Top JDM Engines: Did Yours Make The Cut?

By - JDM engines honda K20 F20C J35 EJ20 13B-REW SR20DET RB26DETT 4G63 2JZ EJ20 EJ257 fite me

In terms of bang-for-buck, this list covers it all.

When it comes to engine technology, Japan has always had an easy time taking the lead. In-fighting between Japanese companies has produced epic rivalries between the likes of Nissan, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, Toyota and Mitsubishi. We break down why these JDM engines are the best of the best.

Let’s start with the odd-ball engines. Subaru’s EJ20 and Mazda’s 13B. Subaru is still the only manufacturer reluctantly sticking by their formula of a flat-four engine. Through use in motorsport via WRC and then in road going form in various Impreza models, the rumble of a Subaru boxer engine is unmistakable.

[Editor’s Note: As unmistakable as the sight of an EJ257-powered car on the side of the road after it munches it’s ringlands.]

Equally unmistakable is the 13B. Despite all the jokes that can be thrown at it, the 13B is arguably the most successful rotary motor ever produced. Mazda fanatics will deal with the maintenance, because the smooth power delivery and eye-watering redline are worth every “brap.”

[Ed. Note: Honda’s F20C would like a word about eye-watering RPMs, and reliability.]

Engine naming is a source of pride and 4G63 stands as a god among men for Evo enthusiasts. Able to withstand huge amounts of boost thrown at it, the 4G’s aftermarket is enormous, and reflects the popularity of this engine.

[Ed. Note: Yes, the venerable 4G63, which can trace it’s roots back to the industrial revolution. At least the block can take a beating, because it’s certain that that the first six owners are going to beat the crap out of it.]

Not taking things sitting back, Nissan’s own turbo four cylinder introduced us to the rear-wheel-drive shenanigans of the S13 chassis. The SR20DET was a bit overshadowed by both the car, and another engine within the Nissan family, the RB26DETT. “TT” meant twin-turbo, and with this engine in the Skyline, a better match could not be made.

[Ed. Note: Have owned two S13’s. Ask any 180/240 owner, they’ll tell you that the SR20DET is unreliable junk.]

You can’t really mention JDM engines without talking about the 2JZ. In terms of automotive Easter Eggs, the 2JZ had the best of them all, with stock internals that could take unfathomable amounts of boost. Immortalized by the Fast and the Furious franchise, the Supra, as powered by the 2JZ has easily earned its spot.

[Ed. Note: No complaints, the 2J is bad ass.]

There’s obviously some engines left out of this list, so we’ll touch on those for a moment. Toyota’s 2ZZ motor was the rev-happy 4-cylinder engine found in the Celica GT-S, but also in the Lotus Elise. With big power in a featherweight car, the Lotus/Toyota marriage was one potent combo, embarrassing cars with many more cylinders.

[Ed. Note: Counterpoint: K20 >>> 2ZZ.]

As a note, Honda’s J35A3 is mysteriously missing from the list. Considering it was housed in the Saturn VUE Redline, the best performance crossover SUV money can buy, we feel it deserves a mention.

[Ed. Note: Patrick, go run 20 laps and think about what you’ve said and why it’s wrong.]

Patrick Morgan is an instructor at Chicago's Autobahn Country Club and contributes to a number of Auto sites for Internet Brands, including MB World and 6SpeedOnline.

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