Engines Exposed: This Is Why The Toyota Supra's Engine Is So Legendary


We take a stab at the legacy of Japan's 2JZ engine.

The fastest quarter-mile time is laid down by the Ferrari LaFerrari. But with its 949-hp 6.3-liter V12 hybrid powerplant priced at $1.5 million, that works out to about $1,500 per horsepower. If we're talking about buying horsepower, that's not necessarily the greatest deal. Luckily though, there is another option. An option cheaper by orders of magnitude, and also much faster. Yes, some places in the world will tune a turbo Supra with a stock short block to make almost 1,000 horsepower. That's the Mk4 Supra from the mid-1990s.

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It might cost a lot but not anywhere near $1.5 million. How is this possible? The Supra uses what's called the 2JZ engine. It's a 3.0-liter inline-six that was apparently designed by God. The block is cast iron, and the tops of the pistons are recessed to better allow the additional flow from a turbocharger. The cylinder head is fairly regular with a DOHC setup and four valves per cylinder. The Supra came with the GE and GTE versions (non turbo and turbo respectively), of the 2JZ and with the twin-turbo setup the engine can reach 321 horsepower without changing any internals. That may be because the engine was originally intended for 600 horsepower from the factory.

For the more than 900 horsepower mark, it'll take some ponying up. But even then it only requires a head swap. That's assuming it's been fitted with the correct valves and camshafts. It's been done a lot, and according to this gtr.co.uk forum user's dyno chart, the block wasn't even opened. That means the stock short block doesn't have to change, so the hardest part of engine work doesn't need to be touched. That means pistons, rods and crankshaft can stay put. Not bad for an engine that was developed in the early '90s. The Supra's reign of terror may have ended in 2002, but the 2JZ moved on to other vehicles. For the 2001-2004 generation the 2JZ was moved to the Lexus GS 300, a sport-luxury sedan.

Does this mean that the 2JZ equipped GS 300 is capable of handling 900 horsepower? Absolutely. The 2JZ inside of the GS 300 is the exact same unit that resided in the Supra, including the bottom end which makes the power possible. And don't think it hasn't happened either.

So the next question is who can tune the 2JZ and how much would it cost? Well this online parts shop offers a turbo kit that's good for up to 900 horsepower and they have the dyno sheet to prove it. The kit will cost a little more than $7,000, with labor costs varying by shop unless you do the work yourself. The most expensive part of this 900-horsepower quest is the Supra itself. Right now on Craigslist there are Supra turbos from the mid-1990s going for more than $30,000. This one is from 1997 and is probably the best deal you're going to find for a while. So, with a $40,000 car and a $7,000 turbo kit, another few thousand for valves and camshafts, it's safe to say you're still well within the $1.5 million mark.

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