A tribute to the 10-cylinder engine
The turbocharged V6 is replacing the V8, but the V10 isn't replacing the V12.
Like the V12, the end of the road for the V10 is coming. It's the red-headed stepchild of the V engines as the V8 is used for its weight-to-power ratio, and the V12 pokes weight in the eye so it can deliver power and smoothness by the bucketload.
However, when the V10 layout is embraced, wonderful things can happen. You can typically find more torque than a V12 while saving some weight. A V10 also produces more horsepower than a turbocharged V8 when pushed. We love a well-executed V10 engine in a well-executed car, and here are our favorites.
The Audi R8 is written off by those that think supercars have to scream and shout excess every time someone looks at it, but beloved by those that enjoy a thick layer of refinement and sophistication over their adrenaline rush.
In the pantheon of V10-powered cars, the R8 will be forgotten in favor of its Lamborghini cousins, but it deserves better. The Audi R8 is a German suit wrapped around an Italian heart, except the Lamborghini and the Audi V10 engine are closely intertwined.
That heart is a naturally-aspirated 5.2-liter V10 that loves to howl while it generates 562 horsepower. The R8 glanced knowingly at every vehicle branded as a supercar you can drive daily when it appeared in 2006 and finally gave the world exactly that. Don't be fooled; the R8 will hit 60 mph way faster than your car and generate the kind of grip that needs a track to exploit.
It's still baffling that it took Lexus so long to sell all of its magical LFA supercars.
It was born out of the purity of thought from somebody at Lexus who reckoned the Japanese brand should build a car that showed off exactly what it could do. The halo supercar stuck with a front-engined sports car design packing a 553 hp V10 engine developed with Yamaha. It went from idle to its 9,000 rpm redline in 0.6 seconds.
It wasn't a car you only bought for the bananas engine, though. The LFA exuded as much style as it had cutting-edge technology packed into its carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) chassis.
It would be a colossal oversight to talk about the demise of the V10 without bringing up the last of the mechanical supercars. The Porsche Carrera GT was built between 2006 and 2008 with a V10 engine design initially slated for the Footwork Formula One team and later used for a Le Mans prototype race car.
It went on sale as a limited-run road car with a pure carbon fiber monocoque and subframe and a six-speed manual transmission to regulate its 600+ hp. The term "race car for the road" gets bandied around a lot. Still, the Carrera GT was based around racing programs, and the engineering that went into the supercar borders on the fanatical - everything from shaving weight to magnesium wheels, Porsche's Ceramic Composite Clutch (PCCC), and Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB).
Many V10 engines over the decades have originated in motorsport, and the BMW V10 engine that appeared in the M5 in 2004 follows the pattern.
The M5 was the first production sedan to feature a V10 engine, and it came off the back of the BMW Sauber Formula One team, along with the seven-speed paddle-shift transmission. It's not one of the most highly strung V10s out in the wild, making its 500 hp at 7,750 rpm, but is known for its rod bearing failures due to the stock bearings.
Until it goes pop, though, the engine is one of the most responsive BMW has built and is spectacularly fast. The rest of the car is equally sharp and carries on the spirit of the M5 as a comfortable executive car that can lay down a blistering track time.
Pick a Lamborghini, any Lamborghini with a V10, and it should be on this list.
For decades, Lamborghini was a V12 brand, but when Volkswagen bought it up, things had changed, and Lamborghini needed a smaller, less expensive supercar to sell. Enter the Gallardo with a V10 Lamborghini was keen to point out wasn't Audi's existing V10.
Its successor, the Huracan, is stretching out its end of life with various variations and special editions. The STO is one of the bonkers versions meant for driving to the track, laying down some laps, and driving home again. It's fast as hell and corners like a scared cat on carpet. That's no mean feat, but the topper is that you can lay down serious miles on public roads without shaking fillings loose.
Things have gotten spectacular as we reach the end of the V10's production.
The McLaren Solus GT is a stunning limited-production track machine that jumped from concept to building with little in between. The 5.2-liter naturally aspirated V10 is made by the race car engine specialists Judd. It lays down 829 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque to punch the hypercar to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds and on to over 200 mph.
On its way, it repeatedly revs out to, and strap in here, 10,000 rpm. And, if you have the astonishing amount of money needed to buy one and think you might hit the street with it, think again. The Solus GT uses a seven-speed sequential gearbox with straight-cut gears through a multi-plate carbon fiber clutch.
It's no daily driver supercar.
Yep, we're putting two Audis on this list. The first one makes sense, but the second makes it because it makes little sense.
Although, if BMW can put a V10 in a sedan, why shouldn't Audi put one in a wagon? And why not add a twin-turbo system while the engineers were at it?
The C6 type 4F dropped in 2008 with around 570 hp from its 5.0-liter engine, closely related to the R8's. But, it was twin-turbo. And there was a wagon version. Who says the Germans don't have a sense of humor?
We thought about adding the V10 Ferrari F1 car, the F2004, but that's a slippery slope into a new article. The Volkswagen Touareg V10 TD1 could have made it for the same reason as the Audi RS6, but its 309 hp was underwhelming. Its 553 lb-ft of torque wasn't, but that would be great for a truck.
The V10 Dodge Viper engine was a small-block Chrysler V8 with extra cylinders glued on and handed over to Lamborghini to convert it from an iron to an aluminum head and figure out the cooling. Yes, it's a spectacular car, but the engine was famed for its power, not its engineering or performance.
The Dodge RAM SRT-10 isn't on the list for the same reason, but it's also a street performance truck, and they are only fun for the ten minutes it takes to wear through a set of tires. Other than that, street performance trucks are best for treating fragile masculinity.