In 1989, Honda introduced a powerplant that was, effectively, two engines in one. It combined low-rpm drivability with high-rpm power. Its four-cylinder B16A produced 160 horsepower from just 1.6 liters—100 horsepower per liter—an unheard-of power density for automotive engines. By comparison, the Corvette’s V-8 made 245 horsepower from 5.7 liters, and even BMW’s high-strung four-cylinder M3 engine—192 horsepower from 2.3 liters—didn’t match the Honda. Unlike nearly all high-performance engines, Honda’s B16A provided excellent fuel economy, low emissions, easy starting, a smooth idle, and ample low-rpm torque. How did Honda do it? VTEC, an acronym for Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control. This system operates the valves to maximize fluid flow into and out of the engine over an uncommonly wide rpm range.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/12/12/honda-vtec-unlocked-small-engine-power.