Four-cylinder engines have been around forever. They are compact enough to fit in any engine bay yet powerful enough to push and pull most cars. For this reason, the four-cylinder engine was and still is the engine of choice for millions of regular car buyers. For those who need a little more, there are six and eight-cylinder engines, but if your needs are just for transportation, the four-cylinder engine will do.
Despite the spike in power, four-cylinder engines never earned performance engine credentials. In fact, most true sports car fans never accepted the four-cylinder engine as a proper power plant for a performance car. If you are one of them, keep reading, because here are 36 powerful and potent four-cylinders that have astonished the automobile public with the performance they deliver.
36. BMW M3 E30
When most people think of BMW performance, they think of the “M” class cars. But among 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 which they designed to compete in the European Touring Car Championship.
At first, BMW didn’t envision the performance version of their E30 3-Series, but when Mercedes introduced the 190E 2.3-16 model, 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 and 195 and later 215 HP. Since the car was light, its performance and road-holding were great and the M3 turned out to be the most successful racing car in touring car racing history.
The road-going variants lead to the creation of a bigger 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that could produce 238 HP, a hefty number even by current standards. Whichever version of the E30 M3 you test, the 0 to 60 mph will be under seven seconds and the top speed will be over 150 mph. That’s quite respectable for a 30-year-old car with a small four-cylinder engine. All that cemented the M3`s reputation and helped turn it into one of the biggest legends in four-cylinder car history.