The Ten Best JDM Engines Ever Created
JDM Engines That Are Sure To Thrill
Published September 22, 2017
The output figures of Japanese domestic market(JDM) engines are often different than the engines found in the same car when it is released in other markets. Despite the difference in output, many JDM engines are known for their extreme reliability. Reliability is not the only thing these engines have going for them. Many are surprisingly powerful and torquey(is that even a real word?). Add to that how lightweight these engines are and you have the beginnings of a fast sleeper car.
The sneaky power and a huge aftermarket for performance parts have made JDM engines fan favorites around the world. Many of these engines have a near cult following. Read on for a list of the ten best JDM engines. Well, the ten best in our opinion anyway.
You can’t build a list of the best JDM engines without including the Honda B-series family. The B-series included SOHC and DOHC inline four poppers. The SOHC versions were put into economy cars, while the DOHC were equipped as a performance option. The B-series was also the first time Honda used its VTEC(Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) system.
There are four engines in the B-series: the B16, B17, B18, B20. Of the four, the B16 and B18 are by far the best of the group. These engines can produce between 126 and 190 hp without modification. In addition to great power, the B16 has a redline in excess of 8,500 rpm.
The Subaru EJ20 is a tough and durable powerplant. This JDM engine was used in the Legacy, Impreza, and Forester for years. The EJ20 can be naturally aspirated or have a turbo attached to it. Of the two, the turbocharged EJ20 is by far the more popular.
Many fans of JDM engines refer to the turbo EJ20 as the EJ20T. Sounds reasonable, but Subaru designated the turbo EJ20 as the EJ20G. These engines made their way into the top performance packages of several cars, but the Subaru WRX-STI maybe the most notable of the group. This motor has been a WRC rally circuit standout and is known for being ready to handle anything you are willing to tackle.
Nissan’s VR-series of engines is a group of DOHC twin-turbocharged V6s. The group has powered GT-Rs and Jukes alike. The Nissan VR38DETT is the best among these V6 stallions. The VR38DETT is a 3.8L, 24 valve beauty that weighs a scant 600 lbs. It is equipped with variable valve timing and a feedback control system to change the fuel/air mix based on engine load. Nissan offers this beastie in the Nissan GT-R and the rare Nissan Juke R. Buyers can opt for 480, 550, or 600 hp. That is more than enough to meet any need! This is the most powerful option on our list of JDM engines.
Mazda has been toying with Wankel rotary engines since the late 1950s. The first mass produced version was the L8A found in the Mazda Cosmo that debuted at the 1963 Tokyo Motor Show. The13 B is the Wankel engine that Mazda has produced the most of The 13B enjoyed a 30 year production run that ended in 2002. It has been in so many Mazda offerings that it has almost become synonymous with the automaker.
Perhaps the best version of the 13B is the 13B-REW. The 13B-REW is small, even as JDM engines go. Coming in at just 1.3L, its power is boosted by twin Hitachi HT-12 turbochargers. The primary turbo provides boost up to 4,500 rpm then the secondary turbo comes online. The use of this system marked the first time a sequential twin turbocharger system was used on a mass produced engine. The engines produced during the 2002 model year are capable of 280 hp; great output for a 1.3L.
The Mitsubishi 4G63 is a 2.0L version of the Mitsubishi Sirius engine. These JDM engines were placed in the Galant, Eclipse, Lancer, and several Mitsubishi pickup trucks. The naturally-aspirated versions were well known for their fuel sipping ways and long-term durability. They were NEVER known for their exciting acceleration or top-end performance. That is where the 4G63T comes in.
The Mitsubishi 4G63T is the turbocharged version of the 4G63. The 4G63T has powered Mitsubishi’s entries in the World Rally Championships for years. Great cars like WRC versions of the Mitsubishi Galant VR-4, Lancer Evolution, Carisma GT, and Lancer WRC04 were powered by variants of this engine. It powered the Lancer Evolution Tommi Mäkinen drove on his way to winning four consecutive WRC titles. Even stock, the 4G63T is beefy. In a 2003 Lancer Evolution, the output from a stock 4G63T is 271 hp at 6500rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm.
The Toyota A series of JDM engines is a family of inline-fours with displacements between 1.3L and 1.8L. Toyota began developing the series in the late 1970s with the goal of creating a line of engines that could strike a balance between fuel economy and performance. The A-series includes the first
mass-produced DOHC, four-valve-per-cylinder engine, the 4A-GE.
The Toyota 4A-GE was built over five generations. The first were called the Blue Tops for the blue lettering used on the valve covers. These JDM engines had an output of 112 hp and 97 lb-ft of torque. The Red and Black Top second gen versions were capable of 115 hp and 98 lb-ft of torque. The third gen Red Top version of these JDM engines had output of 123 hp and 110 lb-ft of torque. The Silver Top fourth gen was capable of 157 hp and 120 lb-ft of torque. In the end, the fifth gen Black Top version of the Toyota 4A-GE was capable of 162 hp and 120 lb-ft of torque. This version of the 4A-GE is highly sought after by tuners and has quite a parts aftermarket.
This is one of the more respected JDM engines ever produced. The Nissan SR20DET is a 2.0L DOHC turbocharged inline four with electronic fuel injection. The SR20DET was used in several cars in the JDM and power varied by use. In its most fuel efficient variation, it was capable 202 hp and 202 lb-ft of torque. When given more power as in the Nissan S15 Silvia, it was capable of 250 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque. This 16 valve powerplant is very popular in among tuners.
The Honda K20 is one of the most reliable JDM engines on our list. It was built to have a long life and keep soccer moms running their kids to sports in the family Honda Stream. The base K20 was a sensible engine for a sensible purpose.
That sensibility got a little twisted with the Honda K20A that was used in the Civic Type R on more than one occasion. When used in the Civic Type R, output has ranged between 212 hp and 221 hp with torque ranging from 150 to160 lb-ft.
The Nissan RB line of JDM engines is a group of straight-6 cylinder powerplants built between 1985 and 2004. Displacement ranged between 2 and 3L. The RB family was used almost exclusively in the Skyline family of compact cars, sports cars, and compact executive cars.
One of the most exciting members of the RB family is the RB26DETT. These are the 2.6L JDM engines used in the 1989-2002 Nissan Skyline GT-R. The 24 valve Nissan RB26DETT uses six individual throttle bodies and a parallel twin-turbo system using T25-type ceramic turbochargers. The first version of this engine was rated at 276 hp at 6800 rpm and 260 lb-ft at 4400 rpm. By 2002, output had been increased to 276 hp at 6800 rpm and 289 lb-ft at 4400 rpm. These numbers may seem low, but the RB26DETT is very modification friendly. Tuners have found ways to coax 500 hp or more out of an RB26DETT.
With JDM engines as powerful as the Nissan RB26DETT and the Honda K20A on the market, Toyota was forced to respond in kind. That response was the 2JZ-GTE. The 2JZ-GTE is a DOHC straight-6. Sequential twin turbochargers with an air-intercooler set the engine off.
The Toyota 2JZ-GTE was first placed in the Aristo V for the 1991 model year, but quickly moved to the Toyota Supra RZ. For the Supra, the 2JZ-GTE used recessed piston tops for a lower compression ratio and a cylinder head with redesigned ports, cams, and valves. Like the Nissan Skyline GT-R, the Supra with JDM engines had an advertised output of 276 hp; however, the Supra had 320 lb-ft of torque. When Toyota added VVT-i, torque jumped to 333b-ft. In other markets output was 321 hp and 320 lb-ft.
There are at least a dozen other JDM engines that could have made our list. If you have a favorite or know of a JDM engine that has been modified to more than 500 hp, tell us about it in the comments section.
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