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The 12 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time (2022 update)

If you love speed and acceleration, brace yourself for these most powerful 4-cylinder engines of all time.

Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time

If you love speed and acceleration, brace yourself for these most powerful 4-cylinder engines of all time. While a 4-cylinder engine might not exude the grandeur of a 12-cylinder powerhouse, it undeniably delivers the exhilaration and excitement you seek. Exotic cars are known for their high performance and astounding acceleration rates. However, they typically come with a hefty price tag. The good news is that you can enjoy similar top-performance engines without breaking the bank. Many of these engines can be found in sporty cars crafted by brands that are both budget-friendly and favored by the everyday working class.

When it comes to horsepower, four-cylinder engines are often overlooked, but some of them are true gems. While they may not have hundreds of horses, they do deliver incredible fuel efficiency. And they can do it without the use of many cylinders. In addition, to maximize performance, some enthusiasts turn to modifications like upgraded intercoolers or rebuilt turbochargers. These enhancements can extract even more power from these compact powerhouses. So, which four-cylinder engine is the most powerful?

Let's take a look. Below are the 12 most powerful four-cylinder engines of all time.

12Audi S3

The 12 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time: 12. Audi S3

2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 306 hp, 295 lb-ft

The Audi S3 has a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. That power is routed through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive. The actual test went from zero to 62 MPH in 4.6 seconds.

11Honda Civic Type R

The 12 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time: 11. Civic Type R

2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 306 hp, 295 lb-ft

A robust turbocharged 2.0-liter engine delivers a stout 306 horsepower, making the Honda Civic Type R a serious corner carver. The Civic has plenty of grips, a sharp cornering composure, and a refined ride. This car's 10-generation design has improved upon the idea of a compact car and added ergonomics, such as a center-exit triple-pipe exhaust system. The performance-oriented type-R is built to fit the needs of most drivers, making it an excellent choice for a newcomer.

10Subaru WRX STI

The 12 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time: 10. WRX STI

Turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four, 310 hp, 290 lb-ft

The Subaru WRX STI is a sporty sedan that features a direct-injection turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 310 horsepower. The suspension was tuned to handle any road and has quick-ratio steering. While the STI doesn't have a particularly loud exhaust note, most owners replace it with a set of beefier pipes. This creates familiar blat that can be heard at high revs. The resulting roar is satisfying and is definitely a plus to this sports sedan.

92022 Volkswagen Golf R

The 12 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time: 9. Golf R

Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder, 315 hp, 295 lb-ft

The redesigned Golf GTI has helped set the tone for the redesigned 2022 Golf R. While the GTI was a significant redesign, the Golf R is the next evolution of the hot hatch. The next-generation R model will feature a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 315 horsepower. The vehicle also features a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system and Individual drive mode.

The performance of the Golf R has been improved from previous generations. This latest generation will feature a redesigned 2.0L 4-cylinder TSI engine from the legendary EA888 product line. It will also have Drift mode, so you can let loose while cruising along. It is expected to be a fantastic handling machine. It should be quick too and can handle corners effortlessly. You can even buy the 2022 model with a Drift mode.

RELATED: Top 10 Fastest Hot Hatchbacks: Ranked by Top Speed

8Volvo XC90 T6

The 12 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time: 8. XC90 T6

2.0L turbocharged and supercharged I4, 316 hp, 295 lb-ft

The turbocharged 2.0 L 4-cylinder engine in the Volvo XC90 T6 produces 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Its direct fuel injection and automatic start/stop systems make it a very smooth ride. There are some complaints, though, including the noises it makes from the turbocharger. The XC90 T6 is one of the leading luxury crossover SUVs on the market.

7BMW 740e xDrive iPerformance

The 12 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time: 7. 740e

Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and an electric motor, 322 hp

The BMW 740e combines a twin-turbo 2.0 L four-cylinder engine with an electric motor for a combined 322 horsepower. The hybrid vehicle also has a 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which gives it a range of 14 miles when fully charged. You can recharge the battery at an electrical outlet or while driving on a regular basis.

The BMW 740e xDrive iPERFORMANCE has a combined peak torque of 369 foot-pounds. The car's torque is delivered with immediate response. It can dash from 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds, and it has an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.

RELATED: Top 6 Fastest BMW Cars of All Time

62020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High-Performance Package

The 12 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time: 6. Mustang EcoBoost HPP

2.3L Turbo I-4, 330 hp / 350 lb-ft

The high-performance Mustang is a significant upgrade over the base model. It features a stiffer suspension, larger turbo, thicker rear anti-sway bar, and heavier strut towers. It uses forced injection and a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine to produce 330 horsepower. This makes the 2020 Mustang the most powerful pony car in America.

RELATED: The 7 Rarest Mustang Models of All Time

52018 Ford Focus RS

The 12 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time: 5. Focus RS

Turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder, 350hp, 350 lb-ft

The Ford Focus RS is a sporty car with an all-wheel-drive system and a 350-horsepower engine. It also includes an upgraded suspension and 19-inch wheels with Michelin Super Sport tires. Other features of the Focus RS include HID headlamps, an electronic power steering system, 10-speaker Sony audio, and additional gauges. Recaro racing seats are available and are heated and leather-trimmed. This vehicle's lowered stance gives it a dramatic look.

4Porsche 718 Boxster S

The 12 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time: 4. 718 Boxster S

Turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four, 350 hp, 309 lb-ft

The 2020 Porsche 718 Boxster S is the most potent four-cylinder 718 available. a 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-four spins out 350 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque, Porsche says a 718 Boxster S with PDK will reach 60mph from a standstill in four seconds flat, assisted by a launch control system.

RELATED: Porsche Cayman vs. Porsche Boxster: Which to Buy?

32018 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS

The 12 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time: 3. 718 Cayman GTS

Turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four-cylinder, 365 hp, 309 lb-ft

The 2018 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS is the newest addition to the popular two-door sports car lineup. The turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-4 makes 365 hp, and the updated model comes standard with torque vectoring, adaptive suspension, a mechanical limited-slip differential, and 20-inch wheels. The 2018 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS is expected to hit 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and reach a top speed of 180 mph.

2Volvo S60 T8 Polestar

The 12 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time: 2. Volvo S60 T8 Polestar

2.0L supercharged and turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus electric motor(s), 415 hp, 494 lb-ft

If you're in the market for a new luxury sedan, the Volvo S60 T8 Polestar is the car for you. The T8 power plant features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with two electric motors. A special, Polestar-engineered version of the T8 boasts 415 horsepower and a 494-foot pound of torque. The T8 is most lively in "Power" mode, which has an estimated 0-60 mph time of 4.3 seconds. In Consumer Guide testing, the car averaged 4.77 seconds.

The T8 Plug-in Hybrid, meanwhile, can run on its electric motor for 21 miles, achieving 30.2 mpg in Pure mode. Although its performance is geared more toward driving than fuel economy, the Volvo S60 T8 Polestar is an excellent all-around vehicle.

1Mercedes-AMG CLA45 S

The 12 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time: 1. Mercedes-AMG CLA45 S

Turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, 416 hp, 369 lb-ft

With its 2.0-liter M139 engine generating 416 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, the car's acceleration capabilities are indeed impressive, allowing it to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just four seconds. Additionally, reaching a top speed of 168 mph (270 km/h) highlights its high-performance nature.

Being recognized as the most powerful production compact car in the world further underscores the exceptional engineering and performance achievements of the CLA 45 S. This level of power and performance is likely to appeal to enthusiasts who are looking for a compact luxury car that delivers both speed and refinement.

The Bottom Line

In the end, we’d have to say that any of the engines included in our list of 10 Most Powerful 4-Cylinder Engines of All Time are exceptional for their time. Some are better than others and lack some downsides. However, any engine that could be considered one of the top contenders has earned its place among the finest of all time.

RELATED: 10 Fastest 4-Cylinder Cars: Ranked by Top Speed

[1] ^ Car and Driver: 2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA45 S Is the Most Powerful Compact Sedan in Production
[2] ^ Forbes: SUV Nirvana: Packing 415 HP, Volvo’s XC60 T8 Polestar Is A High-Tech Titan
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Rank Company Country
#1 Volkswagen logoVolkswagen Germany
#2 Toyota logoToyota Japan
#3 Honda logoStellantis Netherlands
#4 Mercedes-Benz Group logoMercedes-Benz Group Germany
#5 Ford logoFord Motor United States
Rank Company Country
#1 Michelin logoMichelin France
#2 Bridgestone logoBridgestone Japan
#3 Continental logoContinental Germany
#4 Goodyear logoGoodyear United States
#5 Sumitomo logoSumitomo Japan