We’ve written before about the best sounding V8s and the best sounding V12s, and now it’s time to talk about the best sounding V10s. Like a V12 there’s something rather exotic about the V10. Perhaps it’s that many race and road cars have had V8s or V12s instead, or that the V10’s shriek is so unmistakeable? Whatever it is, the V10 is a mighty engine configuration and one that, for our ear’s sake, we hope never, ever goes away.
The seven best sounding V10s of all time
Dallara SP1 Judd
Have you ever experienced a noise that has actually shaken you to your car? Every member of the GRR team has, and it came when a Dallara SP1 Judd launched away from the startline at the 77th Members’ Meeting. Our ears have never been the same since.
The Dallara SP1 Judd was born at the turn of the millennium, as Dallara, having worked with Toyota and Audi on their prototype projects, wanted to create its own prototype as a lower-cost rival to the factory cars. Initially it was Chevrolet that provided the power with a 6.0-litre V8, so creating the Chrysler LMP, but so poor was the car’s maiden performance at Le Mans (only one of the three cars entered finished – a respectable fourth, but also 23 laps behind the winning Audi) that Chrysler pulled out and Dallara was left with a car and not much else. Thankfully a partner was found in Judd, and before long the Judd GV 4.0-litre V10 was lowered into the Dallara SP1’s chassis. The engine weighed 145kg and needed to be rebuilt every 3,000km or so, but it produced 744PS (544kW) and had a rev limit of 11,000rpm. More to the point of this list, it sounded fantastic. Volume is nothing without quality, and the Dallara SP1 Judd had both.
Ah, the Lamborghini Gallardo’s V10. Or should we say the Audi R8’s V10? Or the Lamborghini Huracan’s V10? Whichever variant or application you go for, considering how strict emission regulations are and how long Lamborghini/Audi’s naturally aspirated V10 has been going, it’s mighty impressive that this lovely little engine is still in production.
The specific version we’re going for is the earliest, however. From the Gallardo’s facelift in 2008 a 5.2-litre V10 was at the car’s heart, but before that it was a smaller and, in our humble opinion, ever so slightly sweeter-sounding 5.0-litre. Slotted neatly into the first Gallardo, Gallardo Spyder and Gallardo Superleggera, it produced between 500PS (368kW) and 530PS (390kW). What an engine.
If noisy engines are your poison, have a read of our list of the five best sounding V12s of all time.
Whether it’s the regular Lexus LFA or the LFA race car, its V10 engine will go down in the history books as one of the finest sounding engines of all time as well as one of the most finely crafted powerplants.
The engine was called the ‘1LR-GUE’, a 4.8-litre naturally aspirated V10 that produced 560PS (412kW) at 8,700rpm and could, much to the delight of anyone who’s heard it, rev to 9,000rpm. But this engine isn’t just special because of how high it revved but because of how quickly it got there. The LFA’s V10 could rev from idle to 9,000rpm in six tenths of a second, so fast that a digital rev counter had to be used. It was also incredibly complicated, as made from aluminium, titanium and magnesium alloys, it was 40 per cent lighter than it would have been where it made from iron, and physically smaller than Lexus’s own V8. It is undoubtedly one of the most special road car engines ever.
Dodge Viper GTS-R
From the height of Japanese engine sophistication to, well, the brutal world of American motorsport. Like the LFA the Dodge Viper GTS-R was powered by a front-mounted, naturally aspirated V10 engine, but that’s where the similarities more or less end. First raced in 1996 and co-developed with Oreca, the GTS-R was powered by a monstrous 8.0-litre V10 with between 659PS (485kW) and 690PS (507kW) and a frankly hilarious 950Nm of torque. The rev limit was set at 7,200rpm, although for longer races, like Le Mans, that was pulled down to around 6,200rpm.
What the GTS-R achieved in the USA and in Europe is impressive. All in all, in the hands of both factory teams and privateers, the car managed three Le Mans class victories, three outright Nürburgring 24 Hour victories, one overall Daytona 24 win, two overall Spa 24 Hours wins and a fair few more, as well as a large number of series championships including five FIA GT titles.
In person its sound, as you might expect, is a deep one, a noise that penetrates every fibre of your being. But we love it no less than any of the higher-revving beasts on this list.
Porsche Carrera GT
A list of fabulous V10s wouldn’t be complete without the Porsche Carrera GT. It was powered by a V10 that can trace its roots back not only to a stillborn Le Mans prototype, the ‘LMP2000’ or ‘9R3’, but before that the Footwork Formula 1 team in 1992.
The story goes that the engine, having sat around since 1992, was due to be squeezed into a new Porsche Le Mans prototype but plans were scrapped so that all of Porsche’s engineering knowhow could be used to create the Cayenne (and so they didn’t go head-to-head with Audi). Given how little money Porsche had at the time and how good the Cayenne was for the company (SUV haters, remember Porsche might not exist in the way we all know and love today were it not for the money generated by the Cayenne), it was a very smart move from Porsche’s management. The engine went back onto a shelf, but thankfully not for too long. The attention the Porsche Carrera GT Concept received at the 2000 Paris Motor Show encouraged Porsche bosses to think seriously about the viability of a V10 supercar, and sure enough, four years later, the Carrera GT was born.
Its 5.7-litre, naturally aspirated V10 produced 612PS (450kW) and 590Nm of torque, numbers that sound almost normal today. But with an 8,400rpm redline, not forgetting a six-speed manual gearbox, the Carrera GT was and remains one of the most exciting and engaging V10 cars ever made.
BMW E60 M5
A V10 engine in a saloon car? Don’t be silly. Actually, we’re not. When BMW came to replace the much-loved, V8 powered E39 in 2005, there really was no replacement for displacement. So BMW plumped for a 5.0-litre V10. Ah, for downsizing not to be a thing once more.
Known as the S85 V10, it was created for and used in only the E60 M5, E61 M5 estate, E63 BMW M6 and E64 BMW M6 convertible. With 507PS (373kW) on tap it was more than capable of incinerating its rear tyres, and while the seven-speed single-clutch automatic transmission wasn’t all that brilliant (a six-speed manual was available as a no-cost option in the USA), the engine more than made up for it in charm and, as its place on this list suggests, noise. What’s more, with relatively low prices in the present day and no shortage of aftermarket exhausts systems, the E60 M5 is probably one of the most cost effective ways of convincing neighbours you drive a Formula 1 car to and from work.
Engines don’t get much gruntier than V8s, which is why we’ve put together a list of the nine best sounding V8s of all time. You’re welcome.
Peugeot 905 EVO 1B
Ah, the Peugeot 905. A car we’ve written about many times before and a machine we shall forever be smitten with.
When the World Sportscar Championship changed its rules in the early 1990s so that the top-flight Group C cars used the same 3.5-litre engines as Formula 1, Peugeot Talbot Sport, now Peugeot Sport, and its boss Jean Todt, jumped head first into the opportunity. The result was the Peugeot 905, which made its racing debut in 1990 before competing full-time in the WSC in 1991. Very quickly Peugeot made quite the impression. Coming second only to Jaguar in the 1991 championship standings, in 1992 the 905 EVO 1B won five out of the six races, including Le Mans. The WSC fell apart at the end of that year, but even so, at Le Mans in 1993 Peugeot won once again. In fact Peugeot didn’t just win, they obliterated the opposition, claiming first, second and third. The engine that powered all of that success? The SA35-A1 V10.
With 650PS (478kW) in the original 905 and supposedly 725PS (533kW) in the EVO 1B, this all-Peugeot engine was a screaming monster, revving to 12,500rpm. Although a development of that engine, known as the SA35-A4, was used in the McLaren MP4-9 in 1994, the pairing didn’t go down all that well, so it’ll forever be the 905 that we’ll look at and listen to with so much affection. If you ever have the opportunity to see and hear a 905 in real life, we highly recommend you do so.
Love the 905? You should read our list of the seven best racing sportscars of all time.
Almost every V10 Formula 1 car
Now this feels like something of a cop-out, but, really trying to decide which V10 F1 car sounds best is a task as large and as difficult as trying to decide which Queen song is best. It’s an near impossible task. So we’ll take the lot.
Although one was developed by Alfa Romeo in 1986, the first V10 engine in Formula 1 came from Honda for McLaren. The RA109E was a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated, dry-sumped, aluminium alloy V10 that produced 694PS (511kW). It propelled Alain Prost to his third F1 championship, Ayrton Senna to second place behind Prost, and McLaren to the constructors’ title. But of course this wasn’t the real era of the V10 F1 engine. That came a few years later.
From 1998 to 2006, every car on the F1 grid was powered by a 3.0 V10, and to prevent teams with more cash developing ever more powerful engines rules came into force that technically held teams back from going over the top, like making it mandatory for an engine to complete an entire F1 weekend, for example. From 2006, though, the V8s went away, replaced by 2.4-litre naturally aspirated V8s. They might have been louder that the current 1.6-litre turbo-hybrid engines, but with lower rpm limits they never did have quite the same cry as the V10s (or any sort of power).
Now, about trying to decided our favourite V10 F1 engine… We might be thinking about this for quite some time…
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.
You've listened to them, now it's time to vote: which is your favourite V10 on this list?
Join our motorsport community
Get closer to motorsport at Goodwood! Join the GRRC Fellowship to be first in the queue for event tickets, to attend the GRRC-only Members' Meeting and to enjoy year-round, exclusive benefits.
Sign up for Motorsport news
Stay in the know with our newsletters that contain all the latest news, stories and event information.