60 Polestar is an interesting station wagon, as well as one of the best driving cars in its class. As the successor to the classic 850 R Wagon, the V60 brings elegance, quality and craftsmanship. In fact, Volvo managed to put power, stealth and performance in their exclusive Polestar package.
Under the hood is 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine with 345 HP and intelligent all-wheel drive. This combo is capable of 0 to 60 mph times of just over five seconds. Yet it still provides a decent fuel economy and functioning, just as any regular Volvo station wagon.
Ford Mustang SVO
Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) department introduced a special Mustang SVO for 1984. It featured a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 175 HP, which was quite the power output for a small engine. As a light car, the â84 Mustang SVO was hot at the moment.
The package included four-wheel disc brakes, a stiffer suspension and sharper steering, transforming the little Mustang into a capable sports car. For 1985, the SVO upped the power to an impressive 205 HP. And that turned the eyes of the motoring public to those third-generation Mustangs.
These are the top 30 cars with four-cylinder engines that are faster than a V8. Have you found your favorite? If you buy one of these, be sure to check the speed limit since you’ll be tempted to drive faster.