The Best 4-Bangers Throughout Tuning History

The Best 4-Bangers Throughout Tuning History

Many of us grew up learning the ropes of engine work on our favorite 4-cylinder engines, and many of those platforms are still as relevant today as ever. In PASMAG issue #151, we investigated which 4-bangers are considered the best in tuning history with some digging through the files, talking to performance shops, and asking our audience. Here are the top 10:

Honda B16


Valvetrain: SOHC/DOHC
Popular In: Civic, CRX, Integra
Year Introduced: 1988

  • First usage of Honda’s VTEC system that we all know and love.
  • 1.6L, 1.7L, 1.8L, and 2.0L variants.
  • B16 bottom end + B20 CRV head = B20VTEC (badass NA four-cylinder).

Honda KSeries


Valvetrain: DOHC
Popular In:Civic, CRX, RSX
Year Introduced:2001

  • Two short block options, differentiated by deck height. K20 deck height is 212 mm, whereas K23 and K24 deck height is 231.5 mm.
  • Possibly the best four-cylinder engine ever based on versatility, reliability, and ease of modification.

Honda F20


Valvetrain: DOHC
Popular In:S2000
Year Introduced:2000

  • Developed specifically for S2000.
  • 9,000 RPM redline.
  • Most brake-horsepower-per-liter and quickest piston speed upon initial release.

SR1024 52812.1409150392.1280.1280


Valvetrain:  DOHC
Popular In: 180sx, 240sx, Silvia, Pulsar GTi-R 
Year Introduced: 1989

  • Some of the greatest turbocharged engine noises in the world.
  • Factory forged pistons in later generations (S15 Silvia).
  • Lightweight and easy to work on. Just try not to open the bottom end unless you know what you’re doing.

Mitsubishi 4G63


Valvetrain: DOHC
Popular In: Galant VR-4, Lancer Evolution
Year Introduced:1989

  • Probably the most heavily-modifiable four-banger in any production road car ever.
  • Frequently built to four-digit horsepower.
  • Insane builds have seen the 2,000 horsepower region with 13,000 RPM.

GM Ecotec


Valvetrain: DOHC
Popular In:  HHR SS, Saturn Sky, Solstice GXP
Year Introduced:1994

  • Factory forged rods and crankshaft.
  • High-pressure fuel injection system.
  • The final kickass move by GM Performance Division before the program’s cancellation.



Valvetrain: DOHC
Popular In: E30 M3
Year Introduced:1986

  • No direct successor or predecessor.
  • Made specifically for BMW’s phenomenal E30 M3.
  • Based on M10 block and M88 head, minus two cylinders.

Toyota 4A GE 2


Valvetrain: DOHC
Popular In:AE86 Corolla, Celica, MR2
Year Introduced:1983

  • Rev-happy iron block straight from the factory.
  • Supercharged in 1988 (4AGZE) with forged internals and oil squirters.
  • Famous “Silver Top” and “Black Top” 20v models introduced in JDM AE101 and AE111 Trueno models.

Toyota 3S GE BEAMS


Valvetrain:  DOHC
Popular In:  Celica, Altezza
Year Introduced:  1984

  • Best known for the “BEAMS” (Breakthrough Engine with Advanced Mechanism System) model among enthusiasts.
  • Pulled off the greatest motorsports cheat of all time in a 3S-GTE Celica GT-4, earning a two-year ban from WRC in 1995 (look it up –it’s amazing).
  • Cast iron block with alloy cylinder heads.

SR1024 52812.1409150392.1280.1280

VAG 1.8T 20V

Valvetrain: DOHC
Popular In:Golf, Jetta, TT, A4
Year Introduced:1997

  • Used in every generation of VW Golf from 1998-present.
  • Five valves per cylinder.
  • Head designed by Cosworth for maximum flow.

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