Tops 13 Fastest Four-Cylinder Cars: 10 Cars Proving Less Is More A four-cylinder has long been seen as a downgrade, but these days, it's definitely worth getting excited about.


A four-cylinder has long been seen as a downgrade, but these days, it’s definitely worth getting excited about.

We love fast cars, but we don’t like paying a lot of money for them. Cars are too expensive for the salaries we earn, so we can’t always aim as high as we’d like, but not all compromises are bad. Fast 4-cylinder cars exist, and they’re epic.

The world of four-cylinder cars is jam-packed with absolutely fantastic propositions, even if past heroes like the Subaru WRX STI and Ford Focus RS are no longer with us. From the muscle car experience of the Ford Mustang EcoBoost to the all-weather usability of the Volkswagen Golf R, there’s plenty to get excited about, and the fuel efficiency of these cars is not to be scoffed at either, yet none of these qualifies for the list of the ten best.

Acceleration figures are covered in our recent feature on the quickest 4-cylinder cars – 0-60; here, we focus on top speed, only using 0-60 figures to separate cars on equal pegging. As always, several cars achieve similar figures, so don’t be upset if your favorite isn’t necessarily mentioned.

Although mechanically almost identical to the Acura Integra Type S, the Honda Civic Type R has a higher top speed, with 171 mph (rounded up) versus the Integra’s 167. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder VTEC engine produces 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful production Honda ever sold in America. All of that power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission, and along with a great chassis and excellent suspension, the CTR is the FWD King of the Nurburgring, lapping the infamous Nordschleife in 7:44.881 earlier this year.

Just behind the Civic on our top speed leaderboard by a few fractions of a mile per hour is the BAC Mono (or Mono R), which tops out at 170 mph.

These two very similar cars share the same top speed as the Civic Type R, with a 275 kph top speed that equates to 170.87 mph. Like that car, the 718 twins have a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but here, it is of the boxer variety. 300 hp is on offer, enough to achieve 0-60 mph in under five seconds, and with the outstanding handling dynamics Porsche is famous for, the base 718 in either coupe or convertible forms is a great way to get your thrills without spending a fortune on gas. Then again, if you’re worried about car maintenance costs, perhaps you’d be better off avoiding your local Porsche dealer.

The Mercedes-AMG SL43 was revealed last year with a new electric exhaust gas turbocharger, giving the epic M139 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder a base figure of 375 hp, with an extra 13 ponies temporarily available when using the overboost function. All the power goes to the rear wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission, and it’ll get to 60 mph in a claimed 4.8 seconds, pulling all the way to its electronically limited top speed of 171 mph.

As we’re about to see, both the engine and the top speed figure just discussed will become a repetitive subject in this feature, and that’s no bad thing.

The latest iteration of the Mercedes-AMG GLC no longer comes with V6 or V8 engine options, losing character to gain efficiency. The abovementioned 2.0-liter turbo-four gets a larger turbocharger than normal (giving it the M139L designation) and is complemented by a permanently excited synchronous electric motor, producing a total of 671 hp and 752 lb-ft of torque. That’s nearly 170 hp more than the old V8 produced, and the sporty crossover makes the most of its grunt to pull like a train all the way to 171 mph.

Perhaps Mercedes ought to have made the SL slightly faster than the GLC. Sure, the latter has the 63 nomenclature, but it’s still strange that a drop-top AMG can be outgunned by a lardy SUV.

As we’ve just seen, gone are the days of big AMG V8 engines proliferating every model; in fact, they’re an endangered species these days, and nothing illustrates that better than the latest C 63. Instead of a 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 or even a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, the latest model gets that prolific M139L 2.0-liter four-banger, here generating 469 hp and 402 lb-ft of torque on its own. Along with an electric motor producing 201 hp, the C 63 is just as powerful and torquey as the GLC 63 above, enough for a 0-60 mph time of 3.3 seconds and a top speed of up to 174 mph (155 mph as standard).

With a strange name, wild Sidewinder doors, and extreme styling, 2018’s Rezvani Beast Alpha seems like a hypercar, but its powertrain’s cylinder count is surprisingly ordinary, and it has a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission with a sequential automatic available. A turbocharged Honda K24 four-pot appears behind the occupants, producing 450 hp (or is that 500? Rezvani’s site has several inaccuracies). 0-60 mph is claimed to take just 3.5 seconds, and top speed is rated at a healthy 175 mph. Best of all, this car was offered at an introductory price of $95,000, a figure you’ll never see charged for a low-volume sports car again.

The four-cylinder version of the new Lotus Emira sports car is powered by the same M139 engine that has appeared in this list so many times already, here producing a detuned 360 hp and 316 lb-ft of torque. Despite being 40 hp down on its supercharged V6 big brother, the entry-level Emira gets to 60 mph just a tenth slower at 4.3 seconds. The top speed is a respectable 176 mph, making this one of the fastest 4-cylinder cars ever. The downside is that this variant can only be had with a dual-clutch transmission, while the V6 has access to a sweet six-speed manual.

The 2018 (982) Porsche 718 Boxster S and 718 Cayman S feature a 2.5-liter flat-four turbocharged engine developing 345 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque and can be had with either a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed PDK, either of which powers the rear wheels. With the manual, 0-60 mph is achieved in 4.6 seconds, with two-tenths shaved off that time if you opt for the PDK. Add the Sport Chrono Package, and the entry-level drop-top could do the sprint in 4.2 seconds, while the hardtop does it in four flat. Regardless of the transmission, the top speed arrives at 177 mph. Not much else goes faster, and nothing rivals offer eclipses it. The current 2023 Boxster S and Cayman S twins achieve the same top speed.

The small French sports car known as the Alpine A110 R (not sold in the US) may only produce 300 hp from its 1.8-liter turbocharged four-banger, but that’s double what a Miata offers. Moreover, the Alpine makes extensive use of carbon fiber and other lightweight materials to arrive with less baggage than the Miata; the A110 R tips the scales at just 2,385 pounds. 0-60 mph can be achieved in as little as 3.9 seconds, which is why it places ahead of the equally fast 718s above, and the featherweight coupe will keep going until it hits 177 mph. The car may have been developed to be brilliant in the corners, but it can certainly hold its own on a high-speed run, too.

The current GTS comes with a sonorous six-cylinder, but the 2018 model made do with a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-pot, like the S models. An extra 20 ponies are offered here for a total of 365 hp with 309 lb-ft of torque, enough to get to 60 mph in a claimed 3.9 seconds (if you spec the Sport Chrono Package). Where this version truly stands out is in its top speed, pulling all the way to 180 mph. No other production four-cylinder car currently comes close, but we hope the next Cayman and Boxster pairing (which will be offered as both electric and combustion cars) raises the bar again.

The four-cylinder GTS may have been replaced by a way better-sounding 4.0-liter flat six, but for pure performance in the four-cylinder realm, it’s still the top dog.

CarBuzz 2023-2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG SL 43 Engine BayCarBuzz/Ian Wright

2023-2024 Mercedes-Benz AMG SL 43 Engine Bay

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