What was once an engine typically put into small economy vehicles evolved into one of the most popular powerplants for lightweight sports cars.
Being the red-blooded American patriots we are, our inner desire for a huge, aggressive V8 behind the wheel of our sports cars is so immense you’d think it’s hereditary. All joking aside, it’s for a reason. Sometimes a bigger power-unit can offer something a smaller one can’t. Or, can it?
As technology improved, what was once an engine typically put into small, cheaper vehicles evolved into one of the most popular powerplants for lightweight sports cars.
10-Fiat Abarth 124 Spider – ~144 MPH
Right off the bat, we want to start with something a bit different – A small, maneuverable roadster that’s shockingly affordable for how quick it is. No, not the Mazda MX-5, but its #1 competitor, the Fiat Abarth 124 Spider…
Even though the 124 Spider is an outstanding roadster that frequently outshines those like it, its sales figures have still suffered in recent history. Nevertheless, how much it sells doesn’t affect how good it is. Underneath the surface is a very fast, unique sports car. Hence why we have it on here!
9-Ford Mustang EcoBoost – ~145 MPH
In a predictable twist of fate, Ford (along with tons of other American carmakers) forewent the typical trends in the automotive industry. Rather than have sports cars powered solely by high-liter V8’s/V6’s, you’d have a choice between a more eco-friendly and economical muscle car.
This is where the Ford Mustang ‘EcoBoost’ comes into play. At first, we dismissed the idea of a 2.0-liter Mustang. The concept seemed woefully out of place (at the time), which led some to reject it outright.
However, after seeing what people have done to them, their ability to keep up with the pack, and its incredibly high sales, we admit that we were wrong.
8-Chevrolet Camaro 2.0T 1LE – ~154 MPH
While we’re already on the subject of four-cylinder muscle cars, it’s appropriate to bring up another one just like the aforementioned ‘EcoBoosted’ Mustang, albeit slightly faster. The latest Chevy Camaro 2.0T 1LE.
As you’ve probably figured by its name, this Camaro is another fuel-efficient take on modern American muscle. Although some may dislike G.M.’s newer Camaro (and the subsequent four-cylinder models), there’s no doubting its capabilities for the cost.
7-Mercedes-Benz SLC 300 – 155 MPH
Mercedes-Benz doesn’t have the greatest track record behind making reliable cars these days. Still, whether it’ll run after 100,000-miles and whether it’ll go fast off the production line are two separate measurements. That’s why we’re including the 2020 Mercedes SLC-Class here…
If you go for the 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 package, you’ll get a convertible that’s much more than a luxury cruiser. With a generous 241-hp, an SLC 300 will take you up to 155 MPH; maybe better in the right conditions.
6-Subaru WRX STI – 156 MPH
Going fast on-road is one thing, but it’s an entirely different matter when attempting to do the same off-road. It takes significant skill, high-grade engineering, and time to produce such a result. One of our favorite instances of such a car is this one – the Subaru WRX STI.
Whatever year or body-style you choose, a WRX STI won’t let you down. Yes, parts can be expensive to source, but the wonderful Boxster engine-note and power it produces is definitely worth the fee.
Subaru’s latest WRX STI (2021), is only getting quicker and quicker. Before long, it may surpass 170 MPH stock!
5-Alfa Romeo 4C/4C Spider – ~160 MPH
Finally, after many years of Alfa Romeo falling short with their sports cars and economy cars, they finally got a win! This ‘win’ came in the form of the 4C, as well as its convertible alternative; the 4C Spider.
Without luxuries like power-steering, traction control, ABS, etc. to weigh it down, the 4C models are very spry. For a while, the 4C seemed like Alfa’s best car yet, though, nothing lasts forever.
As of January 2020, the Alfa Romeo 4C and 4C Spider have seen a big drop in sales. It doesn’t bode well for the company, but there’s a bright side: they’ll be more affordable down the line.
4-Ariel Atom 4 – 162 MPH
Out of a small carmaker in Britain came one of the automotive world’s most intriguing vehicles to hit the road: the Ariel Atom. As you can tell, it’s basically a racecar for the road.
Using the very same engine as the Honda Civic Type-R (more on that later), the Atom slowly gained recognition; eventually leading to its current iteration, the Atom 4. Like the Alfa Romeo 4C, it’s the Atom’s lightweight – and subsequent power-to-weight ratio – that gives it the edge. Just make sure to wear a helmet, since a windscreen adds too many pounds…
3-Ford Focus RS – ~165 MPH
We’ve lost a great deal throughout the years. Cars that were once beloved had been axed or brought overseas; forever isolating itself from us. One such car sits in our third-place slot. None other than the late Ford Focus RS.
Everything great about the earlier Focus ST and Fiesta ST was condensed into one package with the ‘RS’ trim. Heck, it even had a ‘Drift Button’! To add to that, it could almost hit 170 MPH, which is amazing for a low-cost hot-hatch.
2-Honda Civic Type R – 169 MPH
Next up is the greatest front-wheel-drive ‘hot-hatch’ to grace this Earth thus far – No hyperbole. Of course, we only mean one car, the 2021 Honda Civic Type R…
The Type R badge has always been a marker of a great sports car, regardless of the years/model. Today, the new Civic Type R is no exception. After performing tremendously at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, we knew that Honda wasn’t messing around. As such, it’s no surprise we have it so high up on the list.
1-Porsche 718 Cayman S – 170 MPH
Last up is, to nobody’s shock, a rather costly European four-cylinder. No average four-banger, though, but a Boxster, nonetheless: the Porsche 718 Cayman S!
As it comes to be expected of a manufacturer like Porsche, the Cayman is no joke. Though it isn’t a 911, the 718 is plenty powerful with its smaller, lighter engine. On a good day, it can go as fast as 180 MPH.