Ford Barra vs Toyota 2JZ: Which One is Better?

In the automotive industry there are a handful of engines which have become legendary for their insane strength and potential to make massive amounts of power. While the 2JZ might be slightly overhyped by MK4 Supra fanboys, there is no denying that it’s a badass engine.

The Barra has flown somewhat under the radar because of its lack of availability in the US, but it’s arguably better than the 2JZ. Grab some popcorn and sit down, because today we’re going to compare the Toyota 2JZ-GTE and the Ford Barra to see which one is better!

Where the Barra Came From

Beginnings its life in 2002, the Barra was developed and built in Australia. Realistically its a development of a single overhead cam straight-six engine Ford used in the 1980s and 1990s, which can trace its roots back to the North American Ford Falcon Compact from 1959.

While the Barra doesn’t have a massive amount of similarities to those old inline sixes, they laid the foundation the Barra was built on.

If you’re watching this video and you’ve never heard of the Barra or you’ve heard the name a few times but don’t know much about it, you’re not alone. Part of the reason a lot of enthusiasts don’t know about this engine is that it was only available in Australia and New Zealand.

This is a lot different than something like the JZ series which was available all over the world in quite a few different application.

Where the 2JZ-GTE Came From

The 2JZ on the other hand, was produced from 1991 to 2002. When Toyota was still producing the 2JZ, you could find it in a bunch of different applications. The 2JZ-GTE, specifically, was used the Toyota Aristo, and the Supra. Its use in the Supra is, in part, what’s made it so popular and legendary. Unlike the Barra, the 2JZ was used all over the world in different variations.

The difference in availability between these two engines is massive. If you’re in Australia, the Barra is plentiful and you can find them all over the place for very cheap. Outside Australia and New Zealand, you’re very unlikely to see a Barra engine, but JZ powered cars are all over the place.

The big difference in availability makes a big difference in aftermarket support, which we’ll talk about just a bit later.

Basic Information

To give you a rundown on some basic information, the Barra is a 4.0L, inline-6 with dual overhead cams, variable valve timing, a cast-iron block, cast aluminum cylinder head, as stated earlier some variants are turbocharged, power output ranges from 209hp and 276lb-ft up to 436hp and 425lb-ft.

The 2JZ is a 3.0L inline-6 with dual overhead cams, variable valve timing on the later engines, cast-iron block, cast aluminum cylinder head, with some turbo and non-turbo variants. Power output on the 2JZ ranges from 212hp and 209lb-ft up to 321hp and 320lb-ft.

It’s widely argued that Toyota underrated the power output of the 2JZ-GTE to conform to Japan’s Gentlemen Agreement.

Stock power output doesn’t matter all that much, especially considering both of these engines can make significantly more power than they’re rated at with a few simple bolt-ons, plus the majority of enthusiasts which have cars with these engines aren’t planning on keeping them stock. We’ll talk about which one is better with bolt-ons a bit later in the video.

Extra Displacement

On paper these engines seem fairly similar, with the biggest difference being the displacement. The Barra is a very big inline-6. You can make more power with boost, but at a certain point, it’s just better to increase displacement. The extra 1000cc of displacement the Barra has over the 2JZ allows it to make more low-end torque and have a flatter powerband.

Of course, everyone on the internet only seems to care about peak power figures, but the power throughout the entire rev-range is significantly more important for street use, and that’s something the Barra is very good at. Sure, both engines can make a huge amount of low-end power with a small and efficient turbo like a Borg Warner EFR, but the Barra is inherently going to offer a better torque curve because of the larger displacement.

Cylinder Block Differences

That brings us to the blocks, where both engines are well known for supporting massive power figures. The unfortunate downside of the Barra is the physical size of the engine.

With the large 4.0L displacement, the Barra is very long, tall, and heavy. It’s a physically massive engine and pretty much can’t fit in a lot of applications. It’s significantly larger than the 2JZ or other inline-6 engines of the time such as the RB26.

Part of the reason the Barra is very large is the amount of material Ford used to construct the block and the large bore spacing. On top of that, the block features a lot of material in all the right places and a lot of ribbing, especially compared to the 2JZ block.

To say the Barra block is strong would be a MASSIVE understatement.

The 2JZ block is very strong and although it offers less total displacement than the Barra, its the better block. Compared to the Barra block, the 2J block is significantly lighter and smaller, plus the actual material used to cast the 2J block is stronger than the material used to cast the Barra block.

The big thing with the 2JZ is that offers more material between cylinder, around 7mm, where the Barra offers 3-4mm. Another thing to note is that the 2JZ has a Siamese bore design, which means there is solid metal between the bores. That difference might sound very small, but when you’re making big power it’s the difference between a working engine or a blown up engine.

Cylinder Head Differences

Looking more closely at the cylinder head can reveal just how massive this engine is. The Barra head is almost six inches longer than a 2JZ head, which demonstrates how the larger displacement affects the physical size of the engine. It features dual-overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, all of which is driven by a timing chain rather than a timing belt.

Unfortunately, two of the weakest points of the Barra engines live in the cylinder head and that’s the head bolts and valve springs. The head bolts are insanely strong and they’re prone to stretching from extreme cylinder pressure once you start to turn the boost up. The valve springs are also too weak to hold up to increased boost pressure and have to be replaced if you want to make big power.

Variable Valve Timing Systems

One nice feature you’ll find many, but not all Barra engines is a variable cam timing on both camshafts. The dual-cam timing system massively improves efficiency, low-end power, and top-end power. For turbocharged Barras, the dual cam timing also greatly improve turbo-spool up, ultimately helping the Barra make more low-end power and have great throttle response.

The 2JZ uses a simple shim over bucket design. This system works by basically have the camshaft lobe press down on a bucket that sits over the spring. It’s a pretty basic system, but it gets the job done. It also features Toyota’s VVT-i system, which allows camshaft timing to be changed on the fly.

If its a JZ which was destined for use in the US, it likely doesn’t have variable valve timing unless someone swapped the head. Whether or not you want Toyota’s VVT system is pretty much up to you. Either way, you go, the 2JZ cylinder head offers a great amount of flow.

Aftermarket Potential

With the Barra, The pistons, rods, and crank are all very strong and massive overkill for the stock power output. Unfortunately, one of the other weak points of the Barra is found in the bottom end, which is the oil pump gears. The gears are known for failing and need to be replaced if you want to make big power.

Other notable features on the bottom are the oil pump bolts with screw-in horizontally to the crank caps with effectively makes the oil sump a stressed member of the bottom end. The windage tray helps tie all the main caps together and improves bottom-end rigidity.

On a stock bottom end, the Barra capable of producing 600whp or more. I know some people have pushed well past this number on a stock bottom end, but if you want something which can reliably make power, 600 to 700 horsepower is pretty much the limitation of the bottom end.

It’s not a secret that the 2JZ can hold up to crazy amounts of power on stock internals. The stock pistons, rods, and crank are insane overkill for the stock power output. Of course, you’ve got to remember that 2JZ was built when Toyota over-engineered everything and made everything significantly stronger than it needed to be for reliability’s sake.

Where it’s common to see a stock bottom end Barra produce 600whp maybe 700whp with a really good tune, the 2JZ can also push 700whp maybe even a touch more on stock internals. While the peak power figures might seem similar, you need to remember that the Barra has a lot more displacement.

When you compare strength with the displacement different accounted for, it’s clear that the 2JZ has a stronger stock bottom end. That being said, both bottom ends are incredibly strong and you shouldn’t just say the 2JZ is undoubtedly better because its stock bottom end is a bit stronger.

Engine & Parts Availability

As we mentioned at the start, the reason many of us in the US don’t know about the Barra is that it wasn’t even available here. Ordinarily, that isn’t a problem, but engines which become popular in the US end up having a lot more aftermarket support, which can make or break an engine in the long run.

If the Barra was readily available in the US, it would have a much larger aftermarket backing and would be a better choice for an engine swap than it currently is. That being said, if you live in Australia or New Zealand, the Barra is a pretty awesome engine because there are a lot of them out there and they can be had for pretty cheap.

While the aftermarket might not be as big as other engines, it’s still large enough that you can find the parts you need relatively easily. It’s pretty easy to replace the head bolts, valve springs, oil pump gears, and stick on a big turbo and make 600 horsepower pretty easily.

The 2JZ, on the other, was available in the US in both naturally aspirated and turbocharged variants. It was also available in pretty much every major country in the world, making readily available pretty much anywhere in the world. With an abundance of these engines in the US, they became very popular and now there’s a massive aftermarket for the 2J which offers any part you would ever need.

If you’re in Australia or New Zealand, the Barra is very plentiful and you can pick them used for crazy cheap. If you’re anywhere else in the world, the 2J is going to be easier and cheaper to buy and easier to modify.

So, Which One is Better?

Both are insanely strong, both can pretty output over 600HP+ with a few bolt-ons and a big turbo, and they’re both reliable even when making big power numbers.

Without cost or availability factored into the equation, I think the 2JZ is the better engine if you just want something which can make big power. If you live in Australia or New Zealand, the Barra makes more sense because it’s super cheap to buy and readily available in those places.

If you want one of these engines as a swap for your project car, again I think the 2JZ is the better choice because it’s much smaller and easier to fit into your engine bay, where the Barra is physically giant and weighs a bit more than a 2J.

When it comes down to it, which one is better pretty much depends on where you live, how much power you want to make, and if you’re trying to swap the engine into a chassis which wasn’t originally designed for that engine.

About Bryce Cleveland 447 Articles
Bryce founded Dust Runners Automotive Journal in 2014 as a way to write about the cars he found interesting. He currently owns a 2003 Honda CRF450R Supermoto, 2006 Nissan 350Z, and a 2018 Yamaha MT09. Follow him on Instagram for more @bryce.cleveland.

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