- The famed V4

The V4 engine - what's up with that?

The V4 engine is an interesting one for cars, lovable in its uniqueness.

The mechanics (a bit boring, skip ahead unless you like engineering)

Because of the fact the pistons are essentially just 2 beside each other, V4's are shorter than inline 4's. There are obviously different angles, like every V engine, but, like every V engine, 90 degrees gives perfect primary weight distribution, reducing vibration. The shorter crankshaft also reduces torsional vibration, and it is more rigid because of its smaller length.

On the other hand, the engine is wider than an I4 and usually requires 2 sets of rockers and rocker covers (although I will talk about an exception later), as well as 2 exhaust manifolds, and basically double anything from the cylinder head up, which increases complexity and cost.

A complicated diagram of how it works. Geek out.

A complicated diagram of how it works. Geek out.


In a car, the first use of the V4 layout was in Grands Prix, one of which was a Mors, which placed the engine in the back. By 1901, though, I4's took over as the lack of vibration turned out not to be a good enough incentive.

In 1907, the biggest ever GP engine was a V4 engine at 19,891cc (20 litres!), a front transverse engine driving the front wheels, although it only lasted 4 laps before retiring.

Lancia was the first marque to bring the V4 into the production market, in the revolutionary 1922 Lambda.

The Lancia Lambda

The Lancia Lambda


Lancia has probably had the most use of this sort of engine, having used them for over 50 years after the Lambda, until 1976.

In total, the marque has used a V4 in 7 cars, although very few of them have been their most iconic or popular models.

The angles of their engines were extraordinarily narrow, being between 10 and 20 degrees. Due to the tightness of the V, the engines were unique as they had a single rocker cover and rockers.

Note the single rocker cover (the yellow and blue bit)

Note the single rocker cover (the yellow and blue bit)

The most famous car in which they have put a V4 is the Fulvia, the last car to have such an engine. It had a 13 degree angle but was placed at 45 degrees. The 1.1 litres of the convertible only produced a measly 56hp, although the car was very small so that power doesn't feel insignificant when driving.

For the coupe, the engine displacement was upped to 1.2 litres and managed to produce 79hp in standard and 87 for the HF model!

The engine continued to grow in size and power, ultimately leading to the Rallye version, in 1967, having been enlarged to 1.3 litres and 100 whole horsepowers!

Lancia Fulvia Rallye

Lancia Fulvia Rallye


I didn't know this until I started writing this article, but Porsche used a V4 engine in the 2014-2017 919 Le Mans car! It was a 2.0 litre mid mounted deal, producing 500hp on its own to the rear wheels, and a sophisticated hybrid system added to that output, resulting in 1000bhp in total!

The Porsche 919's V4

The Porsche 919's V4

The reason for this odd choice is regulation changes. The engines had emissions caps, meaning a 4 cylinder engine could be perfect. The reason the V arrangement was chosen was because of height, mainly. As well as this, it's shape causes a lot of flex and therefore weight is added to create rigidity.

The layout was a 90 degree angle, giving purchase for the turbocharger and some of the hybrid stuff on top.

As well as this, V engines are fairly short and fat at that wide an angle and can be used as a member of the chassis, in a similar way to Lotus in their 60s F1 cars

Its efficiency in terms of power came from the fact it could rev to 9000rpm and no FIA restrictions. Also the hybridisation gave a crap load of power.

The engine caused it to be too low, which is why there is a bump on the top to meet regs

The engine caused it to be too low, which is why there is a bump on the top to meet regs


Obviously, I couldn't do an article on the V4 engine without mentioning the mode of transport it is most commonly used for.

One of the first times this engine layout was put in a motorcycle was for a Matchless Silver Hawk from 1931 to 1935 and had a narrow 16 degree angle so only 1 cylinder head and all that, like the Lancia engine.

I don't know much about motorbikes soooo...nice exhaust?

I don't know much about motorbikes soooo...nice exhaust?

In the 80s, V4s were used for bikes, particularly by Honda who used transverse, 90 degree, water cooled engines.

Most current Moto GP bikes also use the V4 layout, like the Honda RC213V , Ducati Desmosedici , KTM RC16 , Aprilia - 90° V4 for the 2020 season.

So there we go

That's the V4 engine, basically. It's not a detailed history or an in depth insight into the ins and outs of the technical side either. What was the point of this article, actually? Maybe it was a complete waist of time.

Well. There we go. Sorry

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