It’s no secret that some of the most successful and beloved affordable sports cars have been the product of Japanese engineering. The late 1990s and early 2000s were a golden age for Japanese togue monsters from numerous manufacturers. Both Toyota and Nissan were at the top of their game, producing cars that have since become cultural icons like the MkIV Supra and the Skyline R32 GT-R.
A large reason for both of those cars’ success is the powertrains that moved them. The MkIV Toyota Supra utilized the 2JZ-GTE engine, a motor that has since become synonymous with unparalleled strength and power potential. The RB26TT found in the Nissan R32 GT-R is a similar beast, famed for the same reasons as the 2JZ.
Despite being very similar engines on paper, their subtle differences make a big difference in actuality. At the end of the day, the 2JZ vs RB26 debate is one that has raged for decades and will continue well into the future. In this article, we’ll cover the technical specs of both the 2JZ-GTE and RB26DETT engines.
Brief 2JZ vs RB26 Engine History
As with many of the most beloved performance engines in history, the RB26 vs 2JZ rivalry can be traced back to racing. The Nissan vs Toyota rivalry began in the 1980s as a result of fierce competition in Japan’s SuperGT series. This competition extended beyond the track, as homologation requirements forced Nissan to introduce the RB26-powered R32 GT-R to the public. Toyota was forced to respond and did so by introducing their own inline-6 powerhouse, the 2JZ, to the world market.
Both the 2JZ and RB26 are the result of Toyota and Nissan learning and developing from previous generations of inline-6 engines.
Toyota learned from the 7M-GTE and 1JZ and refined their inline-6 formula through trial and error. Through the success of the 1JZ engine, which was praised in virtually every aspect, Toyota learned that overengineering and solid build construction was important for reliability and customer satisfaction.
The origins of the RB26 engine can be traced back to the mid-1960s. The fundamental construction of the RB-series of engines shares many similarities with the L20A 6-cylinder, released in 1965. While the RB-series obviously features many more modern features than the carbureted L20A, the first iteration RB20 shares the same stroke and bore specifications as the L20A.
Toyota 2JZ Engine Specifications
- Engine: 3.0 Liter Sequential Twin-Turbo DOHC Inline-6
- Displacement: 2997 cc (3.0L)
- Aspiration: Twin Sequential Turbo
- Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
- Block Material: Cast Iron
- Head Material: Aluminum
- Bore & Stroke: 86 mm × 86 mm (3.39 in × 3.39 in)
- Power: 320 hp (206 kW; 280 PS) at 5600 rpm
- Torque: 333 lb⋅ft (451 N⋅m) at 4000 rpm
- Vehicle Applications: Toyota Aristo (JZS147, JZS161), Toyota MkIV Supra JZA80
The 2JZ is a 3.0 liter inline-6 utilizing twin turbos to pump out 320 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. That horsepower and torque figures come contrary to the figures that Toyota provided for the 2JZ-GTE at the time. Due to a gentleman’s agreement between Japanese manufacturers in the 1990s, they were supposed to cap horsepower at 276hp. Despite the agreement, most cars released at the time actually made far more power than their advertised number. Additionally, the 2JZ was built to handle close to three times the 276 factory rating.
The 2JZ features an array of modern technological elements that increase performance. The 2JZ-GTE was one of the first engines to use a sequential turbo design which helped to mitigate turbo lag. In its later form, excluding North American models, the 2JZ saw an upgraded variable valve timing system. Toyota calls this the VVT-i system. The 2JZ saw this upgrade in 1997 which improved fuel efficiency and strengthened the mid-range powerband.
Some other notable features include oil-cooled pistons and massive main bearing journals. Both of these features aid in keeping the rotating assembly properly lubricated and balanced at high RPMs.
Toyota 2JZ Strength
Then when you look at the rest of the Toyota 2JZ specs it’s clear this engine was built to tolerate some serious power and boost. This engine is all about strength. Toyota used a cast iron engine block for the 2JZ-GTE which allows for it to withstand extremely high boost pressure. The 2JZ has a closed deck design, meaning that the chances of cylinder distortion are very low. A relatively low pressure 8.5:1 compression ratio also aids in allowing for increased boost.
The 2JZ features a forged crankshaft and forged rods. These are two elements that fail first when exposed to high boost when they are cast instead of forged. Toyota covered their bases on this front, which makes the 2JZ very susceptible to aftermarket modification.
In terms of aftermarket potential, there’s so much that we wrote an entire article about it. To sum it up quickly, the 2JZ is one of the most modifiable engines in history. It is extremely easy to reach the 400+ whp mark with simple bolt-on mods. The 2JZ is capable of pushing power in the ballpark of 600-800 hp without opening up the engine. Since the stock internals and bottom end are so strong, there’s rarely a need to upgrade any internal components.
Nissan RB26 Engine Specifications
- Engine: 3.0 Liter Sequential Twin-Turbo DOHC Inline-6
- Displacement: 2569 cc (2.57L)
- Aspiration: TwinTurbo
- Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
- Block Material: Cast Iron
- Head Material: Aluminum
- Bore & Stroke: 86 mm × 73.7 mm
- Power: 276 hp (205 kW) at 6800 rpm
- Torque: 260 lb⋅ft (353.6 N⋅m) at 4000 rpm
- Vehicle Applications: Skyline R32 GT-R, Skyline R33 GT-R, Skyline R34 GT-R, Nissan Stagea 260RS
The RB26 is one of Nissan’s benchmark twin-turbo inline-6 engines, producing a quoted 276 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque from the factory. In actuality, factory RB26 horsepower was said to be a bit more. Nissan equipped all RB26-powered vehicles with a boost restrictor to limit power. With the restrictor removed, stock power is closer to 300 horsepower.
The RB26’s block features an over-square design, meaning that the engine’s stroke is longer than its bore. This benefits the RB26 in terms of high-RPM speed, with a sacrifice to low RPM torque. In fact, low torque is one of the RB’s primary pitfalls in stock form.
As a racing-derived engine, the RB26TT features some standout technological features that were groundbreaking for the time. For instance, the RB26TT features six individual throttle bodies, one for each cylinder. This dramatically enhances throttle response time.
It also features four valves per cylinder, which helps to improve the RB26’s breathing by letting more gas and air into the combustion chamber. Coil on plug ignition systems were a rarity on street cars in the 80s, but the RB26 is an engine that is equipped with one. This makes the RB26’s ignition more reliable and consistent.
As with the 2JZ-GTE, the RB26TT was designed and built with strength in mind. The RB’s factory output of 276 horsepower is a joke in comparison to what it is truly capable of. There are a couple of standout features that make the RB such a strong engine.
Like the 2JZ, the RB26TT features a cast-iron block and aluminum cylinder head. The solid construction of the engine means that it is capable of withstanding immense pressure that might arise from craking up the boost. While the RB26 utilizes forged rods, its pistons are cast and neither are known for their immense strength. Most RB26 owners that aim for high boost and power levels upgrade to fully forged internals.
With that being said, the RB26 does feature some important engine preservation features. The RB is a non-interference engine, meaning that should there be an abrupt interruption in timing, the valvetrain will remain largely intact. It also uses direct valvetrain actuation by way of belt-driven camshafts. In this system, there is no need for lifters or linkages which improves reliability and reduces weight.
Like the 2JZ, the RB26 is a very strong motor. It also shares a similar amount of aftermarket support as the 2JZ. Since it is one of the most beloved engines to come out of Japan, there is no shortage of bolt-on parts that can be fitted to it. Most enthusiasts claim that the RB26 is factory equipped to run up to 600 hp without modifying any internal parts. With that being said, the RB isn’t quite as strong as the 2JZ. This boils down to the RB26’s lack of forged pistons and connecting rods which makes them susceptible to failure at high power figures.
2JZ vs RB26 Similarities
By looking at their on-paper stats, it is clear that the 2JZ and RB26 have more in common than they do differences. Both are sturdily constructed, non-interference, twin-turbo, inline-6 engines that produce around 300 horsepower. In addition, they share the same compression ratio and are equipped to handle far more horsepower than their stock forms.
2JZ vs RB26 Design Similarities
In terms of the design of both engines, we’ll first cover the most obvious similarities. Both the 2JZ and RB26 are inline-6 engines. While that might seem like a given, it is important to understand why both manufacturers decided to develop high-performance engines with a straight 6 formula. The primary reason is engine balance. As opposed to a “V” arrangement, inline engines tend to be smoother and better responding. This is due to the fact that pistons at the front and back of the engine mirror each other’s movement, and these primary forces are negated.
Both the 2JZ and RB26 feature a cast iron bottom end and aluminum cylinder head. On performance engines, a strong bottom end is one of the most important characteristics to take into account. Both the 2JZ and RB26 have comparatively high redlines (7,200 on VVT-i 2JZ and 8,000 on RB26TT). The more rotational energy an engine produces, the stronger the bottom end should be. This is especially true for forced-induced engines, as the added pressure within the engine necessitates stronger build materials.
The 2JZ and RB26 are both non-interference engines. This means that if the timing belt were to snap on either engine, the valvetrain would be spared from terminal damage. Non-interference engines save a bit of space between pistons at top-dead-center and the valves at maximum lift. In interference engines, there would be some overlap, allowing the pistons to make contact with the valves.
2JZ vs RB26 Performance Comparison
Despite the 2JZ and RB26 being very similar in terms of their overall construction, the way that they act on the street is actually pretty different. With that being said, they do share some performance similarities due to their construction.
Both the 2JZ and RB26 utilize forced induction for added horsepower and performance. The engines are both twin-turbocharged with the caveat that the 2JZ uses sequential turbo technology. Since both engines feature similar construction and are both twin-turbocharged, they have somewhat similar driving characteristics. This is especially true at higher RPM ranges once the RB26 gets into boost. Since the RB has a much lower torque figure than the 2JZ, similar power characteristics aren’t truly apparent until around 3,000 RPM.
The 2JZ and RB26 also have very similar specific power outputs. In layman’s terms, this simply means that both engines produce a similar amount of horsepower per liter of displacement. The 2JZ’s specific power output is 106.66 hp/l while the RB26’s is 106.15 hp/l. In principle, that makes the RB26 the more efficient engine of the two. Despite having nearly 0.5L less displacement, it produces only 0.51 less horsepower per liter. Overall, the two are very similar in terms of their efficiency.
2JZ vs RB26 Differences
While the similarities between the two engines are easily apparent, their differences are very important in terms of how each engine performs. Perhaps the most important distinction between the 2JZ vs RB26 is the difference in displacement. Along similar lines, the stroke and bore of each engine are different. This difference in engine geometry is very important to note, as it changes how each engine delivers power.
2JZ vs RB26 Displacement Differences
As mentioned above, the primary difference between the two engines is displacement. The 2JZ is a 2997 cc -rounded to 3L – engine, compared to the RB26’s 2569cc – or 2.6L – displacement. Despite being a relatively small difference in actuality, it makes a big difference in terms of performance. Most of the 2JZ’s additional 44 horsepower over the RB26 can be attributed to its extra displacement. While that is a sizable amount of horsepower, the 2JZ’s additional 73 lb-ft of torque is the more impactful difference. One of the most common gripes with the RB26 is its lack of low-end torque compared to the 2JZ.
Another factor that plays a role in the RB26’s lack of low-end torque compared to the 2JZ is its engine geometry. The RB26 has a stroke of 86mm and a bore of 73.7mm. That makes the RB26 an over-square engine, meaning that the engine’s stroke is larger than its bore. In terms of how that affects performance, over-square engines tend to be more optimized for high-RPM power delivery. That makes sense in the context of the RB26, as it is a very high-revving engine. Over-square engines are better suited for racing applications as you tend to stay in higher RPMs on the track. All of that comes at a sacrifice to low-RPM torque.
In contrast to the RB26, the 2JZ also features a stroke of 86mm, but has a bore of 86mm as well. That allows the 2JZ to have a perfect square engine geometry. In contrast to the RB26’s over-square geometry, the 2JZ’s square design strikes a balance between low-end torque and mid-range power.
Other Technical Differences
One of the most important technical components of both the 2JZ vs RB26 is the turbochargers that they employ. The RB26DETT utilizes two Garrett T25 ball-bearing turbochargers with ceramic internals. While they are a good choice for RB26s running stock power, they have proven to be unreliable at higher boost levels. The RB26’s turbos act in true twin-turbo fashion, spooling simultaneously.
In contrast, the 2JZ features a set of sequentially linked Hitachi ceramic turbos that spool at different times. In general, sequential turbo setups feature two different sized turbos to generate boost at both low and high RPMs. As the 2JZ was developed at a time when sequential turbo technology was still in its infancy, that isn’t the case. The 2JZ’s Hitachi turbos are the same size, but do, in fact, spool at different times to mitigate turbo lag. Despite being new tech at the time, the 2JZ’s sequential system worked very well and was extremely reliable.
Another important difference to note is the lack of a variable valve timing system on the RB26. Variable valve timing works by changing how the intake and exhaust valves work at different engine speeds. This essentially optimizes how an engine performs at different RPMs and can add an extra bit of oomph at higher RPMs. Toyota added their VVT-i variable valve timing system to the 2JZ in 1997, barring US spec engines. Many people found VVT-i to be a welcomed addition to the already beastly 2JZ. Despite the addition to the 2JZ, Nissan never added similar tech to the RB26.
2JZ vs RB26 Conclusion
At the end of the day, it is impossible to scoff at either the 2JZ or the RB26. Both engines changes the game for their respected manufacturer and were featured in some of the most important JDM cars to ever be released. Both engines utilized a balanced inline-6 cylinder design and were produced with aftermarket modifiability in mind.
Strength is the selling point for both of these engines. Their use of nearly indestructible cast iron engine blocks and aluminum cylinder heads allow them to withstand more than twice their horsepower rating from the factory. They also include engine preservation technology should anything go wrong, including non-interference architecture and a closed deck design.
In terms of performance, the 2JZ has the edge. Most of the 2JZ’s performance advantages come from its higher displacement and square engine design which preserves low-end torque. Both engines are monsters, there’s no question about it. With that being said, the 2JZ is superior in multiple ways.