The Toyota 3S-GTE is a 2.0L turbo inline-4 engine designed for use in the Celica, MR2, and Caldina. It’s a long running engine with production spanning from 1986 to 2007. 3S-GTE engines offer 182 to 256 horsepower. Very respectable numbers for a small inline-4 engine of its era. Of course, with a 20+ year engine there’s a lot to cover so let’s move along. In this guide, we discuss Toyota 3S-GTE 2.0 inline-4 engine specs, performance, aftermarket, reliability, and more.
What Cars Use the Toyota 3S-GTE Engine?
3S-GTE 2.0 inline-4 turbo engines are in the following models:
- 1986-1989 Toyota Celica ST165 (1st gen engine)
- 1990-1993 Toyota Celica ST185 (2nd gen engine)
- 1990-1993 Toyota MR2 (2nd gen engine)
- 1994-1999 Toyota Celica ST205 (3rd gen engine)
- 1994-1999 Toyota MR2 (3rd gen engine)
- 1997-2001 Toyota Caldina ST215 (4th gen engine)
- 2002-2007 Toyota Caldina ST246 (5th gen engine)
In the below engine specs section we’ll break down the various 3SGTE engine generations. Given its 20+ years in production there were a number of updates. Each of these lead to a new generation of the 2.0L inline-4. Though, they’re still all known by the 3S-GTE engine code.
3SGTE 2.0L Engine Specs
Specs for the Toyota 3S-GTE 2.0L turbo engine are as follows:
|Block Material||Cast Iron|
|Valvetrain||DOHC, 16 valves|
|Bore x Stroke||86mm x 86mm|
|Compression Ratio||8.5 : 1 to 9.0 : 1|
|Torque (lb-ft)||184-239 TQ|
The 3S-GTE is a 2.0L inline-4 turbocharged engine. It uses a heavy cast iron block which provides excellent strength. Cylinder heads are made from aluminum in order to keep weight lower. Toyota went with a DOHC 16 valve design, which is standard for many of their engines.
A square engine with equal bore and stroke provides a good balance of power and torque. Depending on generation the 3SGTE features a different compression ratio. 1st and 3rd gen engines are 8.5:1 compression. The 2nd gen Toyota 3S engine has an 8.8:1 compression ratio while later 4th and 5th gen engines are 9.0:1.
Add up all of the 3S-GTE specs and its good for 182 to 256 horsepower and 184-239 lb-ft. Power consistently increased with each new generation of the 2.0 inline-4 turbo. 1st gen engines offer 182-190 horsepower while all following generations come in at 200+ horsepower and 200+ torque.
2.0 Turbo Inline-4 Generations
All of the 3SGTE generations share the same basic engine design and specs from above. However, there were a number of updates to help improve power, performance, and reliability over the years. It would be impossible to cover all of the details and differences for each engine. As such, we will simply provide a quick breakdown of notable changes over the years.
- 1st Gen: 8.5:1 compression ratio and 8-9 PSI boost on the turbo. Air to water intercooler
- 2nd Gen: Increase to 8.8:1 compression and 10-11 PSI. Twin entry turbine housing with dual wastegate ports. Switch to air-to-air intercooler
- 3rd Gen: CT20B turbo. Similar design to 2nd gen with larger compressor wheel. Boost increases to 13 PSI. Switch back to air-to-water intercooler. Air flow meter replaced with MAP sensor. Larger fuel injectors. Engine block revised in 1997 to prevent cracking issues.
- 4th Gen: CT15B turbo. Exhaust housing is cast to the manifold. Air-to-air top mount intercooler. Larger 550cc fuel injectors. Compression increase to 9.0:1.
- 5th Gen: Longer injectors lie closer to intake ports. Slightly smaller air-to-air intercooler. Ignition system updates. New valve cover design. Oil cooler removed.
Again, this is not an exhaustive list of all of the differences between the 3S-GTE engines. As the generations progress the updates help improve horsepower and torque. There were some interesting updates on the 5th gen engine that seem like downgrades. However, the engine still offers the same 256 horsepower output as the 4th gen engines.
Those looking to swap a 3S-GTE engine will likely find the 3rd and 4th gen engines to be the most capable. Unfortunately, the 4th engine was only in the Toyota Caldina which was not available in US markets (as with the 5th gen engine, too).
Toyota 3S-GTE Performance
Performance of the stock 3S-GTE Toyota Celica and MR2 isn’t our main focus here. We won’t dive into specific performance metrics. 0-60, 1/4 mile, and other performance measures vary too much. Of course, in general the later engines are faster from the factory. Power consistently increased over the years of 3S-GTE production.
The 2.0L turbo inline-4 engine is very capable from the factory. For its era the 3SGTE engine offers great performance. However, the engines strength is what makes them so desirable. A cast iron block and strong internals mean the 2.0 turbo engine has plenty of potential on the table. Basic tuning and bolt-on mods can take the 3S-GTE turbo engine to the next level.
3SGTE Mods, Tuning, Aftermarket Potential
In the future we will expand on the topic of Toyota 3S-GTE tuning, bolt-ons, and aftermarket potential. There’s a lot that goes into this, so we simply can’t cover it all here. Instead, we’re simply covering some of the basics in this article. Anyways, making bigger power on the 3SGTE engine is pretty simple. Here’s a quick breakdown of modding and tuning the 2.0 inline-4 turbo engine.
“Stage 1” 3S-GTE Engine (200-225whp)
With a few basic mods the 3S engine can pretty easily make 200-225+whp. Solid numbers for these lightweight Toyota MR2 and Celica models. The list of mods looks something like:
- Exhaust / Downpipe
- Boost controller
- Fuel cut defeat
To make more power on a turbo engine it’s important to help air-flow in and out of the engine. This means an exhaust and intake are great mods to support more power and boost. You want to modify to part of the exhaust nearest the turbo; this is known as the downpipe.
Next you simply need a manual or electronic boost controller. This will allow the engine to run about 14-16 PSI with the assistance of a fuel cut defenser. These simple mods can take the Toyota 3S-GTE engine to 200+whp. All in all, this can be done for less than $1,000 and even less than $500 if you’re resourceful.
Toyota 3S-GTE “Stage 2” (250-275+whp)
Stage 2 mods take the 2.0 turbo inline-4 to the next level. However, this is where things start to get a bit pricey. You’ll want the above 3S-GTE engine upgrades plus a few extra things:
- Stage 1 mods
- Turbo upgrade
- Intercooler upgrade
- Fuel system upgrades
Again, the starting point will be the mods from stage 1. At this point you’ll need a turbo upgrade unless you have the CT20B turbo in the 4th gen engine. Next you should address 3S-GTE cooling with an intercooler upgrade.
The stock fuel system can support about 260-280whp, so fueling mods are a good idea. If you’re keeping the stock fueling it’s important to keep an eye on AFR readings. Once you’re at the 3s-gte fueling limits it’s time to upgrade.
“Stage 3” & Above (300-350+whp)
Now we’re starting to get into much more expensive upgrades. 300+whp on a Toyota MR2 or Celica is no joke, though. If you’re willing to spend the money these are awesome setups. Below is a list of mods to achieve 300whp or more on the 3S-GTE 2.0L engine:
- All stage 1 & 2 mods
- Engine management system (ECU)
- Clutch upgrades
This also isn’t an exhaustive list. 3S-GTE upgrades can be endless depending on your goals. The above is a minimum list of upgrades to make 300+whp. At this point you’re well beyond the stock fueling limits. You’ll need a fuel pump, injectors, and a larger turbo as the foundation to make power.
It’s also important you have control over all 3S-GTE engine and tuning parameters. This means upgrading the engine management system and working with a professional tuner to dial in a good tune. Depending on how far you want to take the MR2 or Celica the list of mods can grow very lengthy and expensive.
Common 3S-GTE Engine Problems
A few of the most common issues with the Toyota 3S-GTE engine include:
- Engine block
- Oil leaks
Throughout the rest of this article we break down the above 3S-GTE 2.0 turbo engine problems. It’s imperative to add some notes before diving in, though. We’re considering these among the most common issues and failures. That doesn’t mean the problems are common in the actual meaning of the word. Rather, when Toyota 3SGTE problems happen these are a few of the most common points.
That said, the 3S-GTE 2.0 inline-4 engine delivers solid overall reliability. However, many of these engines are two plus decades old. Age and mileage brings about the possibility of many failures. That’s especially true on a turbo engine that’s often upgraded, tuned, and otherwise modded. Anyways, at the end of the article we’ll wrap things up with overall thoughts on 3S-GTE reliability.
1) Toyota 2.0L Inline-4 Engine Block Issues
Engine blocks cracking is an interesting topic for the Toyota 3S-GTE engine. It uses a cast iron block. A design that’s often desired for the impressive strength of cast iron. However, engine blocks cracking is a hot topic when it comes to the 2.0 turbo inline-4. It’s most common on early gen 3 engines before 1997, but blocks cracking can happen on any 3S engine.
It appears the primary issues lies between cylinders number 2 and 3. The block is prone to cracking in that area due to thin casting. Toyota did beef up the block, so later engines are less prone to issues. Additionally, 3S-GTE engine blocks rarely crack on totally stock engines. It often occurs on modded engines due to higher cylinder pressures.
Anyways, this isn’t much of a common problem as it primary affects 3rd gen 3SGTE engines. It’s also rare on stock engines, so the main concern is those planning to mod and upgrade the engine. Regardless, Toyota blocks cracking is a serious issue that requires a new engine so it’s worth the mention.
*Cracked blocks are most common on 3S-GTE engines making 500+whp. If you’re planning to push the engine that far it’s a good idea to sleeve the block.
Celica & MR2 Engine Block Symptoms
Symptoms of cracking engine blocks on the 3S-GTE 2.0 inline-4 engine include:
- Smoke from engine
- Leaking oil and/or coolant
- Poor engine performance
There aren’t really any signs that the block is going to crack before it happens. Once the engine block cracks symptoms can be immediate and severe. You may notice excess smoking from the engine or the exhaust. Coolant and oil can leak all over the place.
Overheating is common as coolant and oil flow is disrupted. Otherwise, you’ll likely notice poor overall engine performance from the 3S-GTE.
Toyota 3SGTE Engine Block Replacement
Engine blocks cracking is a very serious issue. It’s usually not worth the time or cost to try to repair the cracked block. Additionally, moving all of the internals over to a new engine block can be time consuming and expensive.
As such, a new engine is typically the best solution for a 3S-GTE cracked block. Obviously not a cheap or easy repair. Fortunately, these issues rarely occur on lower power 3SGTE engines so most don’t have to worry about blocks cracking.
2) 3S-GTE 2.0 Turbo Oil Leak Problems
Next up are oil leak problems on the Toyota 3S-GTE engine. Oil leaks aren’t really due to any design flaws or other failures of the 2.0L turbo inline-4 engine. All engines use many gaskets, seals, etc that are prone to degrading over time. Therefore, 3S-GTE oil leaks are more of an age and mileage issue than anything else.
Rubber-like parts simply degrade with age and mileage. These gaskets and seals become brittle with age, begin cracking, and oil leaks occur. A few common areas for oil leaks include the main seals, oil pan, and valve cover gasket.
It’s normal for oil leaks to develop on many engines after 10+ years and 100,000+ miles. Don’t be fooled by low mileage examples since age can be just as hard on gaskets and seals. Point is – all Toyota 3S-GTE engines are beyond the age where oil leaks become commonplace. They’re usually cheap repairs, though. It’s especially true for the DIY crowd.
Toyota 2.0L Inline-4 Oil Leak Symptoms
Oil leak symptoms are usually pretty simple. Regardless, look for the following signs the 3SGTE 2.0 turbo engine is leaking oil:
- Visible oil leak
- Smoke from engine bay
- Burning oil smells
- Low engine oil
The most common and obvious symptom of 2.0 turbo oil leaks is a visible leak. If you’re seeing drops of oil on the ground after parking your Celica or MR2 then you likely have oil leaking somewhere. However, not all oil leaks result in oil dripping to the ground.
Burning oil smells or light smoke from the engine bay may indicate a leak. This is normal for small leaks at the top of the engine bay. Otherwise, low engine oil is a possible symptom but you’ll likely notice the others first. The 3S-GTE naturally consumes some oil, so low oil doesn’t always mean there is a leak.
3S-GTE Oil Leak Fix
It’s not all bad news when it comes to oil leaks on the 3SGTE 2.0 inline-4 engine. Gaskets and seals responsible for most leaks generally run about $5-25 for parts. This makes oil leaks a very cheap repair for the DIY crowd willing to spend a day in the garage.
However, if you find yourself at a repair shop then labor charges can add up. Many oil leaks on the 3S-GTE engine are a few hours of labor, so expect about $150-300 in labor costs. More serious leaks in hard to access areas can be even pricier, though.
3) Toyota 3S-GTE Turbo Failures
Last but not least – turbocharger issues on the Toyota 3S-GTE engine. We’ll be fairly quick on this topic since the turbos are actually pretty reliable. However, they are wear and tear parts that take a lot of abuse over the years. It’s especially true since the 3SGTE engine is so easy to upgrade and modify.
Anyways, Toyota 2.0L inline-4 turbo failures are mostly an age related issues. Most of these engines on the road today are 20+ years old, which is a long time for a turbo to be on the road. Chances are many previously modded 3S-GTE engines already have a new turbo. It’s also a good excuse to upgrade if your turbo does ever fail.
3SGTE Turbo Failure Symptoms
Symptoms of turbo failure on the Toyota 3S-GTE 2.0 engine include:
- Excessive smoking
- Turbo whining sounds
- Oil consumption
- Power loss
When a turbo begins failing it’s common for them to burn oil and give off excess smoke from the exhaust. You may also notice the 3S-GTE turbo sounds unusually whiny or sounds weird in general. Of course, the turbo is responsible for delivering quite a bit of power and torque. Turbo failures usually result in noticeable power loss and drivability issues.
2.0 Inline 4 Turbo Replacement
In our opinion, it makes sense to upgrade the 3S-GTE turbo if the stock one does fail. A turbo upgrade kit often runs in the $500 to $1,000 ballpark, so it’s not a cheap repair. However, modern turbos are very reliable so an upgrade is likely to last the rest of the life of the 3SGTE 2.0 engine.
Anyways, add in labor costs and the replacement of a turbo can quickly exceed $1,000. Use this as an opportunity to upgrade. Even if you’re not planning on using all of the power it still can’t hurt to have a more capable turbo on the MR2 or Celica.
Toyota 3S-GTE Reliability
Is the Toyota 3S-GTE engine reliable? Yes, we believe this engine earns above average remarks for reliability. Turbo engines haven’t earned the best reputation for reliability or longevity. That’s especially true back in the 1980’s and 1990’s. However, Toyota did an excellent job with their 3S-GTE engine. It doesn’t suffer from many major design flaws with the exception of the gen 3 engine block.
Be cautious of blocks cracking on 3S-GTE engines, especially when modding and upgrading the engine. Otherwise, oil leaks and turbo failures are common issues. They’re mostly age related problems rather than any inherent problems or flaws with the 3SGTE, though.
A lot of reliability comes down to maintenance. Use high quality synthetic oils, change fluids on time, and fix problems if and when they occur. It’s basic stuff that should be done on any car – not just the 3S-GTE. With proper maintenance it’s not uncommon for the Toyota 3S-GTE 2.0 inline-4 engine to make it beyond 250,000 miles. There are even highly upgraded engines that make it to that mileage with few issues along the way.
What’s your experience with the 3S-GTE 2.0L engine? Are you considering one?
Leave a comment & let us know!