Call it a sign of the times. In an era when relentlessly high fuel prices and increasingly stringent emissions requirements are putting a serious squeeze on displacement and cylinder counts, greater numbers of automakers are rallying behind the battle cry "Four is More" when it comes to creating performance cars with a 21st-century twist.
There's no denying the new generation of enthusiast-grade four-bangers that motivate these dedicated street stormers lack the visceral kick and deep-throated exhaust rumble of bigger and more cylinder-rich V-type engines. However, their finely-crafted combinations of variable valve and/or camshaft timing and direct fuel injection -- generally teamed with either supercharging or turbocharging -- deliver a synergistic blend of adrenaline and efficiency that represents a more-than-fair tradeoff. Each member of our field of overachievers complements its sophisticated muscle with suitably upgraded chassis bits, dedicated cosmetic touches and an impressive roster of standard and optional features. Lest any doubts linger about their formidable potential, we invite you to check out the coupes, roadsters, sedans and hatches that constitute our 2010 Top 10 Fast-Lane Fours, presented in alphabetical order.