You know times have changed when the fastest 4-cylinder cars in America wear badges from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Alfa Romeo. These newcomers to the 4-cylinder performance game stand alongside stalwarts from Mitsubishi, Honda, and Subaru as quick and nimble compact cars that can flex their muscles alongside larger V8s and not get laughed off of the starting grid. The 4-cylinder revolution might have begun long ago, but it's reached its apex with the current crop of modern ruffians. Let's take a quick look at 10 of the fastest 4-cylinder cars currently available.
10 Fastest 4-Cylinder Cars
Photo Credit: Jason Fogelson
1) 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C — 4.2 seconds
The Alfa Romeo 4C marks the return of the Italian automaker to the American mass market, as the sports coupe is intended to serve as the thin end of the wedge for the rest of the brand. A tiny, 1.75-liter 4-cylinder engine sits behind the driver in the Alfa Romeo 4C, with the use of a turbocharger squeezing 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of twist from its modest displacement. This is more than enough to get the lightweight, carbon-fiber tub of the 4C moving with authority, and its 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission helps it to reach 60 mph in an astonishing 4.2 seconds.
2) 2016 Ford Focus RS — 4.7 seconds
New for the year, the 2016 Ford Focus RS is the Blue Oval's hottest hatch, overshadowing even the sprightly Focus ST. The Ford Focus RS is built around a 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that churns out 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, dumped to all four wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission. An electronic limited-slip differential and an anti-torque steer system work to corral those furious ponies when the go-pedal is mashed to the floor, resulting in a 0-60-mph time of 4.7 seconds for the Focus RS.
Photo Credit: Benjamin Hunting
3) 2016 Audi S3 — 4.7 seconds
The 2016 Audi S3 is the hottest version of the brand's entry-level luxury sedan. The Audi S3 makes the most of its standard quattro all-wheel drive system by way of a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder motor that pushes out 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque — numbers that are good enough to scoot the compact car to 60 mph in a competitive 4.7 seconds. A 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission is the only gearbox on offer with the S3, but it does feature a launch control mode that ensures repeatable drag strip glory night in, night out.
4) 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG — 4.1 seconds
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG is the first turbocharged 4-cylinder car from the German brand's in-house tuner. The sedan boasts 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, making it the mightiest entry on our list of the fastest 4-cylinder cars. An all-wheel-drive system steps in to harness the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG's turbo fury, and together with a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission helps the automobile burst its way to 60-mph in 4.1 seconds, which is quite quick for a compact. Of course, in addition to being the quickest vehicle in this round-up, the Mercedes-Benz is also the most expensive.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
5) 2016 Volkswagen Golf R — 4.9 seconds
The 2016 Volkswagen Golf R takes the handling prowess and practicality of the Volkswagen GTI hatchback and gives it some extra 4-cylinder muscle. Although the 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine offered by the Volkswagen Golf R is the same size as that found in the GTI, a number of internal changes and an upgraded turbo see its output spike at 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard with the Golf R, as is all-wheel drive, but opting for VW's available 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual unit adds a launch control feature that blazes the hatch to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds.
Photo Credit: Subaru
6) 2017 Subaru WRX STI — 5.2 seconds
The 2017 Subaru WRX STI features a 2.5-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes 305 horses and 290 lb-ft of torque. Not much has changed for this year, but the WRX STI didn’t really need anything — its 2015 updates provided numerous chassis improvements that enhance handling and ride quality over the previous generation. All-wheel drive remains standard with the Subaru WRX STI, and the system provides the sedan with enough grip to reach 60 mph in just a tick over five seconds. A 6-speed manual is the only gearbox available with the most potent Subaru model.
7) 2016 Chevrolet Camaro — 5.4 seconds
The fully redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Camaro is a sign of the times — the entry-level American muscle car added a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine to the base model this year. With 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, the Camaro has plenty of power, yet it’s also affordable and fuel-efficient for a sports car. Buyers get the choice of a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic gear box for this rear-drive coupe, and can expect to hit the 60-mph mark in just 5.4 seconds.
Photo Credit: Ford
8) 2017 Ford Mustang EcoBoost — 5.6 seconds
When the Ford Mustang was redesigned for 2015, purists were baffled by the engine offerings. But the 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder motor has found its way into the pony car's lineup and appears to be here to stay. Tuned to provide 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque, the Ford Mustang EcoBoost can be ordered with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. Stomp on the gas, and the EcoBoost Mustang rips its way to 60 mph in less than six seconds, a startling time for such a heavy car, and one that makes it a viable competitor in the entry-level performance car sweepstakes.
Photo Credit: Mazda
9) 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata — 5.8 seconds
Redesigned for this year, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is a long-shining example of the fun tat can be had with a modest 4-cylinder. For 2016, the Miata's sole powerplant is a 155-horsepower is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that also makes 148 lb-ft of torque. The horsepower is slightly less than the previous generation, but a bit more torque helps make up for the loss and helps propel the car to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard and a 6-speed automatic is available.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
10) 2017 FIAT 124 Spider Abarth — 5.9 seconds
The FIAT 124 Spider roadster is based on the Miata, so it’s not really a surprise that they have very close 0-60 MPH times. That said, the two cars have similar architecture but different power sources. Powering the 124 Spider Abarth is a 164-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, paired to either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine is the same in the base and Abarth versions of the car; the Abarth jut adds four more horsepower and a limited-slip differential to help achieve that 5.9-second sprint.