These Are The Coolest V-10 Cars Ever Made
V-10 engines aren’t very popular, but they power some of the best cars ever builtby Ciprian Florea, on LISTEN 18:00
While V-8 and V-12 engines have been somewhat popular since the early days of the automobile, the V-10 made its debut in production cars much later. That’s mostly because each cylinder bank works as a straight-five engine, preventing the mill from having the natural balance found in other powerplants. Reducing the vibrations in a V-10 engine requires further development, which also adds additional costs. While the first V-8s and V-12s were developed as early as the 1900s, the first known V-10 appeared in 1936 when Busch-Sulzer created a prototype locomotive. Porsche then introduced a massive 37.4-liter V-10 diesel for the Leopard 1 tank in 1965. In 1983, Tatra launched its own V-10 diesel for the T815 truck. The first production car with a V-10 didn’t arrive until 1992 when Dodge launched the Viper. Since then, a handful of automakers created performance vehicles powered by V-10 mills. Here’s a list of the most iconic cars.
Previously known for affordable and somewhat mundane cars,
Dodge took the sports car market by storm in 1992 with the Viper
. Beyond its impressive looks, the Viper’s main point was the 8.0-liter V-10 under the hood. Derived from a 5.9-liter V-8 engine, the V-10 mill was developed in cooperation with Lamborghini as Chrysler owned the Italian firm at the time. The engine generated 400 horsepower initially, but it was updated to 450 horses for the second-generation model. Displacement increased to 8.3 liters in 2003, while power went up to 510 horsepower. In 2008, the Viper came with 600 horses on tap via a slight displacement increase to 8.4 liters. Revived in 2012, the Viper continued to feature the 8.4-liter V-10, but power increased to 640 and then 645 horsepower. Dodge axed the nameplate in 2017 as the most iconic American car with a V-10 engine. Dodge V-10 eventually found its way in three other production cars: the Ram SRT-10, Spania GTA Spano, and VLF Force 1. A lower performance version called the Magnum V-10 and rated at 310 horsepower was offered in the Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks from 1994 to 2003.
|Production years:||1992-2010 and 2012-2017|
Read our full review on the 1992 Dodge Viper
1997 Ford E Series
Ford began working on its own V-10 design in the 1990s, based on the Triton V-8 mill that debuted in the 1990s. A 6.8-liter V-10 was born, and a two-valve engine debuted in 1997. The E Series van was the first to benefit from this mill, which was optional on the E250, E350, and E450 trims. The V-10 was eventually offered in the F250 to F550 trucks starting 1999 and in the Ford Excursion SUV beginning 2000. Ford introduced a three-valve version of the 6.8-liter V-10 that was used across the Ford Super Duty line and in the E Series van until 2019. Yes, we think that driving a van with a massive V-10 engine is really cool, and that’s why our list nominates the van in favor of the trucks or the Excursion model.
2003 was the year when the V-10 engine became a bit more popular by finding its way into three different production cars.
The Porsche Carrera GT was one of them, and it came with a V-10 that Porsche had been working on since the early 1990s. A company that had been using flat-six engines almost exclusively in its first 40 years on the market, Porsche began working on a V-10 in 1991 for the Arrows F1 team (known as Footwork at the time). The project was shelved in 1992. Porsche revived it in 1999 for a Le Mans prototype, but this time around, the race car was canceled due to the German’s being busy developing the Cayenne. But the V-10 engine, this time in the form of a 5.5-liter unit, made it into the Carrera GT concept car that Porsche unveiled in 2000. Because the show car gained a lot of attention, and also because the Cayenne became extremely popular and helped the company financially, Porsche decided to put it into production. The Carrera GT arrived in 2003 with a 5.7-liter V-10 engine under the hood. The mill generates 603 horsepower and 435 pound-feet of torque and pushes the Carrera GT from 0 to 62 mph in 3.6 seconds. The German supercar also hits a top speed of 208 mph. Porsche ended production in 2006, and the V-10 wasn’t used in other vehicles beyond that.
Read our full review on the 2003 Porsche Carrera GT
The Lambo Gallardo also debuted in 2003, 11 years after the Italian firm saw the V-10 it developed for Dodge debut in the Viper.
Unrelated to Chrysler’s V-10, the Gallardo’s mill was much smaller at 5.0 liters. Originally rated at 493 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, the engine saw numerous upgrades over in the coming years. Output increased to 523 horsepower in the Superleggera model, while a displacement increase to 5.2 liters in 2008 took power to 552 horses in the standard model. The most potent version arrived toward the end of production in the Superleggera and Sesto Elemento models at 562 horsepower. The 5.2-liter V-10 not only enabled Lamborghini to offer a more affordable supercar slotted below the V-12 cars, but it also helped it survive financially. The Gallardo became the company’s best-selling car with more than 14,000 units built. Its successor, the Huracan, arrived in 2013 with a revised 5.2-liter V-10. The same engine found its way into the Audi R8 after a few years.
Read our full review on the 2003 Lamborghini Gallardo
2003 Volkswagen Phaeton
Volkswagen was the third carmaker to jump on the V-10 engine bandwagon in 2003. But unlike Lamborghini and Porsche, it did it with a sedan and, more importantly, a diesel engine.
Just one year after it introduced the Phaeton as its flagship luxury model, Volkswagen launched a 5.0-liter V-10 diesel engine.
This turbocharged mill was good for 309 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque, and it was almost as powerful as the 4.2-liter V-8 gasoline option. It was also capable of pushing the Phaeton from 0 to 62 mph in 6.9 seconds, only a second slower than the range-topping model powered by the massive 6.0-liter W-12. Although the Phaeton remained in production with various updates until 2016, the diesel V-10 was discontinued in 2007, after only four years on the market. Volkswagen offered a similar version of this engine in the Touareg SUV.
Chrysler finally took advantage of the Viper’s engine for another vehicle in 2004, when it introduced the Ram SRT-10.
Powered by the same 8.3-liter V-10 as offered in the Viper back in 2004, the SRT-10 hit the road with a whopping 500 horsepower and 525 pound-feet of torque.
The 5,000-pound truck needed only 4.9 seconds to hit 60 mph on its way to a top speed of 154 mph. At the time of its launch, the Ram SRT-10 was the fastest and most powerful production pickup truck ever made. The V-10 engine and the performance was backed by a more aggressive, Viper-inspired exterior and a bespoke cabin with extra features. Production of the truck ended in 2006, with a little over 10,000 units delivered.
Read our full review on the 2004 Dodge Ram SRT-10
BMW was the first of the premium German carmakers to introduce a V-10. While the 7 Series and the 8 Series were offered with V-12 engines, other performance cars were restricted to inline-six and V-8 mills. This changed in 2005 when the E60-generation M5 was launched with a naturally aspirated V-10. Dubbed S85, this engine was developed specifically for the M5 and was not related to any other mill in the lineup. But it was inspired by BMW’s previous Formula One involvement.
The V-10 was rated at 500 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque and enabled the M5 to hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds.
Top speed was limited to 155 mph, but the optional M Driver’s package lifted it to 190 mph. At the time of its introduction, the M5 was the quickest four-door sedan on the market. BMW also offered a five-door wagon version, which is now a collector’s item. Production of the E60 M5 ended in 2010, and BMW returned to the V-8 engine for the next generation. BMW shelved the engine and did not use it in any other vehicle.
Read our full review on the 2005 BMW M5
Audi jumped on the V-10 bandwagon only a year after BMW, but it went for the full-size market by dropping a V-10 in the larger A8.
It was called the S8 5.2 FSI Quattro and featured a 5.2-liter V-10 based on the engine that Lamborghini introduced in the Gallardo a few years back.
Audi’s version featured a longer stroke and wider bore, which increases the displacement from Lambo’s 5.0 to 5.2 liters but also produces more torque at lower revs. The latter made the V-10 more suitable for the larger and heavier full-size sedan. Rated at 444 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque, it propelled the big sedan from 0 to 60 in five seconds and to a top speed of 155 mph. The S8 remained in production with the V-10 engine until 2010.
Read our full review on the 2006 Audi S8
Following BMW’s unveiling of the V-10-powered M5, Audi dropped a similar engine in the RS6. But unlike BMW, Audi didn’t build it from scratch. The German firm borrowed the V-10 from Lamborghini, also owned by the Volkswagen Group, just like it did for the S8. The 5.0-liter V-10 was also related to the engine in the Lambo Gallardo, but it featured around 400 unique parts and, more importantly, it was twin-turbocharged.
The all-aluminum, even firing V-10 produced 571 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, way more than the BMW M5.
The RS6 was also more powerful than the Gallardo itself. The sprint to 60 mph took only 4.5 seconds, while top speed came in at 170 mph without the restrictor. The C6-generation RS6 was short-lived, with production halted in 2010, only two years after its introduction. Just like BMW, Audi returned to V-8 power.
|Engine:||twin-turbo 5.0-liter V-10|
Read our full review on the 2008 Audi RS6 Avan
The R8 was the third Audi powered by a V-10 engine. Originally introduced in 2006 as the company’s first mid-engined sports car, the R8 debuted with a 4.2-liter V-8. In 2009, Audi decided to also offer a 5.2-liter V-10 based on the Lamborghini Gallardo, and the 5.2 FSI Quattro model was born. The engine was originally rated at 525 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque, but output increased as Audi updated the R8 and introduced special models. In 2014, the R8 LMX arrived with 562 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of twist. Redesigned in 2015, the R8 dropped the V-8 engine but continued to feature the V-10. As of 2020, the R8 Performance Quattro is the most powerful iteration with 612 horsepower and 428 pound-feet on tap.
Read our full review on the 2009 Audi R8
The Lexus LFA is one of the most iconic V-10 cars ever built. It was also the company’s flagship model and its only supercar to date.
In development since the early 2010s, the LFA was introduced for the 2011 model year with a naturally aspirated, 4.8-liter V-10.
A bespoke engine developed in cooperation with Yamaha, the V-10 was lighter than the 3.5-liter V-6 that Toyota and Lexus used in most of their cars back in the day. The engine is rated at 552 horsepower and 354 pound-feet, while the Nurburgring Package increases output to 563 horsepower. It needed 3.6 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start, while top speed was rated at 203 mph. Priced from $375,000, it’s still one of the most expensive Japanese cars ever built. Production ended in 2012 with only 500 units built, but a handful of cars can still be found on dealer lots in the United States.
Read our full review on the 2011 Lexus LFA
We end this list with one of the very few V-10 cars still in production.
Introduced in 2014 as a replacement for the Gallardo, the Huracan continues Lamborghini's V-10 legacy with an updated version of the already iconic V-10 mill.
Originally rated at 602 horsepower and 413 pound-feet, the engine was uprated to 631 horses and 443 pound-feet in the Performante model. The facelifted Huracan Evo is just as powerful now, while the RWD model matches the pre-facelift Huracan in terms of power and torque. With more than 14,000 models sold by late 2019, the Huracan overtook the Gallardo as Lamborghini’s best-selling model.
Read our full review on the 2014 Lamborghini Huracan
V-10 Engine Q&A
What is a V-10 engine?
The V-10 engine is a ten-cylinder piston engine with the cylinders arranged in a V configuration around a common crankshaft. Each cylinder bank functions as a straight-five engine, which causes an unbalanced rocking couple. This means that unlike V-8 or V-12 engines, the V-10 does not have perfect engine balance. In order to reduce vibration, V-10 engines are usually fitted with balance shafts.
Are there any new cars that still come with a V-10 engine?
As of 2020, only two production cars made by mainstream automakers come with a V-10 engine: the Lamborghini Huracan and the Audi R8. Both cars are made by companies owned by the Volkswagen Group, so their V-10 are actually highly related.
Is the V-10 engine dead?
The V-10 was never as popular as the V-8 or the V-12. Because it doesn’t have natural engine balance, it was often overlooked by mainstream carmakers. While the V-8 and V-12 became popular in the early days of the automobile, the V-10 didn’t make it into a mainstream car until the early 1990s. Since then, less than 20 vehicles have been produced with a V-10 mill. Although it’s not as popular as the V-8 and V-12, the V-10 engine is by no means dead. At least not until popular cars like the Lamborghini Huracan and Audi R8 will be fitted with different engines. V-10 engines are still a bit more popular than V-16 and W-16 mills.
What cars can have a V-10 engine swap?
This usually depends on how much space there’s under the hood. A car that’s usually sold with a four-cylinder engine will need extensive modifications in order to receive a V-10. However, cars that are sold with higher displacement engines can be fitted with a V-10 with minor changes.
How much is a V-10 engine?
It depends on the model and the company. Mainstream manufacturers don’t offer V-10 crate engines, but you can buy aftermarket mills based on designs from Ford and Chevrolet. Prices for a complete engine usually starts from around $3,500, but some mill will set you back up to $6,000. High-performance engines are obviously much more expensive. Some companies sell Dodge Viper crate engines for around $20,000.