Why Buy A V8 When These 4-Cylinder Cars Are So Awesome?


Four-cylinder turbo cars can now match the output of old V8s.

We love a big engine as much as the next car enthusiast. There is a reason why having 12-cylinders is reserved for ultra-exotic cars like Lamborghini and Rolls Royce. Still, engine downsizing has netted some incredible results and we now have four-cylinder cars with more horsepower than V8 and even V12 cars had just a few generations ago. We decided to pick our five favorite cars on the market that come with a four-cylinder turbocharged engine. We threw in a nice mix of sports cars and everyday drivers to show how versatile the four-cylinder engine has become.

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The Alfa Romeo 4C is not like most of the mid-engined sports cars that normally come out of Italy. That's because the 4C doesn't have some fancy V12 engine in the middle. In fact, the 4C makes do with a small, 1.7-liter four-cylinder turbo. This engine produces 237 hp, which is less than a V6 Honda Accord. However, the 4C weighs less than 2,500 pounds, giving it a great power-to-weight ratio. A larger engine might be nice, but Alfa Romeo proved that adding more power isn't always the answer. A car with less power can still be very fast if you remove weight, and the 4C is the perfect example.

The V8 engine used to be the engine of choice for American muscle cars. Today, you can buy a Ford Mustang with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder with 310 horsepower. That is more power than the V8 Mustang GT had back in 2005. The same 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine is also available in the Focus RS where it produces 350 hp. That is only 40 hp less than the SVT Cobra had back in 2003 with a 4.6-liter supercharged V8. 350 hp sounded like an unheard of number for a four-cylinder engine just a few years ago, but now it is not uncommon for these engines to outperform V8s from a decade ago.

American muscle cars don't have a monopoly on shouty V8 engines. Mercedes AMG has become very good at producing V8 and V12 engines, but decided to create an entry-level car with a four-cylinder unit. You may not believe that a four-cylinder AMG car could hold a candle to a V8 or V12 car, but the CLA and GLA 45 AMG both pack 375 hp from a 2.0-liter engine. These cars are among the most powerful four-cylinder cars to ever be sold in the US, and they can hit 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Like other AMG products, the 2.0-liter engine is hand-built in Germany and sounds fantastic.

SUVs almost always came with either a V6 or V8 engine. A four-cylinder SUV would have just been incredibly slow just a few years ago, but this is no longer the case. The Volvo XC90 only has one engine option, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, although it does have several states of tune. The base T5 model has a 2.0-liter engine with a turbocharger rated at 250 hp. Moving up to the T6 trim adds a supercharger and increases power to 316 hp. The top-of-the-line T8 adds an 87 hp electric motor for a total of 400 horses. We never thought that a four-cylinder car could produce 400 hp, but Volvo has proved that with a little electric help, it can be done.

The Mazda Miata and Honda S2000 proved four-cylinder sports cars could be fun. The S2000 is sadly no longer in production and the Miata is admittedly a little slow for some people. If you want a four-cylinder sports car with some guts, you don't need to look any further than the Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman. The base Boxster and Cayman comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four with 300 hp. The S models come with a larger 2.5-liter flat-four with 350 hp. The 718 models prove that a four-cylinder is perfectly suited to power sports cars of the future. If only they couple replicate the glorious wail of the old flat-six.