Of all the fantastic motors the Toyota Motor Corporation has built, the 2JZ-GTE, 1JZ-GTE, 1LR-GUE, 3S-GTE, and 2ZZ-GE engines are by far the best. They range from four to 10 cylinders and power various Supras, Celicas, and the godly Lexus LFA. For many, these are the finest things to have ever come out of Japan under the hood of a Toyota. On the aftermarket, engines like the 2JZ-GTE and 1JZ-GTE are known for making more than 1,000 horsepower, and the remaining three are not too far behind. Previously, we’ve looked at the Best Honda Engines of All Time and the Best Ford Engines of All Time, now we’re looking at the Best Toyota Engines of All Time.
Best Toyota Engines of All Time
Since the 1960s, Toyota has been one of America’s most respected car brands, and for very good reason. Mostly, they are mostly known for making economy cars and SUVs and the occasional light-duty truck. Yet, Toyota has built some of the world’s best performance motors in history, too. We could have easily made this list with 10+ entries, as Toyota has created so many magnificent motors over the years. However, we limited it to the just the top five, and here they are:
2JZ-GTE – The Best Toyota Engine Ever
You probably knew this one was coming. The most popular and best engine in Toyota history is definitely the legendary 2JZ-GTE inline-six. This 3.0 liter motor powered the 1993–1998 Toyota Supra (A80) in the United States. Here, it gained immense fame as a virtually indestructible power plant that could produce insane amounts of horsepower and torque without major internal upgrades. Even today, it’s not uncommon to see 1,000+ wheel-horsepower Supras sporting built 2JZ engines.
From the factory, Toyota’s six-cylinder 2JZ was a dual-overhead camshaft (DOHC) engine with twin-turbochargers that used an air-to-air side-mounted intercooler. The turbos are sequential, which means one is smaller than the other and they run at different times. The smaller turbo kicks in first to build immediate boost, before the larger turbo later takes over and pushes more boost through the higher rpm range.
The engines made as much as 320 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque for the American market. Along with Nissan’s RB26, the 2JZ is one of the most revered JDM tuner engines to hit the market. Many consider the RB26 and 2JZ to be two of the greatest inline-six engines ever and the paragon of JDM performance.
As I mentioned, the real novelty of the 2JZ-GTE as one of the best Toyota engines is its ability to handle modifications. Enthusiasts have been known to replace the twin-turbos with a massive single turbo and make more than 1,000+ wheel-horsepower. The 2JZ has an incredibly strong bottom-end and block that can withstand practically anything. It’s still just as popular as ever on the aftermarket — more than 20 years since it has been in production.
If the 2JZ-GTE is the best Toyota engine of all time, its smaller and older 1JZ-GTE brother is not far behind. Toyota brought the 1JZ-GTE out to the market three years prior to the 2JZ in 1990. At the time, it was one of the most powerful motors in the entirety of the JDM. This was due to Toyota giving it a pair of twin-turbos that made 276 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque. Most famously, the 1JZ powered the 1990–1993 Toyota Supra before the 2JZ took over in April that year. Toyota also used it in the Crown, Soarer, Chaser, and a few others, mainly for the JDM and European markets.
The 1JZ is a 2.5 liter inline-six engine with an 8.5:1 compression ratio, a DOHC head, and used variable valve timing on the intake valves (VVT-i) after 1996. That year, they also changed the twin-turbo setup to a single-turbo. The single-turbo setup was larger and used a higher 9.0:1 compression ratio, and made a lot more low-end torque. In contrast to the 2JZ’s sequential twins, the 1JZ initially used a parallel turbo setup. This meant both turbos ran at the same time, which equated to a quick spool and lots of peak boost.
Like the 2JZ, the 1JZ’s real reputation comes not from its factory specs, but rather from its incredible aftermarket reputation. Using a closed-deck and cast-iron engine block with forged connecting rods and a forged crankshaft like the 2JZ, Toyota built the 1JZ to withstand some extreme punishment — and horsepower/torque. Though it’s not quite as capable as the 2JZ due to being a half-a-liter smaller in displacement, it can still make over 1,000+ wheel-horsepower with the right mods and turbo upgrade.
Next up we have the V10 1LR-GUE. Toyota only used the 1LR-GUE engine in one vehicle and made just 500 copies of it total. Still, that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best Toyota engines of all time. Toyota built the engine for the 2012 Lexus LFA, and no other vehicle has ever used it. In the LFA, it made a ginormous 553 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. Toyota worked in conjunction with Yamaha to build the engine, and it is the most powerful production motor in their history.
A 4.8 liter 72° V10 engine, the 1LR-GUE is quite frankly a different level of Toyota engineering. The 72° configuration aids with balancing the rotating assembly and also helps them shave a few pounds off the weight. The engine is naturally aspirated and it revs all the way out to a screaming 9,000 rpm redline. It is an all-aluminum engine that has a fully integrated crankshaft into the block. The pistons are forged and the connecting rods are titanium alloy. Compression sits very high at 12.0:1, and they also used titanium for the valve train, too. Toyota engineers even worked hard on the exhaust to make it sound like an F1 race car.
It’s one of the best modern engines to have come out of Japan, and it equates to some pretty substantial performance figures. The 1LR-GUE-powered LFA can go from zero to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds. It does the ¼ mile at only 11.6 seconds at 125 mph. That’s nearly as fast as the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, which uses 760 horsepower to do both runs just 0.3 seconds faster. The 1LR-GUE was a true gamechanger, and it remains to be seen if Toyota will ever top it.
For our fourth entry on the list, we have the 2.0 liter 3S-GTE inline-four engine. It might not have the stature or reputation of the above three, but it was still one of Toyota’s best engines from the mid-1980s all the way until the late-2000s. Toyota most notably used the engine inside the first through third generation Celica, as well as the second and third generations of the MR2. They gave the engine a single-turbo setup, which was good for 182-260 horsepower and 184-239 lb-ft of torque.
The 3S-GTE is a twin-cam, DOHC engine, with four valves per cylinder for 16-valves total. It is a perfectly square engine with an 86 x 86 mm bore and stroke. The block is strong cast iron while the head is lightweight aluminum. Over the years, Toyota kept making the engine more and more powerful from the factory, giving it a larger turbo, upping the boost, and increasing the fueling. For years, the 3S-GTE-powered Celicas and MR2s dominated cars ten times more expensive on the track, and the 2.0 liter power plant was a big part of that.
However, it wouldn’t be on this list if it was just for its stock capabilities. The 3S-GTE is also a very popular engine for upgrades, too. With a big enough turbo, multiple builds have pushed more than 1,000+ wheel-horsepower out of the small 2.0 liter four-banger, which is immensely impressive. It might even be more so than the 1JZ/2JZ, which both have more cylinders and more displacement. The 3S-GTE definitely deserves inclusion on any best Toyota engine list, and there are countless builds to prove it.
For the final of our best Toyota engines list, we have the 1.8 liter 2ZZ-GE inline-four engine. It’s the smallest motor on our list, and doesn’t have nearly the same aftermarket capabilities of the 1JZ, 2JZ, or 3S. But none of that matters. The 2ZZ-GE has rightfully earned a reputation as a top Toyota motor for a plethora of reasons. From the factory, Toyota rated it at a maximum of just 187 horsepower, but it’s what’s inside the engine that really makes a difference.
Toyota built the engine in collaboration with Yamaha — just like the 1LR-GUE V10 above — and it definitely shows. The engine debuted back in 1999, and it most prominently powered the Celica GT-S for Toyota for several years. The 2ZZ is an all-aluminum engine with an 11.5:1 compression ratio, forged steel connecting rods, and a very unique dual-camshaft profile.
Largely in response to Honda’s recent introduction of VTEC, Toyota introduced VVTL-I, or variable valve timing with intelligence. In the 2ZZ, Toyota tweaked this to also vary the lift of the camshafts depending on the engine speed, allowing for dual-lift VVTL-I for the first time. This allowed for the engine to run more aggressive cam timing at higher rpm, producing for more power and a broader power band.
While Toyota was only able to crank 187 horsepower out of the engine, Lotus did much better. With a supercharger, British manufacturer Lotus made a 243 horsepower 2ZZ to put inside their Lotus Exige, and later a 253 horsepower version for the Lotus 2-Eleven. On the aftermarket, many enthusiasts turbo the 2ZZ and routinely pump more than 400-500 wheel-horsepower out of the engine — it’s that impressive.
Best Toyota Engines of All Time Summary
Toyota has definitely created some pretty amazing engines in their day. Still, it’s tough to argue any have been better than the 2JZ-GTE, 1JZ-GTE, 1LR-GUE, 3S-GTE, and 2ZZ-GE. Confusing acronyms aside, all five engines are capable of extreme performance while staying very reliable. They range all the way from 2.0-4.8 liters in displacement, and come inline-four, inline-six, and V10 configurations. Yet, as diverse and different as they are, they all showcase the feats of Toyota’s engineering.
For enthusiasts, both the 1JZ and 2JZ motors represent the pinnacle of JDM performance. Capable of more than 1,000 horsepower with barely a turbo upgrade, both motors are the thing of legend. Not far behind is the 1LR-GUE, of which only 500 copies of the 553 horsepower motor exist, and all of them are handbuilt things of beauty.
Bringing up the rear are the 3S-GTE and 2ZZ-GE motors, which don’t have the prestige of the above three, but still outwork just about anything. Reliable and able to handle lots of horsepower and torque, they are still outstanding machines.
Best Toyota Engines FAQ
Toyota has definitely created some pretty amazing engines in their day, but it’s tough to argue any have been better than the 2JZ-GTE, 1JZ-GTE, 1LR-GUE, 3S-GTE, and 2ZZ-GE. Confusing acronyms aside, all five engines are capable of extreme performance while staying very reliable.
Many people consider the 2JZ-GTE to be Toyota’s best engine ever. It comes with ultra performance with extreme reliability, and is just as capable of lasting 200,000 miles on one build as it is of making 1,000+ horsepower on another.