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The greatest V10 engines ever built

By Cameron Kirby, 17 Aug 2020 Features

The greatest V10 engines ever built

It’s time the V10 got the respect it deserved. These engines show why ten is greater than eight.

If there was a middle child of engine configurations, it would be the V10.

Wedged between the mass religion of the V8, and the exotic appeal of a V12, the V10’s merits are overshadowed.

Here at Wheels HQ, we think that’s a shame, as the V10 is one of our favourite configurations, featuring in some of the coolest cars to ever roll off a production line.

BMW V10 engine

With the Audi R8’s tombstone currently being engraved, the days of being able to purchase a V10-powered road car seem numbered – Lamborghini being the last remaining hold out.

So, to honour the unsung hero V10, these are the times two five-cylinder banks were joined in a vee to create automotive greatness.

Read next: Top most powerful V12 engines

V10’S AREN’T JUST FOR THOSE SNOBBY EUROPEANS

When most people think of V10 engines, they probably envisage delicate European units, built by men with incomprehensible accents and furrowed brows.

Dodge Viper

But one of the most iconic and longest-living V10 engines comes from the land of Pabst Blue Ribbon and medically induced bankruptcy.

We are of course talking about the Dodge Viper, and the stonking V10 engine that has powered it since inception.

dodge viper v10

Since it was revealed to the world as 8.0-litre 298kW/630Nm unit in 1992, the Chrysler V10 has only grown larger and more powerful.

Based on a the pushrod LA family of engines used in Chrysler trucks and pick-ups, the V10 fitted to the Viper perfectly encapsulated the ethos of a brash, unapologetic American sports car.

Dodge Viper V10

By the time the Viper shuffled off its mortal coil in 2017, the V10 had grown to an 8.4-litre capacity, with 481kW/813Nm outputs.

In what must have been one hell of a board meeting, Dodge executives deemed it appropriate to fit the petrol V10 to a pick-up, gifting the world the obscene SRT-10, taking the V10 back to its utility roots.

Dodge Ram SRT10

THE GREATEST SOUNDING ROAD CAR ENGINE, BAR NONE

Engine code 1LR-GUE will go down as being arguably the best sounding engine ever fitted to a road car.

Lexus LFA

That typically Japanese engine code was assigned to the absolutely fantastic V10 engine fitted to the Lexus LFA.

Read next: How Lexus built the best sounding engine of the last decade

Co-developed by Toyota and Yamaha, the clean-sheet 4.8-litre, dual-VVTi V10 was a dry-sumped masterpiece featuring 10 individual throttle bodies, built using exotic materials, and could rev to 9500rpm.

Peak power of 412kW was delivered at a sonorous 8700rpm.

Lexus LFA engine bay

“At wide-open throttle, through the upper half of its rev range, the LFA accelerates with stunning, ridiculous ease,” wrote John Carey for our November 2009 issue.

Not only one of the great V10s, but one of the great engines of all time.

Words can only do so much to extol the virtues of 1LR-GUE, so instead just turn your speakers up, and enjoy this video.

THE V10’S ULTIMATE FORM

BMW P83 (F1)

The V10 engines greatness wasn’t just reserved for public roads, with one of Formula 1’s most popular era’s defined by the engine configuration.

For one glorious decade between 1995 and 2005 F1 cars were fitted with 3.0-litre naturally aspirated V10 that would ignite the nerves in your spine as they passed at full throttle.

BMW F1

We could easily include every engine from that era in our list, but instead we will narrow it down to those used by BMW in the final years of the regulations.

Read next: The performance cars that brought F1 tech to the road

We’ll start with the P82, which was the first F1 engine to rev to 19,000rpm, while the follow-up P83 added an extra 200 revolutions to the equation.

BMW P83 V10 engine

When the P83 was rapidly approaching 20,000rpm, it was sending 670kW to the wheels, making it the first engine on the grid to clear the magical 900hp barrier, all while only weighing 91kg.

BMW’s last F1 V10, the P84, would be used in 2005, and was reportedly capable of producing 710kW.

The greatest V10 ever built? We wouldn’t vote against it. 

THAT TIME PORSCHE PUT A RACE CAR ENGINE INTO A SUPERCAR

We’ve all been doing our weekend cleaning and found an errant V10 race engine under the couch, amirite?

No, only Porsche engineers? Makes sense.

Porsche Carrera GT

We may be taking some light liberties here, but that’s pretty much the story of the 5.7-litre V10 that powered Porsche’s Carrera GT supercar.

Before it was mid-mounted in the notoriously hard-edged flagship, 980/01 started its life destined for Formula 1.

A 3.5-litre V10 was built for the 1992 F1 season but never ran, sitting on a shelf until the turn of the century when Porsche was planning a return to Le Mans with the LMP2000 project (codename 9R3).

Porsche Carrera GT frame

Originally planned to have a turbocharged flat-six, engineers soon opted to re-use the forgotten V10, increasing capacity to 5.0-litres and replaced the pneumatic valve springs.

The LMP2000 project looked good to go before a boardroom decision killed it off, to avoid it competing with Audi’s successful R8 program.

Porsche Carrera GT engine bay

Once again the engine was put into stasis, before finally seeing the light of day as a 450kW/590Nm road car engine.

A V10 SEDAN? SEEMS REASONABLE.

Audi weren’t the only one to slide 10 cylinders under the bonnet of a ‘family car’. BMW got in on the action with the E60 in 2005, which was powered by the S85 4.9-litre naturally aspirated V10.

Outputs for the performance sedan were an impressive 373kW and 520Nm, while BMW claimed the four-door sedan could crack 100km/h in 4.7 seconds.

Read next: History of the BMW M5

Independent testing found this figure to be a furphy, with some outlets able to see triple figures on the speedo in as little as 4.1 seconds.

BMW S85 engine

The S85 engine exemplifies an era of automotive excess. Not based on any other engine in BMW’s portfolio, it was used exclusively in the E60/E61 M5 and E63/E64 M6 siblings.

Its shelf life was brief, going out of production in 2010, but boy did it burn brightly.

A V10 DIESEL SUV? ALSO SEEMS REASONABLE

So far, this list has all been high-end supercars, unhinged race cars, and wild sedans. Well, it’s time for that malarkey to end, as we put on a very serious face and recount the practical benefits of a V10 engine.

VW Touareg

To do so, we will use Volkswagen’s very sensible decision to build a 5.0-litre twin-turbo diesel V10 in 2002, and then fit it to the largest SUV in the range. Practicality!

Power was a relatively tame 230kW @ 3750rpm, but torque was claimed to be 750Nm @ 2000rpm, which for the time was massive.

All that torque resulted in VW using the V10 Touareg to pull a whole ass Boeing 747 for a PR stunt.

VW Touareg

So, there you have it, V10s can be fast AND practical…kinda. Just don’t ask about servicing costs.

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