We’re living in a world of electric power and small-capacity, turbocharged engines. There’s lots to like about those – the tech is extremely clever – but we can’t help channelling our inner Luddite and yearning for the days of… more. More capacity. More cylinders. More noise.
Like V10s, for example. Maybe the kids of today have cutaways of dual electric motors on their walls, but for us, big-capacity, multi-cylinder petrol engines were the stuff of dreams, even if they always seemed out of reach.
Well, perhaps they’re not as out of reach as you might think. While lots of V10-powered cars are very spendy indeed, there are some that you can get your hands on for less. Much less, in some cases (we've even put out money where our mouth is in one case). Join us, then, as we peer into the world of relatively affordable V10 cars, which are definitely a good idea to buy and won’t leave your wallet in tears. No, no.
1. Audi S6 (C6)
One of the sleeper-iest sleeper cars, the C6-generation Audi S6 looks, to the untrained eye, like any old Audi exec cruiser. But we know that under the bonnet is basically the same 5.2-litre V10 from the R8 and the Lamborghini Gallardo, and it’s got 429bhp for a 5.3-second 0-62mph dash.
There aren’t that many on sale, but when they do come up they tend to sit between around £7,000 and £11,000 for tidy ones - or if like us you're feeling especially brave/stupid (delete as you feel appropriate) you can find one for as little as £3,500. No matter your chosen budget, it's not much for that level of power and swank. Fuel bills will, however, be ruinous.
2. VW Touareg V10 TDI
Oh, the heady days of the mid-2000s, when you could casually drop a V10 (and a diesel V10 at that) into a family SUV and no one would bat an eyelid. The 5.0-litre V10 TDI version of the big Volkswagen Touareg is one such hilarious machine.
A few years ago you could hop into one of these 309bhp, 550lb ft monsters for as little as £5,000, but today you’re looking at between £10,000 and £20,000. Sure, a diesel V10 won’t scream like a petrol, but it will tear the tarmac from the road and waft you along in comfort. And we wouldn’t recommend towing a caravan with a Lamborghini.
3. VW Phaeton V10 TDI
If the Touareg’s a little too massive for you, then you can find the diesel V10 in another ostentatious Volkswagen. The Phaeton was VW’s crack at breaking into the large luxury saloon market, and while it didn’t really succeed from a business case, it has left some hilariously specced cars on the used market.
The V10 TDI is one such example, and it’s even cheaper than the Touareg at around £8,000-£9,000. Brilliantly, it’s not even the daftest engine available in the Phaeton – VW also made the Phaeton with a petrol-powered W12 nicked from Bentley.
4. Audi S8 (D3)
Want even more power and swank for barely any more money? Try the D3-generation Audi S8, which has the same 5.2-litre V10 with 444bhp. You can pick one up for around £10,000 for a high-miler, with pristine examples going for around £13,000 and up.
5. BMW M5 (E60)
BMW might have built its reputation on six-cylinder engines, but it knows how to put a glorious V10 together, and the E60 M5 with its S85 5.0-litre engine is perfect proof. A nice round 500bhp, a 4.7-second 0-62mph sprint and a 200mph top speed are very tempting numbers, especially when prices start at just £13,000 for a high-mileage example.
Prices are starting to go up, however – you’re looking at north of £20,000 for a nice one, and low-mileage M5s are going for £40,000-plus. Are you brave enough to bag a cheap one?
6. BMW M6 (E63/64)
Eyebrows shot through the roof when the Chris Bangle-designed E63 BMW M6 arrived in 2005, but we reckon time has been very nice to what was controversial styling at the time. And besides, it has the same S85 V10 under the bonnet. Starting prices are similar to the M5 but aren’t going quite so high, with quite a few around for between £13,000 and £15,000 and some very nice-looking examples for only a small amount about £20,000. Time to grab one before they skyrocket in value?
7. Dodge Ram SRT-10
So far, so good, but so European. So say hello to America with the Dodge Ram SRT-10. The V10 under its expansive bonnet (sorry, hood) is 8.3 litre in capacity and blats out 500bhp, which is enough for five seconds to 60mph even in a truck the size of Wyoming.
The Ram SRT-10 was never officially sold in the UK, but there have been a few arrive through grey import routes with the steering wheel on the wrong side. That means you’re unlikely to see any others about if you get one. And to do so, you’ll need to dig out at least £25,000. Still, cheaper than a Viper…
8. Audi RS6 (C6)
Ok, yes, we know that “cheapest” is doing some heavy lifting at this end of the list. But look, power and cylinders cost money. When you consider that a brand new Audi RS 6 today will cost you at least £110,000 before you start adding options – and you only get a V8 with it – the older C6-generation RS6 still looks like a bargain.
It uses the same 5.2-litre V10 we mentioned earlier, but in the RS6 power is cranked up to 571bhp. And, unusually in this list, prices look to be dropping at the moment. We’ve found several examples for £16,000, and even the relatively low-mileage models are only around the £25,000 mark. When we did a similar list to this back in 2015, RS6s were £25,000 then. So by our maths, you’d be MAKING money if you bought one. Right?