There are lots of fantastic engines out there, but when it comes to tuning, few stand out from the crowd. Here are the 10 best engines to tune based on all round performance, in no particular order.
Not all engines are brilliant to tune. Often, manufacturers fit cost-effective parts that are usually very restrictive. Furthermore, the car’s themselves are often tuned within a very safe limit for reliability. As a result, replacing the restrictive parts can be hugely expensive on certain cars. However, some engines are so over-engineered, that extracting power is the least of your concerns. Below, we’ve pulled out 10 of the best engines across the last few decades, all of which thrive with a bit of tuning.
VAG EA888 Engine (Numerous Vehicles)
Now on its fourth iteration, the Volkswagen Group’s EA888 four-cylinder engine is a mighty thing. Nearly 400hp can be achieved from remapping alone, but with engine internal changes you can see that figure double! What’s more, add in some supporting fueling and exhaust changes and you’ll deliver that power time and time again, reliably. As a result, it deserves its place in our 10 best engines to tune. While you are here, why not check out our how to tune VW’s EA888 engine for advice on extracting more performance.
Nissan RB26DETT Engine (Skyline GT-R)
It couldn’t be a best 10 engines to tune list without the legendary Skyline GT-R engine. The Nissan RB26DETT engine was designed for racing and therefore has many standard components capable of huge power levels. Believe it or not, seeing 1000bhp+ builds isn’t uncommon in today’s world. Coupled with this, its star appearance in the Fast & Furious franchise has seen the RB26-powered Skyline GT-Rs become some of the most sought after JDM classics today. In fact, the blue GT-R R34 that featured in the fourth movie recently sold at auction for a whopping $1.35million!
Mitsubishi 4G63 (Evo)
Generally regarded as one of the most tuneable four cylinder engines of all time, the turbocharged Mitsubishi 4G63 is capable of incredible power levels. As a result, it’s the driving force behind many supercar-killing Evos the world over. While we’ve got you, check out this twin-charged Evo we featured.
Honda’s K-series engines were given the almighty task of succeeding the renowned B16B unit. But, as the new century drew further on, people began to realize that the K20 lineage was special in its own right.
Early K20A and K20Z examples offer the naturally aspirated, high-revving VTEC fun that the Type R badge is now synonymous with. Furthermore, they’re pretty damn reliable too.
The modern turbocharged K20Cs found in FK2 and FK8 Civics came packed with more than 300hp from the factory. In addition to this, if you want to take things further, the most serious builds can reach beyond the 700hp-mark. As a result, it rightfully takes a spot in our 10 best engines to tune guide.
VAG 1.8T Engine (Various VW, Audi, Seat, Skoda)
Common to find, cheap to buy, and fantastic to tune, the 1.8T BAM engine is the mainstay of VW tuning for good reason. The unique five valve per cylinder setup gives great tuning potential and like most VAG products, it is very reliable. Don’t believe us? Check out this Mk1 Golf complete with a 225hp 1.8T BAM engine.
Subaru EJ20 Engine (Impreza STI)
The EJ20 from Subaru is legendary, and as such, it had to feature in our best engines to tune list. Powering eight second drag cars and Time Attack drag monsters, the 2-litre Subaru flat four can do it all. In addition, the unusual engine configuration gives the engine a superbly low center of gravity, too, perfect for track day use.
Made famous in the early-generation Impreza STIs, we’ve put together a GC8 tuning guide to help you get the most from your EJ20 and the excellent chassis on the classic Impreza.
BMW N54 (E82 1M, 135i, E90/92 335i)
Referred to as the modern-day 2JZ engine, the N54 was BMW’s first foray into turbocharged power for an M car, the BMW 1M. Producing 340bhp in stock form, it was known for having strong internals from factory, allowing tuners to obtain upwards of 700bhp without having to opt for forged internals. We’ve put together an N54 tuning guide, along with its closely related N55 brother, to help you get the most from your engine.
Mazda 13B Engine (RX-7)
Powering the Mazda RX-7 with just 1308cc, the rotary engine is the smallest of our 10 best engines to tune. However, in fully tuned form, it can produce around 1000bhp and a 10,000rpm+ rev limit. While it’s a little temperamental, it is a unique tuning monster and one that sounds incredible. Thankfully, optimistic tuners have upped the ante and increased the engine from 3-rotors, to 4-rotors for a more unique, higher pitch tone and sharper throttle response. You can also see power easily climb to over 1500bhp with the right build, as this quad-rotor RX-7 feature car proves…
Be sure to check out our Wankel Rotary engine guide to fully understand how it works.
Toyota 2JZ-GTE Engine (Supra)
Like the RB26, the Toyota 2JZ-GTE engine had its entry into this list of the 10 best engines to tune from the off. Believe it or not, this was the engine that made 1000bhp on standard internals a reality, the 2JZ is a six cylinder heavyweight. Any engine that can power a road going Supra to over 240mph within one mile gets our vote. Thankfully, if you’re looking for your own Mk4 Supra, we ‘ve put together a Mk4 Supra buying and tuning guide just for you.
GM LS Series
This big capacity V8 has 1500bhp potential when forced induction is added. But, this all alloy engine is also surprisingly light and is capable of revving to over 7000rpm reliably. With so many opting for LS engine swaps, it was guaranteed on our list of the 10 best engines to tune.
Baggsy dropped the VR38DETT from his R35 GT-R drift car in favor of an LSX motor…