Top 10 Best Japanese Engines

What makes a Japanese engine legendary? Is it raw, tire-shredding power? The ability to handle ridiculous levels of tuning without blinking? Or maybe it's the kind of reliability that lets you rack up hundreds of thousands of miles without a worry?

Japan has produced some of the most iconic powerplants in automotive history. These engines have not only powered legendary cars but built entire communities of passionate enthusiasts. Maybe you've owned a car with one of these greats, or you've always dreamed of building a project around one.
The Top Ten

The motor has a mountain of torque! It can be driven very lazily and, when needed, pushed very hard. The Supra is my daily car, and I love driving it every day.

This is some kind of breed where you can feel the pull like a V8 but use fewer pistons. And let the turbo do its job.

Able to handle 700-800 horsepower on stock internals. Tunable and can be thrown into almost anything to make it go fast.


I think the RB26 is probably one of the best Japanese engines out there. With a little maintenance and care, and very few modifications, it is very capable of producing insane power numbers. I'm into that kind of thing, but I also like the reliability of the power produced on stock internals. Plus, parts for the RB are readily available from all over the world.

There are loads of aftermarket parts available, and more seem to become available as more and more people are doing engine swaps. I just wish that the Skyline R32-34s were produced and allowed in the USA without so much hassle.

3 4G63

This engine is absolutely one of the best. I have a 1G 3S that still looks and performs like new. Fully synthetic oil is the way to go, and eNeos is what you want in your transmission.

This is my daily driver, best suited for highways, back roads, and mountains. City driving isn't ideal for any 3S.

Built like a tank, parts are easily available and interchangeable. Stock engine parts are rated for very high power output.

I have a 6-bolt 4G63T head on a built 6-bolt bottom end, displacing 2.4 liters. The motor makes 500 hp on an FP Green turbo on 93 octane, with so much more potential.


Huge aftermarket support, and it has been used in every type of build. Low cost, easy swap, high power, etc. The people who blew theirs didn't do it right.

Incredibly versatile - drift, drag, circuit, you name it. Also, it's as cheap as chips.

One of the best aluminum engines ever - lightweight and extra powerful.

5 F20C

The 2.0L legend. Anyone can make big power with big displacement and turbos. But making power, achieving good gas mileage, and having low emissions? That's a whole other story. This is the best Japanese engine right here.

6 EJ20

The advantages of the boxer engine include the fact that because the pistons lie on their sides, the height of the engine is lower. This helps to lower the car's center of gravity. Additionally, the engine is inherently balanced thanks to the opposing pistons' inertia canceling each other out.

The boxer engine, combined with unequal-length headers, results in the charismatic Subaru "boxer rumble" that sounds like no other engine. The EJ257 found in the STi produces 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. The engine layout, headers, and power delivery type result in lots of low-end torque and plenty of mid-range grunt. In its stock form, it is quite detuned. However, with just a turbo-back exhaust, an intake, and a dyno tune, you can gain nearly 20-33% more power over stock at the crank. The stock internals have been known to tolerate as much as 400 awhp with no modification on a conservative dynamometer. These little 4-cylinder engines, in modified form, have been known to make 8-second 1/4 mile passes.

The WRX and STi are truly race- and rally-bred. They have won international "Engine of the Year" awards twice, and the STi platform has won three Drivers' and three Manufacturers' WRC Championships. Today, they continue to dominate the ARA's (American Rally Association) national championship in the open class, having won seven times now, six times consecutively. The STi has also held the crown twice in its league at the Nürburgring 24-Hour race.

7 K20A
8 13B-REW

Wankel engines were invented in the 20th century. While every other major car company gave up, Mazda had the vision to introduce this new thing to the world. Normal cylinder engines have many moving parts, but a rotary engine has only three.

I own one. It's the best-performing engine out there. I love the way it accepts every redline I give it. Once it is well maintained, you can't go wrong with a Renesis engine from the RX-8 or the turbocharged 13B engine of an RX-7. It sounds amazing.

I hope they make a comeback. They offer amazing power for a 1.3-liter engine, plus they sound incredible.

9 2ZZ-GE

Epic in Lift! At 6200 rpm, the beast is unleashed! Toyota should definitely consider bringing back this bad boy.

Excellent performance, reliable, and great on economy compared to my SR20DE, which is the total opposite.

Without a doubt, one of the best engines. For a little naturally aspirated 1.8L, it stands its ground.

10 1JZ GT

It may not be the most powerful or revered engine on this list, but it possesses the three factors of any great engine: ease of maintenance, plentiful parts, and reliability under stress. It deserves to be ranked higher.

The first edition of the legendary JZ line of engines powered so many cars. It sounds amazing and produces a ton of power.

The Contenders
11 4AGE 20V BT

The 4AGE comes with dual overhead camshafts and a lightweight exhaust manifold made of aluminum. It also has a cast-iron engine block for added strength and durability, not to mention its 20 valves. It is the ultimate 4-cylinder engine!

Sure, it only made 128 hp, but the car it was housed in (the legendary Hachiroku) weighed only 900 kg, providing a wicked power-to-weight ratio!

12 b18c

Insane engine. It sounds unreal with a good exhaust.

No engine will ever satisfy you like this one.

13 3S-GTE

A powerful and reliable engine that many people consider better than the 2JZ-GTE, due to its ability to produce up to 550 bhp in a lightweight 4-cylinder engine.

A little modification completely transforms this engine, both in the MR2 Turbo and GT4. And the induction noise is amazing!

Definitely an overlooked engine that can produce pretty good horsepower numbers and do so reliably.

14 Rb25det
15 H22A

Very strong engine with massive tuning potential. Sounds insane! It's "the big block of Honda."

16 VQ35

I don't understand why this engine is so low on the list. Stock for stock, it's the strongest and most versatile engine.

The VR38 should have been at the top because of the sheer power this engine can produce, just in its stock form alone!

A new technological powerhouse - rivaling even Porsche.

18 1LR-GUE

This engine was housed in the Lexus LFA supercar, which Jeremy Clarkson described as "The best car I have ever driven." Enough said. My hat goes off to you, Clarkson.

Exotic build materials, the size of a V8 and the weight of a V6, with 9500 rpm brilliance.

19 1UZ-FE

Not sure how this isn't higher on the list. It's a very good engine, designed for race applications.

Longevity, super smoothness, and ease of tune-up make this engine rule.

20 4B11T

Has great potential even though it's not a truly Japanese engine. Its modifications are up there with the rest of the JDM engines.

The evolution of controlled power with a lineage of competition.

Starting to show that it has more potential than many of us first thought.

21 C30B V6

An improved version of an already fantastic engine. The noise is simply incredible.

22 3TC

This is a strong engine with a timing chain, not a rubber belt. It has a Hemi head with crossflow, similar to dual overhead cams but less complicated.

23 Ka24de
24 4G15 12V
25 4G94

This is Mitsubishi's 2.0L engine for the 2006 Lancer. It offers average performance, and the key to its longevity is regular oil changes at a maximum of 5,000 or 4,000 kilometers. I've never had any engine issues, and up to now, at 323,000 kilometers, it revs up smoothly and sounds as great as when I bought it brand new.

It's my daily highway commute car. I'm not a tech person. I just wanted to post here. As of May 2019, thanks. P.S. I replaced the timing belt for the second time a year ago.

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