Traditionally, there was no alternative for displacement. It’s an age-old concept that muscle-car fans have been advocating for decades, opining that there’s no better way to extract power out of an engine than aiming for as many cubic inches as possible. Back when engines were rudimentary, it may have held. And there’s a certain amount of truth to it still today, but it’s no longer precisely the case. These days, carmakers are exploring new powertrain technologies that attempt to lower the size of their engines while boosting both production and efficiency. Replacing displacement is perhaps at the forefront of the movement are the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) cars.
In the late 1960s, Datsun and Toyota developed better, quicker, and more dependable cars for less money than mainstream performance cars, which is where the answer lies. The engines and automobiles they supplied have now become legends because of turbochargers, which increase performance significantly. There will always be a favorite, a standout example, and a hero vehicle to take up the mantle when it comes to four-cylinder power plants, with over fifty years of engines, cars, and manufacturers to pick from. The four-cylinder engine has propelled everything from everyday cars to rally competition thoroughbreds.
Why would we need the expensive eight or twelve when the Japanese auto industry has proven that four and six cylinders are affordable and hit the sweet spot? These insanely fast JDMs prove that there is replacement for displacement.
9 Datsun 240Z
Japanese automaker Nissan launched its first mass-produced sports vehicle for the expanding US market with the Datsun 240Z. However, Datsun didn’t do anything groundbreaking in engineering; instead, it integrated the most recent automotive technology into a single design and sold it.
Disc brakes, overhead cams, and independent suspensions are all considered standard in the domain of what works best. However, the way it drove solidified its position in the annals of sports car history. The Z-car was conceived due to Datsun’s L24 straight-six producing a powerful yet efficient 151 horsepower and its affordability and dependability.
8 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X FQ400
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution FQ400 is the ultimate version of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. It has an eye-watering 201 horsepower per liter from its significantly upgraded 2.0-liter engine, delivering well over 400 horsepower to all four wheels. The vehicle can reach 60 mph in 3.8 seconds thanks to a robust 387 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm and 403 horsepower before reaching its 155 mph limitation.
The Mitsubishi Lancer FQ400 is as loud and aggressive as napalm. The revamped braking system, which combines aerospace-grade aluminum alloys and floating sealed discs grasped by high-performance pads, improves agility and performance.
7 Honda S2000
The S2000 is an open-top sports vehicle that was released in 1999 to commemorate Honda’s 50th anniversary. Its 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder VTEC engine had a redline of 8900 rpm and produced 124 horsepower per liter. The S2000 had a manual five-speed transmission, a limited-slip differential, and solid rear-wheel-drive performance that could catch a driver out in the rain.
It could achieve 60 mph in 6 seconds owing to 248 horsepower and a lightweight chassis. Plus, if you wanted to turn it into a project car, the K20A engine from the Civic Type R would fit well.
6 Nissan S15 Silvia Spec-R
The S15 Silvia Spec-R was offered with a manual 6-speed gearbox, limited-slip differential, 4-piston brakes, and HICAS four-wheel steering for a more track-focused driving experience, enhancing both its racer and drifter appeal. The 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that drove the S15 Spec-R produced 247 horsepower and 202 pound-feet of torque, could reach 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and gave lithe, snappy driver input when driven on edge.
The S15, Silvia’s last edition, was a stylistic improvement in most regions of the globe. In Japan, however, the Silvia was available in two versions: the performance-oriented Spec-R and the little more muted Spec-S, comparable to what was exported.
5 Nissan Sunny/Pulsar GT-R
The Sunny/Pulsar GTI-R was a homologation vehicle designed to meet the World Rally Championship’s Group A class requirements. It had a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produced 227 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque.
The GTI-R had excellent levels of grip thanks to its AWD system and could reach 60 mph in speedy 5.5 seconds before accelerating to a high speed of 144 mph. The GTI-R became a favorite of those wishing to construct a quick competition machine due to its ease of tuning.
4 Subaru Impreza Cosworth
The Subaru Impreza CS400 STi, to give it its full name, is a fire-breathing rally-inspired monster and the first road vehicle designed by engine wizards Cosworth since the Escort Cosworth discontinued production in 1996. New pistons, forged con-rods, a larger turbo, and a remapped ECU have been added to the 2.5-liter boxer engine, resulting in 396 horsepower and a Lamborghini Gallardo-worrying 0-60 mph sprint pace of only 3.5 seconds.
Subaru claims the conventional six-speed manual ‘has carbon synchromesh fitted to the top three gears to manage the increased power.’ A new single-plate clutch is also included, and the 4WD system maintains a 50:50 split.
3 Toyota Celica GT4
Most people believe Subaru or Mitsu were the pioneers of the Japanese rally-rep sector since they are the two most closely connected brands. Toyota was the pioneer of the class, being the first Japanese manufacturer to take rally racing seriously.
The ST 205 was introduced in 1995 with a more aggressive design than its predecessors and a 252 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine under its all-aluminum hood, capable of propelling the coupe to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. The Celica GT4 could cover territory at an astounding velocity and provide excellent grip and steering input thanks to all-wheel drive, rally-bred suspension, and aerodynamic appearance.
2 Subaru Legacy Blitzen
The original Blitzen was based on the Subaru Legacy B4 and was available as a wagon or sedan from 2000 to 2003. It was a limited edition and combined efforts from Porsche and Subaru. The Blitzen, powered by a 280 horsepower flat-four twin-turbo engine, can reach 60 mph in 5.2 seconds.
Other important features were the adoption of Aisin Seiki’s newly-developed sequential automatic gearbox, a first for any Subaru vehicle, with every visual component (outside and interior, notably the body package and unique ‘wang’) created by Porsche. The Blitzen came with a distinctive spoiler and bumpers, Porsche-tuned suspension, special aluminum alloys, and a new sequential automatic gearbox from their STi division
1 Mazda RX7
The 1993 Mazda Rx-7 had a twin turbo rotary engine that made it faster and fuel efficient. Its 1.3L engine could generate 255hp and 217 lb-ft of torque. Weighing in at just 2800 pounds, this car has a very low power to weight ratio, part of its greatest contributors of success.
The only downside to rotary engines is that they can get rather too hot. The problem contributes to burning of coolant oil. Nonetheless, this car has very good suspension and balance, making the handling quite a breeze and fun.