When we talk about powerful and performance-oriented car engines, we often tend to leave four-cylinder engines out of the equation. Only engines that have six or more cylinders ever come to our minds and mostly just bother ourselves with V8s and mighty V12s.
This Jaguar F-Type V8 is supercharged and is potent, but still wouldn’t make our list.
However, there are some select internal-combustion four-cylinder engines out there, that will almost put a normal V6 or sometimes even a V8 to shame. This has led us to talk a little about engines that have the highest specific output for their respective displacement and is usually measured in horsepower/litre (HP/L) of engine capacity. To be more specific, we will take a look at four-pots with the highest specific power output and a displacement of 2-litres or less. The following are the top six most impressive Fours on the planet.
6. 2015 Audi TTS:
The first engine on this list is to be found in the all-new Audi TTS and displaces a mere 1948cc. This 2.0 TFSI motor is strapped with a turbocharger and uses direct fuel-injection technology. The result is 265 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 350 Nm of torque at just 2500 rpm. This gives the 2015 Audi TTS a specific output figure of 136 hp per litre. Combine this to the TTS’s lightweight body that’s mostly built out of aluminium, a slick 6-speed dual-clutch S Tronic gearbox and Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system, you get a o-100 km/h time of 5 seconds and a top speed of 250 km/h (electronically limited).
2015 Audi TTS’s specific engine output – 136 hp per litre.
And FYI, the India-bound standard TT makes 115 hp per litre from its less hardcore TTS sibling and produces a total of 230 horses. Top speed remains the same, but its slower to 100 km/h by 0.3 seconds (5.3 seconds).
- Engine displacement – 1948 cc
- Specific output – 136 hp/litre
5. Alfa Romeo 4C:
The Alfa Romeo 4C came out in 2013 and is the lightest car on our list. That’s because the 4C uses carbon-fibre for most of its construction, with some aluminium dropped in as an extra measure. The result of its petit dimensions and lightweight construction means that the 4C has kerb weight of less than 1000kg. Also, with a 1.75-litre turbocharged engine, the Alfa Romeo 4C has the smallest engine amongst all the other cars on this list.
The Alfa Romeo 4C comes with a tiny 1.75-litre 4-cylinder engine. But don’t discount it, yet.
The Alfa Romeo 4C might have the smallest displacement engine out of the 5 cars here, but it packs a mighty enough Italian punch. The 4C’s 1750cc four-cylinder engine is both turbocharged and features direct fuel-injection. The result is 240hp at 6000 rpm and a peak torque of 350 Nm, 80% of which is available at just 1700 rpm. This engine has a specific output figure of 137.1 hp per litre, so this is one quick fella. The dash from nought to 100 km/h comes up in just 4.5 seconds and the 4C can hit a top whack of 258 km/h.
Most of this Alfa is comprised of carbon-fibre and lightweight aluminium.
The 240 Italian horses are sent to the rear wheels via means of Alfa’s TCT dual-clutch 6-speed transmission. One other cool fact about this car, its carbon-fibre tub weighs just 65kg – much lighter than an average adult man.
- Engine displacement – 1750 cc
- Specific output – 137.1 hp/litre
4. 2015 Audi S3 saloon:
The third car on our list is another Audi – the S3 saloon. The S3 is powered by a 16-valve DOHC engine that displaces 1984cc and uses variable valve timing. This engine is helped along by a turbocharger and the ubiquitous direct injection technology. The net result is 292 hp between 5400-6200 rpm and 380 torques that’s available between 1900-5300 rpm, this means a linear power delivery because of the wide spread of horsepower and torque.
This TFSI unit displaces just under 2.0-litres, but still makes 292 horsepower.
The specific output of this engine is an impressive 147.1 hp per litre. Even though the S3 weighs almost 1.6 tonnes, its tractable torque spread, responsive 6-speed S Tronic dual-clutch gearbox and the quattro AWD all come together to make this one brisk car. The S3 only needs 4.8 seconds to hit the tonne mark and the top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h. The Audi A3 available in India comes with a 2.0-litre TFSI unit which produces a maximum of 178 hp and that equates to a specific output figure of under 100 hp per litre.
- Engine displacement – 1984 cc
- Specific output – 147.1 hp/litre
Head over to the next page for the TOP 3 cars >>>
3. 2016 Volvo XC90 T6:
Yes, one of the cars on our list is a 7-seater family 4×4 that’s made by the Swedes. The 2016 Volvo XC90 and to be more precise, the T6 variant of the 4×4. The T6 comes with a 2-litre four-cylinder engine that is both turbocharged and supercharged. The engine develops a meaty 316 hp and a 4×4-befitting 400 Nm of shove, and thanks to the dual forced-induction tech used on this car, there appears to be no lag and that shows. The run from 0-100 km/h is taken care of in 6.1 seconds and the top speed is limited to 230 km/h. And thank god for that as this Volvo weighs almost 2.3 tonnes.
The new XC90 T6 has a 2-litre four-pot unit, but is helped by a turbo and supercharger.
Thanks to two different modes of forced-induction and direct injection. The 2-litre unit in the 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 scores the maximum for specific output on any 4×4 in the market, with the figure standing at an impressive 158 hp per litre.
- Engine displacement – 2000 cc (est.)
- Specific output – 158 hp/litre
2. 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG:
Here’s the penultimate car on our list and that is the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG. Now before we go ahead, we would like to tell you that this slot also belongs to the three other AMGs as well. They include the A45 AMG and GLA45 AMG. This 1991 cc four-cylinder turbocharged engine kicks out a neat 360 hp at 6000 rpm and 450 Nm of shove between 2250-5000 rpm. This is officially the most powerful Four in current mass production and has a specific output of 180.8 hp per litre.
The GLA45 AMG shares the same high strung engine as the CLA45.
To put things into a better perspective, this 1991 cc four-pot AMG engine makes more power per litre than the whole 2-litre TFSI engine on the Audi A3 (which makes 178 hp). Couple this to a lighter body mass of the CLA45 and its AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-speed sports transmission, 100 km/h doesn’t take any longer than 4.6 seconds and the top speed is 250 km/h, which is when the electronic nanny reigns in on the party.
- Engine displacement – 1991 cc
- Specific output – 180.8 hp/litre
However, there is one car which truly trumps the mighty four-cylinder AMG units and that’s to be found in our final car.
We saved the best for last. It’s a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, but not the FQ-400, oh no.
1. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X FQ-440 MR:
It’s called the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X FQ-440 MR and was launched in 2014. Mitsubishi made sure that this would blow every other four-cylinder car into the middle of next week, and they managed it alright. The Japanese carmaker also made certain that this would be a very special car and hence, only made 49 examples. The FQ-440 MR wore a sticker price of £50,000 or, INR 46 lakh! Furthermore, you could only have it in one colour – white and that’s it. Yes, there are several toys in the cabin for you to play with, but this Lancer is not about that, at all. The 1998 cc four-banger in this car cranks out an insane 440 horsepower and a ludicrous 558 Nm of torque at just 3100 rpm.
The ‘standard’ FQ-400 makes 400 hp and that’s crazy. But the FQ-440 MR is just bonkers!
For those in you who have already got the hang of the calculation, the number would be a revelation. So let us just say that 220.2 horsepower per litre is a shipful of sins. This engine is almost the same size as the AMG ones we just saw, but makes 40 hp more per litre! To put this number into better context, the mighty 1200 hp Bugatti Veyron Super Sport manages to squeeze out just 148 horsepower out of its gigantic 8.0-litre W16 engine. To keep things under control, Mitsubishi engineers have fitted this beast with a 6-speed SST double-clutch transmission, beefed up the springs, slapped in some massive Alcon disc brakes and a racing exhaust system. The Evo X’s four-wheel drive system has been tweaked and comes with a Super active yaw control (AYC).
Mitsubishi hasn’t released any official performance numbers for the FQ-440 MR, but we reckon a 0-100 km/h time of around 3.5 seconds and a top speed limited to 250 km/h (of course, this thing can go much faster than that). Want to buy one? Unfortunately, all 49 examples have been taken. However, that aside, this remains the most powerful 2-litre four-cylinder production car ever made.
- Engine displacement – 1998 cc
- Specific output – 220.2 hp/litre
This was our list some superb four-bangers. Anyway, let us know of your opinions and thoughts on these fantastic Fours in the comments section.