In the current automotive environment, an article about the fastest four-cylinder sedans is anything but a snooze fest. While they were developing supercharging and turbocharging technologies to meet today’s ever-escalating fuel economy standards, manufacturers realized they could use those same techniques to considerably “boost” the output of small displacement engines too. As a result, a few engine developers are getting 300 horsepower out of series production four-cylinder engines these days. Meanwhile, 4-cylinder output in the 240 horsepower range and above has become routine. In the past, you’d have needed at least six cylinders for comparable results. Because of this, the today’s fastest 4-cylinder sedans are indeed exceptionally spry.
The Fastest 4-Cylinder Sedans
Photo Credit: Benjamin Hunting
Audi A4 2.0T
Volkswagen, Audi’s parent company, has a well-deserved reputation for getting strong performance from small displacement engines. Ranked among the fastest 4-cylinder sedans, Audi’s A4 compact luxury four-door offers tasteful styling, a quiet and comfortable ride, entertaining handling, all-wheel drive, and an exceptionally nice interior treatment. Long considered one of the most desirable models in its category, the A4 2.0T’s power comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine with 220 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque. Front drive and a continuously variable transmission are standard; all-wheel drive is offered with a choice of a six-speed manual, or an eight-speed automatic. Pricing starts at $35,500.
Photo Credit: Benjamin Hunting
Rounding out the all-new Audi A3 lineup is the high performance Audi S3. This all-wheel driven rocket enjoys a healthy 292 horsepower and 280 ft-lbs of torque, which it derives from a turbocharged 2.0-liter. A six-speed automated manual transmission is employed for this fastest version of Audi’s small 4-cylinder four-door. In addition to the more powerful engine, Audi’s engineering team added bigger brakes and recalibrated the steering and suspension systems to optimize the performance of the S3. Pricing starts at $41,400.
Photo Credit: Acura
Working hard to regain its image as a performance-oriented marque, Acura just revamped the ILX to boots its appeal to enthusiast drivers. Yes, there are more powerful cars on this list of the fastest 4-cylinder sedans. But on a winding mountain road, the ILX is still certainly among the fastest. The ILX boasts tremendous agility, courtesy of its precise steering and exceptional roadholding. This is a four-door sedan you’ll absolutely love to drive. The 201-horsepower 2.4-liter engine makes 170 ft-lbs of torque. An eight-speed automated manual transmission feeds the front wheels. Pricing starts at $27,900.
Buick Verano Turbo
Looking for a deal? Buick’s Verano Turbo combines continental good looks with a powerful turbocharged engine, a reasonably comfortable back seat, a composed ride quality, entertaining handling, a nice spread of lux features, and good performance. Solidly earning its spot on this list of the fastest 4-cylinder sedans, the Buick Verano Turbo packs a 250-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter with 260 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic can be had to route power to the front wheels. Pricing starts at $30,140.
Cadillac ATS 2.0 Turbo
A 4-cylinder turbocharged engine good for 272 horsepower and 295 ft-lbs of torque powers the quick Cadillac ATS 2.0 Turbo sedan. Rear-wheel drive is standard, though all-wheel drive is offered as an option. Transmission choices are a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. If it’s sounding like Cadillac intends the ATS 2.0 Turbo to be fully competitive with BMW’s 328i, it’s because the company does. In addition to its outstanding performance potential, the sharply drawn Cadillac compact luxury sedan features a beautifully finished interior and a wide array of luxurious features. Pricing starts at $36,240.
Photo Credit: BMW
The brilliant 4-cylinder engine in BMWs 328i operates so smoothly, you’ll swear it was one of the brand’s highly regarded inline sixes. Further, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four generates as much power as the first BMW M3’s six-cylinder engine did when it was brought to the United States. The 240-horsepwer turbocharged four makes 255 ft-lbs of torque. The rear wheels get this power through either a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic transmission. Associated with one of the most sophisticated chassis setups on the road, this engine easily qualifies the 328i as one of the fastest 4-cylinder sedans. Pricing starts at $37,500.
BMW 428i Gran Coupe
If you love the idea of the 3 Series sedan, but wish it had even more style, consider the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Despite the nomenclature, the Gran Coupe is indeed a four-door sedan, albeit one with a coupe-like profile. The downside is that it’s a bit more expensive than the standard 3 Series sedan (okay, considerably more expensive), but it’s also more exclusive and arguably better looking—if similarly equipped. The 428i Gran Coupe’s 240-horsepwer turbocharged four makes 255 ft-lbs of torque. The rear wheels get this power through either a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic transmission. Associated with one of the most sophisticated chassis setups on the road, this engine easily qualifies the 428i Gran Coupe as one of the fastest 4-cylinder sedans. Pricing starts at $40,300.
Photo Credit: Christian Wardlaw
Honda Civic Si
For many people, when you start talking about high performance 4-cylinder sedans, if you go without mentioning Honda’s Civic Si, you’re considered somewhat lacking in your knowledge of the genre. Fact is, the Civic Si is one of the longest running, continously offered 4-cylinder high performance sedans available today. Honda engines love to wind in general, but the 2.4-liter mill in the Civic Si sedan lavishly rewards the driver willing to do so. A six-speed manual transmission channels 201 horsepower and 174 ft-lbs of torque to the front wheels. Suspension and braking tweaks ensure the rest of the car is capable of keeping up. Pricing starts at $23,090.
The most powerful 4-cylinder engine currently offered resides in the Mercedes-AMG CLA45. (It’s also in the GLA45 AMG, but that’s a different story – literally). Introduced in 2014, for the 2015 model year, Mercedes provided the model with a number of significant updates. These include keyless entry and pushbutton start (this was previously unavailable), and dual-zone automatic climate control. Power comes from a 355-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter with 332 ft-lbs of torque. This is previously unheard of. All-wheel drive is standard, as well as a seven-speed automated manual transmission. Pricing starts at $48,500.
Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz Media
One of the newest models among the fastest 4-cylinder sedans, the Mercedes-Benz C300 was fully redesigned for the 2015 model year. Critics everywhere have considerable appreciation for the car. In fact, at its launch, the Mercedes-Benz C300 was immediately heralded as one of the best new luxury cars. The quick sedan is longer and slightly wider than the model it replaces so it offers a more spacious interior than its predecessor, along with additional luxury and prestige. Earning the model its spot on this list, the C300’s 241-horsepower engine displaces 2.0-liters and generates 273 ft-lbs of torque. The rear-drive four-cylinder powertrain uses a seven-speed automatic transmission and offers all-wheel drive as an option. Pricing starts at $38,400.
Subaru WRX/WRX STi
All new for the 2015 model year, Subaru’s WRX is something of a cult car, and deservedly so. Based upon the company’s legendary all-conquering World Rally Championship models, the Subaru WRX is indeed descended from greatness and further, is one of the most respected cars among the fastest 4-cylinder sedans. Its top-performing version, the WRX STi, gets 305 horsepower and 290 ft-lbs of torque out of a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed turbocharged four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is employed to route power to all four wheels. The standard WRX gets 268 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque out of a turbocharged 2.0-liter flat four. A six-speed manual is standard, a continuously variable transmission is offered as an option. WRX pricing starts at $26,295; STi pricing starts at $34,495.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Among the quickest 4-cylinder sedans, Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution has also been hailed as being the best handling four-door sedan in its price range. As its name suggests, the Lancer Evolution evolved out of the Mitsubishi Lancer economy sedan. Sharing many of that car’s styling elements, the “Evo” (as it is affectionately referred to) takes everything mechanical about the Lancer and dials it up to 11. Brembo brakes, a performance-oriented all-wheel drive system, and a twin-clutch automated manual transmission are among the upgrades offered with the Lancer Evolution. A 291-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 300 ft-lbs of torque supplies power. Pricing starts at $34,495.
Photo Credit: Christian Wardlaw
Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E
One glimpse of the Volvo S60 is enough to tell you this car was built with performance in mind—particularly if you don’t happen to notice the Volvo badging. The fluidly undulating styling, the alloy wheels sporting aggressive looking tires, and the tastefully subtle aerodynamics all add up to a promise of exhilarating performance. The Volvo also boasts the most innovative powerplant on this list of the quickest 4-cylinder four door sedans. Both turbocharged and supercharged, the 2.0-liter is also one of the two most powerful engines on this list. The S60's highly pressurized propulsion unit makes 302 horsepower and 295 ft-lbs of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission routes the engine’s output to the front wheels. Pricing starts at $39,250.