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Save Fuel! Four Fabulous 4's that Burn Rubber.

Updated on May 24, 2014

This would qualify as my second list of cars that must be owned or driven by an enthusiast. This is my Super 4 list. While I am giving my opinion on great four cylinder powered vehicles, please understand that I have picked the four best that I have some experience with. Since age 9, I have been hooked on the likes of Road and Track, Automobile, Auto Week, Motor Trend and that clever British gent Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear. For a short time my love of cars led me to sell them. I worked in a handful of dealerships, and spent the rest of my time visiting and driving my competition. I’ve personally owned vehicles from 10 different brands. Yes, I know, look at my profile; I had a bad addiction for a while, much more expensive than drugs…

So, let me get out of the way for those of you who are going to protest my glaring omissions; I haven’t driven the latest Audi direct injection 4 cylinder, it looks to be fantastic, but the older models I drove (looking to buy) I just didn’t find them exciting. Lancer owners, sorry, I drove one, hated it. Acura RSX’s are nice, so are the Honda Civic Si, but when you have the S2000 as an option, there is no point and there is no comparison, monetary gap aside. My lack of long term experience with Mazda Miata is the only reason why this is a list of four and not five, I really like the evolution of the Miata MX-5. Saab’s are also a tough one to leave off this list, but I am sure it’s just a matter of spending a few hours behind the right one. VW’s, while extremely popular with those who have to own something German, let me just say my experience in the car industry will bar me from every owning a VW, sorry. Lastly, a Dodge Neon is a Dodge Neon…I do not care if they put the Viper motor in it; the SRT4 is still a Dodge Neon.

Addendum: I have experience with the following makes. Brands in bold signify working knowledge with at least five models; Acura, Audi, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Freightliner, Geo, GMC, Honda, Hyundai, International, Isuzu, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Land Rover, Lexus, Lincoln, Mini, Mazda, Mercedes, Mercury, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Porsche, Saturn, Scion, Toyota, VW.

Please Enjoy and by all means, leave me your favorite Four Banger in the comments section. Thanks.

3000 lbs - 305hp Porsche 911 Killer!
3000 lbs - 305hp Porsche 911 Killer! | Source

1992 - 95 Porsche 968

Okay, so I have to disclose my weird and complete bias, maybe it’s because I am not a six figure earner yet, but I always crane my neck to identify what year 944 or 968 I pass. 944’s are the little brother to my ultimate love, 928’s. I have driven and looked to purchase a fabulous low mile 944 or 968 for some time. In used car form, with much deflated prices, this Porsche is the best entry level sports car I know of. The 968 in particular is fantastic for its naturally aspirated 3 liter 4 cylinder, making 236 hp through a 6 speed gear box. This little guy only weighs around 3,034 pounds loaded with the options, hits 0-60 in the low fives and can get up to 29 mpg on the highway. Add superlative Porsche dynamics, handling and near perfect 51/49 weight ratios, what’s not to fall in love with? There is something equally weird when settling down in a nearly 20 year old automobile that burns rubber through second gear and puts to shame so many modern computer barges. Another great attribute is the fact that the last three years of its shelf life Porsche went all out on road racing design, there are a very limited number of 968 Turbo’s making in excess of 305 hp, essentially 911 killers. No self respecting 911 owner wanted to know that a low breed 968 would smoke his austere ego machine; probably another reason I like these so much.

2006 Subaru Legacy GT Wagon
2006 Subaru Legacy GT Wagon

2006 Subaru Legacy LTD GT Wagon

Here is a car that caught me off guard in terms of drivability, fun, design, raw speed, and something totally different…the ability to fly down gravel roads nearing triple digits with relative ease. I had to own one and I did. With a couple of really simple modifications, exhaust and cold air intake, this car was unbelievably easy to push hard. Better yet, who the heck would expect to get dusted off at the light by a Subaru wagon? Apparently a lot of people! Apparently all these tree huggers have vices too! I fell in love with this Subaru, and I wouldn’t mind finding another low mileage wagon down the road to keep for rainy days. There are only some 1,700 5spd Turbo wagons in existence. 250hp, 250tq, and a perfectly weighted all wheel drive system, this pushes the needle far to the right on the fun-O-meter. Rip off some quick burst to 60 in about 5.3 seconds, and then find a country road to pretend you are in a Pikes Peak rally race. I have turned my wife a few shades of pale while drifting through dirt intersections. What’s more amazing is the reliability, gas mileage returns and absolute practicality a five seater with cargo room affordes. Give me two please! Yes the Impreza STI is a four cylinder muscle car in its own right, yet it also flaunts its credentials the way Pontiac Firehawk did, not very subtle.

*Update* As of April of 2014, I purchased my second 2006 Subaru Legacy GT, same as the silver wagon pictured above. I loved it so much the first time I decided I wanted a redo. Only difference this time is I bought the automatic so my wife could drive it, still fun, but a little more subdued. What I really like is how few of these you see on the road, for me, that is an added bonus.

Subaru Legacy Wagon: Notice how the Mustang is slowing it down in the corners!

2003 Honda S2000
2003 Honda S2000
Super Four - 2 Liters - Rear Wheel Drive
Super Four - 2 Liters - Rear Wheel Drive

2003 Honda S2000

Good Golly what a motor! 2.0 liters, 11 to 1 compression ratio, 240 naturally aspirated horse power and an 8,900 rpm redline. Precision 6 speed manual that could only get easier if you were shifting via a Playstation 3. Granted, unlike the Subaru, this car is all about how fast can you get down to the club house for a round of golf. The cabin is barely big enough to sneeze in, the sound system is one of the worst I’ve come across in a modern sports car, and you better like hearing engine rev because, that’s the only way this car drives. This is not a car for traffic; this is a car for Willow Springs race course or carving deep ruts on mountain drives. With the top down and helmet on, some Honda motorcycle owners might feel particularly comfortable behind the sweeping electronic tachometer. There was a great match up from Car and Driver magazine August of 2003 where it was paired up with a BMW Z4, Porsche Boxter, Nissan 350Z and Audi TT. It was this article that added below, that actually brought some BMW hard cores into Honda dealerships. I know It helped me sell a couple.

1989 Lotus Esprit Turbo
1989 Lotus Esprit Turbo

1989 Lotus Esprit Turbo

Okay, how could any self respecting car enthusiast leave out the mighty Lotus Esprit Turbo? A mid-engine, rear wheel drive Formula One type road car. This is the car that Richard Gere couldn’t drive so he let Julie Roberts (Pretty Woman) take over. This car has been in two James Bond films, Basic Instinct, Cannon Ball Run, Boiler Room, The Rookie and about a dozen more films. As a matter of fact, its probably easier to come across one on TV than rolling down the highway. If the RAF were to design a car, the Esprit already answered the call. The 1989 version is particularly good because of several up grades and redesigns. Take for example the paltry spec sheet, 228 hp, 215 pound tq and a 5 speed manual. Seems pretty lackluster and especially not super car material. Well this Lotus can fly with those digits – 5.2 seconds to 60. How about a quarter mile run in 13.6 seconds! That’s because this stealth fighter tips the scales at a feather weight 2845 lbs. Unfortunately, I’ve never been behind the wheel of a running one...yet. The closest I got was sitting in a 2000 S4 model at the Anaheim Convention center.

And the Winner is???


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    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 6 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Hi Hugh, thanks for coming by to check it out. I am going to have to keep up on your car hubs to watch for overlap. I appreciate the feedback. Thanks.

    • Hugh Williamson profile image

      Hugh Williamson 6 years ago from Northeast USA

      Great list of cars and a good illustration of how cars can be both economical, gas-wise, and fun also. I thoroughly enjoyed your Hub and I learned a few things too.

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Hello Rorshak, very interesting name. Thank you for reading and leaving a compliment. Pre-2005 and older makes and models I know real well, all these new gizmo cars are getting away from me, I just don't have the time. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      rorshak sobchak 7 years ago

      Sounds like you know your automobiles great write up!!

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      If I had the extra cash lying around I would definately be getting a Ford Flex. I don't really care for vans, but it would be nice to have a vehicle that had a little more room. We got to drive one because we rented a vehicle on vacation. It easily sat 7 people and didn't give me the feeling of being a van mom. It was fun; it was cool; and it didn't give me nearly as many blind spots. However, it is only necessary to have 1 vehicle per driver (max too) and I wouldnt' mind having a convertible or a truck either... both of which I have yet to find that will fit a family of 5 and get good gas mileage.

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Hey Barber, thanks for stopping in, I remember the Geo Storms were a favorite of some. I think Geo's are in the love'em or hate'em catagory.

      I know what mean with the Ford Flex, it is a very impressive vehicle for something so rectangular. The top model features a turbo six cylinder "Eco-Boost" engine. I wouldn't mind buying one for the wife, but there are just too many choices and only one garage...thanks again.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      That Honda looks like a hoot. I can honestly say I don't know much about cars... so excuse me if I name a favorite that isn't necessarily a 4.

      My first car was a bare bones Geo Prizm. It had manual windows and manual locks and a manual sunroof. But I loved the thing. It probably also hit the top of my list because it was teal... my favorite color. Even today, after all the different cars I have owned, that was by far one of my favorites... along with a Geo Tracker that I owned later on in life. Bonus with the tracker - the soft top. I have always wanted a convertible and this vehicle let the wind whip through my hair.

      My other favorite ride, and my newest obsession is a Ford Flex... however, I think that runs on six. But let me tell you, it has manuverabilty written all over it. But I will admit, it does look a little like a hearse, at least in my opinion.

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Hi Daydreamer, thanks for reading, anything here interest you?

      Wes, do not get me started on BMW...they are a hard habit to break.

    • daydreamer13 profile image

      daydreamer13 7 years ago

      Cool cars!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      LOL! "red and blue kill joys!"

      I used to be a terrible speeder. Now I wonder why I used to be in such a hurry. I still love a nice car. It's nowhere near a four banger, by a friend bought a new BMX X6 with a turbo charged v8 - man, what a ride!

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      @ William, I couldn't imagine who your slick salesperson was...What a fantastic purchase that 2003 was. I believe that netted around 26 mpg cruising at 4100 rpm.

      Wes, I could fill up an entire year if I were given one day with each auto I want to drive. It wouldn't matter where I started or what year. Just keep me clear of the Red and Blue kill joys.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I just wish I could drive everything I want to drive at least for a day.

    • profile image

      William Manning 7 years ago

      Had the pleasure of leasing a 2003 S2000. I completely agree, it is an outstanding little sports car that actually has decent MPGs.


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