Toyota 2ZZ: Everything You Need To Know

In the later years of 1990, the automotive industry started to appreciate the value of smaller, fuel-efficient engines; hence, the rise and upward trend of the downsizing engine in the market. Not only in the market, but they changed the way enthusiasts and makers think.

At the beginning of a new era, downsized engines included Toyota’s notorious performance-based cars, such as the A80 Supra, which started to lose their grip in sales and was pulled out in North American sales in 1998. 

However, another engine that was getting a major restyle was the MR2. Its third generation appeared in the prototype guise at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show. Two years later, it was released in Japan. The engine was lighter than its predecessor because it is a smaller 1.8L straight-four. 

That engine is part of the ZZ family unveiled in 1997. These engines are Toyota’s first attempt to apply four-cylinder units built into a much lighter all-aluminum block after many years of using a traditional but heavier cast-iron block. 

Since the first release of the ZZ family was built around fuel economy priority, it lacks some finishing touches in the power department. Giving way to a much more powerful unit, the Toyota 2ZZ-GE engine.

What are Toyota 2ZZ Engines?

Though the first iteration of the ZZ family, the Toyota 1ZZ engine, is successful, it still lacks depth and power to compensate for the rising demand for such engines at that time. So, Toyota decided to develop an engine that will somehow close the gap between this. Hence, the manufacturing of the Toyota 2ZZ engine. 

The Toyota 2ZZ engine is inclined to a more performance-based oriented engine. Toyota also commissioned Yamaha to design this engine alongside them. 

The Toyota 2ZZ engine is an inline-four, 1.8 Liter, naturally-aspirated engine from the ZZ family. This engine was manufactured on Shimoyama Plant from 1999 to 2011. 

The Toyota 2ZZ engine is also addressed as the Toyota 2ZZ-GE engine and bears almost the same characteristics as the early 1ZZ-GE engine. The engine features the same die-cast aluminum engine block with cast-iron cylinders. Again, like the usual ZZ engines, the engine uses Metal Matrix Composite cylinder walls for liner-less construction. 

Further, the Toyota 2ZZ-GE engine has an aluminum cylinder head with dual overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder, VVTL-i (intelligent variable valve timing with lift), and a multipoint fuel injection, and distributors, coil-on-plug Toyota Direct Ignition system.

Engine Specifications and Design:

  • Production Run: 1999- 2011
  • Cylinder Head Material: Aluminum
  • Cylinder Block Material: Aluminum
  • Configuration: Inline 4
  • Bore: 82.0 mm
  • Stroke: 85.0 mm
  • Valvetrain: DOHC four valves per cylinder
  • Displacement: 1.8 L (1794 cc)
  • Compression Ratio: 11.5
  • Weight: 254 lbs.
  • Maximum HP: 189 HP at 7,600 RPM
  • Maximum Torque: 170 lb-ft at 6,800 RPM

Engine Design:

The Toyota 2ZZ engine has a cylinder bore of 82.0 mm and a piston stroke of 85.0 mm. The compression ratio is 11.5. The power production rating of the 2ZZ engine is slightly more powerful than the early 1ZZ engine, landing at 164 HP at 7,600 RPM to a maximum of 189 HP at the same RPM range. 

The torque ranges from 104 lb-ft at 7,800 RPM to 170 lb-ft at 6,800 RPM. 

Cylinder Block

The Toyota 2ZZ engine has an aluminum engine block and has five bearing support system. The high-pressure cast aluminum block has Metal Matrix Composite reinforced cylinder walls. This material is used as a reinforcement made from ceramic parts and fibers. 

The engine’s internals is composed of a forged steel crankshaft that has eight balance weights and five journals. The Toyota 2ZZs engine has lightweight connecting rods which feature nutless-type plastic region tightening bolts to reduce friction.

Other parts, such as the pistons, are made from aluminum with two compression single oil rings. Inside the block, Toyota installed piston cooling jets to regulate the temperature during operations. A vital part of the engine’s operation mechanism is to go beyond afar the optimum operating temperature range. 

Cylinder Head

The Toyota 2ZZ engine cylinder head is made from aluminum which has a good cooling efficiency. The chain-driven dual overhead camshaft design has four valves per cylinder. The single roller chain that drives the camshaft collaborates with the outer hydraulic tensioner and lubrication nozzle. 

Toyota used VVTL-i technology in this engine (intelligent variable valve timing with lift) operated on the inlet and exhaust valves. The high-lift camshaft profiles engage at engine speeds above 6,000 RPM, increasing the cam lobe intake lift from 7.25 to 11.2 mm and exhaust lift from 7.25 mm to 10 mm. 

The engine intake valves have 34.0 mm diameter, and exhaust valves have 29.0 mm diameter. 

The Toyota 2ZZ-GE engine is the first production engine to merge cam-phasing variable valve timing with dual-profile variable valve lift in the American market. 

Applications of Toyota 2ZZ-GE Engine:

  • JDM Toyota Celica SS-II 187 HP
  • USDM Toyota Celica GT-S 180 HP
  • UK Toyota Celica 190l T-Sport 189 HP
  • Australia Toyota Celica SX 189 HP 
  • Australia Toyota Celica ZR 189 HP
  • Australia Toyota Corolla Sportivo 189 HP 
  • Europe Toyota Celica TS 189 HP
  • Europe, Supercharged Toyota Corolla Compressor 222 HP
  • USDM Toyota Corolla XRS 170 HP
  • JDM Toyota Corolla Fielder Z Aero Tourer 187 HP
  • JDM Toyota Corolla RunX Z Aero Tourer 187 HP
  • South Africa Toyota Corolla RunX RSi 189 HP
  • USDM Toyota Matrix XRS 180 HP
  • USDM Pontiac Vibe GT 180 HP
  • JDM Toyota Voltz Z 180 HP
  • WiLL VS 1.8
  • USDM/UK Lotus Elise 190 HP
  • USDM/UK Supercharged Lotus Exige 190 HP NA and 243 Supercharged 
  • USDM/UK Lotus Exige CUP 260 256 HP 
  • USDM/UK Lotus 2-Eleven Supercharged 252 HP

Engine Tuning, Potential, and Modifications

With a naturally aspirated engine, the 2ZZGE is capable of making up to 180 HP. Many enthusiasts have claimed around 200 whp (220-230hp) with bolt-on aftermarket parts and good tuning skills.

If you’re looking for performance but don’t want the cost or hassle associated with high horsepower cars like GT, then take some time to get acquainted with Yamaha’s new generation 1.8L engines. 

Most vehicles are equipped from factory settings at 180 horsepower- which isn’t bad considering it’s not turbocharged. These engines are tunable goodies bringing that number even higher into territory where many enthusiasts will tell you it is not capable of reaching 220 HP. 

Big changes can be made to a car’s internals, which leads many people to think that big horsepower is impossible. For example, aftermarket camshafts or cylinder head porting over 240hp might not seem like much until you add in supercharger upgrades which gives your engine an additional boost.

The stock internals of the 2ZZ-GE is limited only to 300 horses but with forged pistons plus enhanced airflow thanks to these components from some aftermarket shops,

the potential for power increases exponentially when going from natural aspiration alone all way up into GE territory where numbers such as 500+ pound-feet await those willing enough. 

Problems Surrounding the Toyota 2ZZ-GE Engine: 

As a product of a downsized engine development of the Toyota Company, the Toyota 2ZZ-GE engine shares some issues and problems due to the properties of the materials used. However, these issues do not equate to a bad engine rep but mostly affect the performance due to age and mileage. 

Some of the main problems of the engine revolve around the absence of the traditional cast-iron liners that lead to the uniformity of solidification causing hole forming, lower thermal conductivity, and some cracks. 

There are other issues we will tackle, such as: 

1. Locking Pin Issues in the VVTL-i

The Toyota 2ZZ-GE engine is equipped with a technology that makes it far more efficient amongst its peers, the VVTL-i. However, some parts of this technology become faulty several miles after use. The one we are talking about here is the locking pin. 

Locking pins are pushed and dictated by the oil pressure locking the cam profile in the valve lift. When this fails, it cannot move to operate the proper position for one cam rotation. So, what happens is it causes a partial overlap collision of pin and rod, leading to premature and progressive wear. 

If not addressed, the worn pin will be wrung out by the rod in the initial position and not be able to fix it, so the downside will always operate on the low-speed cam. 

2. Rocker Arm Shaft Mounting Bolt Breakage

This issue causes the shaft to turn freely, causing the oil supply going to the rockers to halt, causing the VVTL to not work. On top of that, the lubrication of the unit also deteriorates because of this.

3. Rough Idling

This is not considered a problem but more of a maintenance issue. If you experience any rough idling, you need to cleanse the throttle body unit and idle run valves. 

Additional notes would include the VVTL-i system servicing for every 30,000 miles. If you fail, the system may halt and decrease its maximum capacity after working at 6,000 RPM. So make sure that you diligently check this. 

Summary

Toyota has always been recognized as one of the best engine makers in the automotive industry. They built legendary engines and cars alike. Their collaboration with Yamaha in the late nineties allowed the emergence of one the most revered four-cylinder engine ever made. 

The Toyota 2ZZ-GE engine would not be forgotten. It will be remembered as the epitome and prime model of engine downsizing done right. Toyota proved that it is possible to build a lighter, smaller, and more efficient engine without compromising the sporty nature of its performance-oriented engines. 

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