We’ve all heard the phrase: “there’s no replacement for displacement,” but what if there is? Smaller and more efficient engines are replacing bigger motors, but that doesn’t mean they’re duds.
We asked our editors what their favorite car is that features a diminutive engine. Only 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines were allowed, although forced induction, hybrids, and diesels could have been picked too. Let’s see what they said:
Jodi Lai, Managing Editor: Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster
Not too long ago, having a 2.0-liter engine was a dead giveaway for being an economy car. This is far from the truth these days, with many legit sports cars only displacing that modest amount. One such engine is Porsche’s new 2.0-liter turbo four, which I’m a huge fan of. Powering the 718 Boxster and Cayman, the boxer four outputs 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, enough to rocket the roadster or coupe to 60 mph in under 5 seconds. Not only is it plenty powerful, but the free-revving motor also sounds pretty great.
Sami Haj-Assaad, Features Editor: Volvo S60 Polestar
Small 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines need all the help they can get, so I went with the Drive-E equipped Volvo V60 and S60 Polestar models, which use both turbocharging and supercharging to eke out 367 hp and 347 lb-ft of torque. Not only is it fast, but it’s responsive too, and the noises it makes are so unique. If you’re sticking to a 2.0-liter engine, I can’t see why you’d pick anything but something built by Volvo.
Dan Ilika, Road Test Editor: Audi S3
The reason you’d pick anything but something built by Volvo is because the Audi S3 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter. It’s the same four-cylinder found in the Volkswagen Golf R, which means it’s good for 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque – plenty of power for almost any occasion. I wish Audi would pair it with a manual gearbox here like it does in Europe, but a sub-five-second zero-to-60-mph sprint doesn’t leave much time to wallow about it.
Craig Cole, Associate Editor: Audi A4
My favorite 2.0-liter engine is probably the iron-block turbocharged ‘banger used throughout the sprawling Volkswagen empire. In the 2017 Audi A4, for instance, this newly refined inline unit provides 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque.
But there’s so much more to this story than just some numbers. In one form or another, this engine has been around for many years. During that time, it has motivated everything from VW GTIs to the Audi A5 coupe, the Golf R to Spanish SEATs and everything in between. It’s versatile, powerful and shockingly refined. It’s easily one of the smoothest-running four-cylinders I’ve ever experienced, one that does an excellent impression of a really good V6, which is why I love it so. It proves that our downsized future doesn’t necessarily have to be dreary.
Jason Siu, News Editor: Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 AMG
This one is an easy one! If I had to pick a car with a 2.0-liter engine, it would have to be the one lurking under the hood of the CLA 45 AMG (full disclosure: I own one). When the engine first debuted, it was the most powerful production four-cylinder engine and since then, the folks at AMG have tweaked it to output 375 horsepower to stay ahead of the competition. It’s got a nice, low growl to the exhaust note and it packs plenty of performance with not a whole lot of turbo lag. When in Sport mode, the CLA 45 AMG provides more than enough power to get around town.
Jonathan Yarkony, Editorial Director: VW Golf R
For my money, I want the practicality of a hatchback, something easy to live with, a manual transmission and something fun every time I buckle up and start it up. However, with a family to feed and house to pay for, I still have to be realistic, so of all the 2.0L engines out there, the VW Golf R is the one that fulfills all my needs and is really everything I want (short of a flat-plane crank V8). With 292 hp and all-wheel drive, it would be a blast all year round, and the shifter and steering are light but slick, with just the right feel for my tastes, so it’s a car that would put a smile on my face every time I got in to drive, and I’d never feel like I sacrificed comfort or convenience to get it.
Michael Accardi, GM Inside News: Chevrolet Camaro
Yes, I know, the 2.0T Camaro has been lambasted for not being a real muscle car, and it’s true, the 2.0 Camaro isn’t a muscle car — it’s a sports car. What the grousing fails to take into account is that wrapped around the 275-hp turbo four is one of the absolute best chassis you can buy. The lighter engine injects a sense of balance missing from the 6.2-liter V8-equipped SS.
If that doesn’t do it for you, word from the street has GM toying with the idea of 1LE handling pack for 2.0T Camaros as well.
Sebastian Bell, VW Vortex: VW GTI