There was a time when the phrase “four-cylinder luxury car” would’ve been an absolute oxymoron. Just as at one point Enzo Ferrari was quoted as saying a Ferrari is a 12-cylinder car, for most North Americans, a luxury car had to be powered by at least a V8 engine. Of course, times have changed and fuel prices have become a significant issue—even for most traditional luxury car buyers. Further, people are more conservation-oriented in general these days, making the market ripe for upscale four-cylinder cars.
Another change has been major advances in computer controlled engine technology. These developments are enabling today’s four-cylinder engines to approach the power output of many of the vaunted V8s of yore. Teaming turbochargers with microprocessor instructed direct fuel injection and variable valve timing enable today’s engineers to get wholly satisfying amounts of power from these smaller engines, making them more than palatable in a luxury car setting.
Another development easing the path of the four-cylinder into the engine bay of luxury cars is the hybrid revolution. Reinforcing the output of a smaller gasoline engine with an electric motor both improves fuel economy and places more power at a driver’s disposal. This has the effect of opening an almost irresistible proposition; delivering the trappings of a luxury car, along with environmental responsibility and decent power. With, that said, we predict this list of the best four-cylinder luxury cars will only grow longer as time goes by.