Top Ten: Great Sounding Engines

One topic that automotive enthusiasts can never seem to agree on is: what is the best-sounding car? While it's a HIGHLY subjective field, here is CT's Top 10 list

By James Mackintosh, 18 May 2009

10) Subaru EJ20ET

Subaru EJ20ET

Displacement: 2.0LMechanical Layout: 180° Horizontally-opposed Flat FourValvetrain: Dual overhead cam, 4v/cylAspiration: TurbochargedApplications: Subaru WRX

The EJ20 is one of the most unique sounding powerplants out there.  It's got this off-beat staccato burble to it that's just ummistakable - you can always tell when a souped-up Scooby is coming down the road.  The truth is, it's science - it's the unequal length headers and single-scroll turbocharger that give it that odd resonance.  STi "fixed" this "problem" in later GD-generation Imprezas, and they've never quite sounded the same.  For your aural amusement:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReDgt7ZlvL8

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGaSVIoIdn4

9) Volkswagen 24v VR6

vr61

Displacement: 2.8L/3.2LMechanical Layout: 15° V6 with shared headValvetrain: DOHC, 24vAspiration: atmosphericApplication: VW Jetta VR6/GLI, GTI VR6, R32, etc.

The VR6 has an absolutely delicious sound to it when it's been uncorked.  It's mostly due to the 15º angle of the V as well as the shared head - making it more like a "staggered" inline 6 than a real V6, but whatever.  It sounds like a mixture of BMW straight six and Porsche air-cooled flat six, both of which sound amazing to my ears.  And it's always coming out of such innocuous looking hatchbacks and stuff...  lovely sound.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jwluu1Tl1Es

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLKz7sipv28

8) Nissan VQ35DE

Nissan VQ35DE

Nissan VQ's seems to have two voices: one high-pitched, metallic and full of valvetrain noise like an old high-strung race engine.  The other voice is a little darker, a little deeper and more melliflous, a big dog's bark.  It's an instantly recogizable sound, and it's s ound that comes out of a myriad of different tailpipes - the VQ is under the hood of a large majority of Nissan/Infiniti Products.  And with good reason - it's been on Ward's 10 Best engines every year since the award's inception in 1995.  Bask in the glory.

Displacement: 3.0L/ 3.5L/ 3.7LMechanical Layout: V6Valvetrain: DOHC, 24vAspiration: atmosphericApplication: Everything from the 350Z to the Maxima to the Quest minivan to the Pathfinder...

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RClUEQg7Gjo

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8qtWf6pFsU

7) BMW S54B32

Displacement: 3.2LMechanical Layout: Inline 6Valvetrain: VANOS, DOHC, 24v, ITBAspiration: Atmospheric, Baby!Application: BMW M3/Convertible, Z4 M Roadster/Coupe

BMW S54B32 (M3 E46) Engine

Race bred, knife-edge honed to perfection, and meaner than a bobcat in your basement.  That about describes the sounds that emanate from the rear end of E46 M3's.  It's that raw, metallic rasp that is so distinctive - sure, it's muffled up nice and quietly in most other BMW's, but the M3 has the full vocal range it deserves.  And oh what a range - 8,000+ rpm of screaming BMW is always nice.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qju9iEFqp3Y

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wz1-zDky2Ns

6) Audi RS4 4.2L FSI V8

Displacement: 4.2LValvetrain: DOHC, 32v, Direct InjectionAspiration: NaturalApplication: Audi (B7) RS4 Quattro, Audi R8 4.2 Quattro, Audi RS5 Quattro, Spyker C8, Gumpbert Apollo

rs4v8

It's hard to put your finger on quite why the RS4's V8 sounds so damn amazing.  But you can't argue it doesn't.  Maybe it's the basso profundo undertone and the high-rev wail of 8,250 rpm.  Maybe it's the throttle growl with open exhaust.  Who knows?  But the RS4 V8, used in the RS4 super-sedan as well as the R8 supercar, sounds magnificent.  My goodness.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOYkjK_SIEs

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXevDS_Ym7k

5) GM Gen II/III Small Block V8

Displacement: 5.7L/6.0L/6.2L/7.0LMechanical Layout: V8Valvetrain: cam-in-block, 16 valvesAspiration: naturalApplication: Chevrolet Camaro Z28/SS, Corvette, Z06, ZR1, Cadillac CTS-V, Pontiac GTO, many others.

ls1

You just can't have a list of "best sounding engines" without a gold old-fashioned American pushrod V8, and as far as sounding nasty and V8-ey, the LSx is where it's at.   It's a simplistic sound, a huge amount of induction roar as 348 cubic inches (LS1 guys, you know it's true) haul your F-body down the road faster than the other next F-body next to you.  Redneck noise?  Perhaps.  But LS is GM for POWER,  and the LSx has it everywhere - in a lightweight package.  That's why there's so many of the blasted things everywhere, blaring out that so well-known V8 rumble.  You gotta love it.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC2HA5w3B7I

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa5h9Rcj2DU

4) Audi 10v/ 20v Inline-5

Displacement: 2.1L/2.2LMechanical Layout: Inline 5 cylinderValvetrain: (dual)overhead cam, 10 valve (single cam) 20 valve (twin cam)Aspiration: turbochargedApplication: Audi 5000 Turbo Quattro, Audi quattro, Audi 200 20v, Audi (ur)S4 and S6, etc.

audii5

Audi's 5-banger has an absolutely distinctive howl to it that you just won't mistake for anything else.  It's knife-edged sharp, but has a touch of a warble to it - that extra cylinder makes for some interesti ng harmonies.  A glorious sound in WRC trim.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_NVCnuGa38

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yctDu27Db8

3) Honda C32B

Displacement: 3.2LMechanical Layout: V6Valvetrain: Dual overhead camshafts, 24 valveAspiration: NaturalApplication: Acura/Honda NSX

nsxengine

The crown jewel of Honda's engine stable - and considering Honda is a brand that's always been about the engine - that says a lot.  The C32B was the second iteration on the NSX supercar engine, evolving from the 3.0L C30A  into 3.2L 290bhp spec.  It has a wonderfully mechanical, raw sound to it - and it just revs forever and ever.  Lovely.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3WuCUv0aUk

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaRGwtQ9tG0

2) Lamborghini Twin-Cam V12

Displacement: 5.2LMechanical Layout: V10Valvetrain: Dual Overhead Camshafts, 48 valvesAspiration: NaturalApplication: Lamborghini Countach

countachengine

Do words really need to be said?  Just listen to the clips.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foDcLUhUKqI

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0s5szA-cGk

1) Porsche Carrera GT V10

Displacement: 5.7LMechanical Layout: V10Valvetrain: Dual Overhead Camshafts, 40 valvesAspiration: naturalApplication: Porsche Carrera GT

cgtv10

Race-bred lightweight V10, the cream of the crop of Porsche's road-going cars, an astronomic redline, a flywheel so light it sounds like there isn't one - the Carrera GT's engine is aurul venom, headed straight for the center of your brain via your eardrums.  You'll shiver.  It wins.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdePhx9HVjo

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQAH1fKcL5g

Well, that's my top ten.  Feel free to leave what you think should be honerable mentions in the comments.  I personally am heartbroken that I can't fit in the E92 M3's V8, the BMW M1 engine, the Maserati 4.3L V8 in the Alfa 8C, the Aston Martin V8, air-cooled 911's, the Nissan RB26DETT, Ford Modular supercharged V8's, the Honda F20C (From the S2000) with individual throttle bodies...  oh, and ditto on the Toyota 4AGE... well, you know how these lists can go on.  Let's hear your take on it!

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