10 Most Reliable Naturally Aspirated Engines Ever Made
Aug 14, 2023
Force-induction may be cool, but nothing beats a good naturally aspirated engine in terms of reliability and driving experience.
Today’s automotive climate sees mostly turbocharged engines in everything from tiny city cars to high-end luxury barges and record-breaking hypercars. Turbocharging has even influenced Toyota – of all automakers!
While turbocharging – or supercharging for that matter – is a good way to get some more performance out of a vehicle, naturally aspirated engines are still among the most liked of motors. Naturally aspirated powerplants are inherently less complicated than their force-induced counterparts, which means better reliability – if the engineering is done correctly and the maintenance schedules are adhered to.
Some of the greatest cars ever made feature N/A engines – from the BMW E39 M5 to the McLaren F1 – but many of them were quite reliable while also producing good performance and acceptable fuel economy. Here is our pick for the ten most reliable naturally aspirated engines ever made.
All informational data for this list was retrieved from popular automotive websites such as CarEdge, J.D. Power, ConsumerReports, Edmunds, TuningPro and RepairPal. The automakers' websites were also utilized for the more detailed information.
Mazda’s Skyactiv-G is the Japanese company’s current range of inline-4 and, surprisingly – inline-6 engines. The higher displacement engines – 2.5-liter and 3.3-liter – get turbochargers, but the smaller motors, namely the 1.3, 1.5 and 2.0-liter engines, are all naturally aspirated.
The Skyactiv engines debuted in 2012 and has been the go-to engines for the whole Mazda range. The engines feature fuel economy-orientated engineering and are designed to be as reliable as possible. They may not be the most exciting engines to engage with, but will continue to operate as designed for a long time.
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Honda Civic, Acura Integra
The B-Series is famous for its tunability and excellent durability. The engine displaces between 1.6 and 2.0 liters, producing from 100 hp – all the way to the giddy heights of 200 hp in the Civic Type R. Unlike the more modern equivalents, the B-Series remained naturally aspirated throughout its production run.
The Honda B-Series engine is known for its amazing reliability and longevity. It arrived on the market in 1988 and remained in production until 2001. When properly maintained, the B-Series is dependable and is fun to drive as it revs all the way to 8,500 rpm.
In 1989, Toyota stunned the world – especially the luxury German segment – by unveiling the Lexus LS400. This was a full-size luxury sedan that competed directly with BMW’s 7 Series and Mercedes’ S-Class, but for a lot less capital – all while doing the same things at the same quality.
Under the hood of the LS400 lived a 4.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine – commonly referred to as the most reliable V8 engine ever made. Many an LS400 often get to well over 300,000 miles on original parts, with one model getting to over a million miles without changing any major engine parts. This is an incredible engine which will likely still run well after the last oil field dried up.
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In the world of hot-rodding, the V8 engine is a must – no matter the model of vehicle. With most restorations, resto-mods or hot-rods, owners keep the stock engines and upgrade them to more power. In the event of a complete rebuild, a crate engine may be the way to go and the most popular one on the market is Chevrolet’s famous LS3.
The LS3 debuted in the C6 Corvette and quickly made its way into many V8-powered Chevrolet models. The LS3 was also used as the basis for many other V8s. The LS3 is relatively simplistic, utilizing the standard pushrod system, making it reliable and easy to maintain. There are very few engines as reliable as the LS3.
The UR engine range is the second-generation of Toyota’s V8. The 2UR-GSE is the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 used for Lexus’ range of F-cars. The 2UR produces between 416 hp and 375 lb-ft, and 475 hp and 400 lb-ft – depending on the specific model. Toyota also uses a hybridized version of the engine in their flagship Century sedan.
Thanks to Toyota and Yamaha’s expert engineering, the 2UR-GSE is among the most reliable of sports car engines. Lexus F-cars may not be the fastest, but they will definitely outlast all of their turbocharged counterparts from Germany and America.
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In the early 2000s, Mercedes-Benz gave AMG the go-ahead to design and engineer their own engine – completely independent from Mercedes’ line-up. This engine debuted in 2006 and shook the automotive world to its core. Where BMW had begun to add turbochargers to their cars, AMG took the American approach of adding displacement.
The resulting 6.2-liter M156 V8 produced from 450 hp and was available in even the C63 AMG. The engine did have some issues – mainly the head bolts that kept breaking, but Mercedes did fix it after numerous lawsuits. The M156 remained naturally aspirated throughout its production and became the most powerful N/A V8 on the market – until the current Corvette Z06’s LT6.
The BMW S54 should be known by most motoring enthusiasts as one of the best naturally aspirated straight-6 engines ever made. It displaces 3.2 liters and thanks to the independent throttle bodies, it creates a unique driving experience for anyone having a go in an E46 M3.
The S54 has very little problems, but the VANOS system does cause some issues when it goes wrong, leading to repair bills in the thousands of Dollars. The best way to avoid hefty bills is to do preventative maintenance and adhere to the recommended schedules for servicing. If all this is completed, the S54 will continue to be an awesome engine screaming to its redline.
The K-Series engine line-up replaced the B-Series line-up in Honda’s model range in 2001 and is surprisingly still in production in turbocharged form. The K-Series is available as naturally aspirated or turbocharged, but the N/A versions of the engine were discontinued in 2015 as the smaller turbocharged engines are more efficient and powerful.
The K-Series follows the B-Series in its reliability, achieving a sporty redline and Honda’s award-winning VTEC valvetrain system. The normal version was fine, but the Type R and Type S version of the engine was the last of the naturally aspirated high-performance Honda engines. The K-Series will easily last over 200,000 miles if the proper maintenance is adhered to.
The Nissan VQ range of engines replaced the VG range of the 1980s and 1990s and is among the most adored of Japanese engines on the used market – most famously used to power the Nissan 350Z and 370Z sports cars. The 3.5-liter in the 350Z easily lasts over 200,000 miles – thanks to its engineering, making it a really dependable motor.
The most important part of owning a VQ V6 is that maintenance is key. The engine does a pretty good job on its own, but does require some help every now and then. The engine has a slight oil issue and the timing chains need to be checked, but it will continue running when looked well after.
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While all the other engines on this list are relatively easy to come by, the Toyota 1LR-GUE may be a bit more difficult. The 1LR-GUE only ever featured in the absolutely brilliant Lexus LFA supercar, where it sang its siren song all the way to the nearly 9,000 rpm redline. The 1LR-GUE is the best-sounding engine ever made, utilizing musical acoustics within the airbox and exhaust system, designed by Yamaha.
The 4.8-liter naturally aspirated V10 only makes around 550 hp and the automated-manual transmission may be a bit old-fashioned, but it remains a ridiculously good car. With the meticulous engineering that went into the engine, it is one of the most reliable supercar engines ever made thanks to its ridiculous tolerances and over-engineering. It is truly one of the best engines ever created.
Michael De Kock is passionate about cars and everything from avocados to particle accelerators. He has studied psychology and knows a little bit about fixing cars (old Land Rovers mostly). He also blogs and has a book, 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads, available on Amazon. His philosophy in life: Stop the hate - Adopt a V8.reliable naturally aspirated enginesAvg. Yearly Maintenance Costs For Models With Engine:Problems Owners Report:Highest Mileage Reported:Avg. Yearly Maintenance Costs For Models With Engine:Problems Owners Report:Highest Mileage Reported:Avg. Yearly Maintenance Costs For Models With Engine:Problems Owners Report:Highest Mileage Reported:Avg. Yearly Maintenance Costs For Models With Engine:Problems Owners Report:Highest Mileage Reported:Avg. Yearly Maintenance Costs For Models With Engine:Problems Owners Report:Highest Mileage Reported:Avg. Yearly Maintenance Costs For Models With Engine:Problems Owners Report:Highest Mileage Reported:Avg. Yearly Maintenance Costs For Models With Engine:Problems Owners Report:Highest Mileage Reported:Avg. Yearly Maintenance Costs For Models With Engine:Problems Owners Report:Highest Mileage Reported:Avg. Yearly Maintenance Costs For Models With Engine:Problems Owners Report:Highest Mileage Reported:Avg. Yearly Maintenance Costs For Models With Engine:Problems Owners Report:Highest Mileage Reported: