VTEC vs. iVTEC: What’s the Difference?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of VTEC. But what is VTEC, and what does it do? How is it any different than iVTEC? Well, first you need to understand what VTEC is.


Variable Timing (and lift) Electronically Controlled (VTEC), is a system that uses two different camshaft profiles. One camshaft profile for low RPM, providing good torque and excellent drivability, and a camshaft profile for high rpm that has greater lift and longer duration.

This system is usually set to a specific RPM (5,500) and greatly increases horsepower.

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Why does Honda impletment this system? They implement it to improve optimum engine effeciency which results in more horsepower and better fuel economy.

Since the camshaft spins half as fast as the crankshaft, optimum valve over-lap and timing is different at every RPM.

Muscle cars have that lope at idle because of the camshaft design. By designing a camshaft specifically for high RPM horsepower, you must use sacrifice how smooth the engine runs at low RPM.

This sacrifice is what causes the engine lope at idle.


VTEC-E is quite different from the standard VTEC, because Honda did not design it for optimal horsepower at high RPMs, instead they designed for optimal fuel efficiency at low RPMs.

VTEC-E does this by effectively forcing the engine to run as a 12 valve engine instead of its normal 16 valves. It does this by not allowing the second intake valve to open fully.

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The VTEC-E design decreases fuel consumption quite a lot but lacks the high horsepower numbers that the standard VTEC produces. This type of VTEC is standard on many of the fuel-efficient Honda models.


Before we jump into i-VTEC, we quickly want to cover VTC to give you a better understanding of how all this works. Variable Timing Control (VTC), is a mechanism that allows the camshaft gear to be continuously variable.

The variable camshaft gear allows the valve overlap to be adjusted at any RPM. By adjusting the valve overlap agt different RPM ranges, effeciency and power levels are greatly improved.

Honda uses this system on the intake camshaft but not on the exhaust camshaft, as the gains from having VTC on the exhaust camshaft are minute.

VTC is always active and adjusting valve overlap for optimal engine efficiency and power at any given RPM.


Intelligent Variable Timing (and lift) Electronically Controlled (iVTEC), is a system that combines VTEC and VTC into one unit.

As you can imagine, combined the best of both world results in an incredibly efficient and powerful engine. The VTEC part of the system has two different camshaft profiles, one for low rpms, and one for high rpm.

The VTEC part of the system allows valve overlap to be adjusted at any moment, resulting in much greater efficiency and slightly better performance.

K20A2: The K20A2 VTEC system engages at 5,800 RPM, whilst the VTC system is always active. These two systems combined (iVTEC) produce about ten horsepower more than just VTEC alone. The K20A2 is available in the Acura RSX Type S, and TSX.

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K20A3: The K20A3 iVTEC system is far different than the A2’s system. It is VTEC-E with VTC, and really shouldn’t even be classified as iVTEC.

At low RPM only one intake valve opens, which decreases fuel consumption, then at 2,200 rpm, it engages the second intake valve, allowing it to operate like a normal 16 valve engine.


Much like the A2’s iVTEC system, the VTC is always active on the A3. K20A3 comes in the RSX base, Civic SI, Accord, CRV, and Element.

How Does it Increase Horsepower?

How the VTEC system increase horsepower may be slightly confusing, so let me break it down for you. Horsepower is just a measure of Torque X RPM. To increase torque, you must let more air and fuel into the engine.

If the valves must open further and for longer, the amount of air being sucked into the cylinder can be increased. Since the camshaft spins half as fast as the crankshaft, it cannot be optimized for all RPM ranges.

Having multiple camshaft lobes allows you to maximize lift and duration for various RPM ranges.

Since the camshaft is optimized for both high and low rpm ranges, it makes more torque in those ranges. More torque, especially at high RPMs, equals more horsepower.


There is a lot of information to take in. Remember, iVTEC combines VTEC and VTC into one unit in the K20A2.

iVTEC in the K20A3 is a combination of VTEC-E and VTC, which is much more of a fuel efficiency focused system.

I hoped this article helped you understand VTEC vs. iVTEC. If you learned something new, then be sure to share this with your friends and comment your thoughts below.

17 thoughts on “VTEC vs. iVTEC: What’s the Difference?”

  1. can I change a vteckE motor for a vteck from a civic ex? the HX motor needs to be replaced and since it is also a vteck motor can I swap it for a vteck from a civic ex

    • Very good info I just have a question I have a 2.4 Vtec on my 2004 Accor I swap the engine with a ivtec?

  2. Its great to know that there are people willing with open hands (so to speak) to share information. This is definitely encouraging. Thanks

  3. thanks fam, my friends thought my I-vtec was shittier than a VTEC. You guys gave me the info i needed to prove them otherwise

  4. Good information, alot of people buy or they have cars but they don’t know what actually they have/ bought.

  5. Good day mr duster im looking into a 2007 honda civic type r with 250000 mileage on it at a auction and a 2005 honda accord type s with 270000 mileage also at the same auction is it a good idea to get both cars reason i want to use the honda accord block on the honda civic type r do you recommend it or are the mileage to high please help so that I dont blow a hole in my pocket regards dylan meyer


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