The best sounding cars of all time

Cars that deserve to be turned up to 11

The sound of speed

The sound of speed © Mercedes-Benz

Imagine driving a Ferrari with ear defenders on – it simply wouldn’t be the same. Sound is a big part of what gives a car character. And aural excitement doesn’t come any finer than the 40 models we’ve selected here.

Mercedes-AMG GT R

Mercedes-AMG GT R © Mercedes-Benz

In truth, we could have chosen any Mercedes-Benz with an AMG-tuned V8. The thunderous 585hp AMG GT R makes the current Porsche 911 sound downright dull.

Pagani Huayra

Pagani Huayra © Goodwood

How down you make an AMG V12 even throatier? Fit it to an Italian hypercar and let it breathe through four shotgun-style tailpipes. That’s how.

Ferrari 458 Italia

Ferrari 458 Italia © Ferrari

The urgent tenor of the 458 Italia’s 570hp naturally aspirated V8 will echo around your head for days. Its turbocharged successors, the 488 GTB and F8 Tributo, simply can’t compete.

Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

Lamborghini Aventador SVJ © Lamborghini

Any Lamborghini is street theatre, but the flagship Aventador SVJ is the Italian marque’s sell-out show. Even crawling through traffic, it sounds sensational.

Lancia Delta Integrale

Lancia Delta Integrale © Lancia

And the award for best sounding hot hatch goes to… the Lancia Delta Integrale. Its bad tempered exhaust rasp evokes memories of the all-conquering Integrale rally cars.

Subaru Impreza WRX

Subaru Impreza WRX © Subaru

This one will divide opinion, but the offbeat thrum of a Subaru flat-four is certainly distinctive. Combine with a drainpipe-sized exhaust for maximum effect.

Jaguar F-Type R V8

Jaguar F-Type R V8 © Jaguar

Apparently Jaguar received feedback from owners that the V8-engined F-Type is too noisy. Nonsense, we say. This thing makes a TVR sound tame.

Dodge Challenger Hellcat

Dodge Challenger Hellcat © Newspress

When it comes to sound, American muscle cars take some beating. The Hellcat chugs menacingly at idle, then makes a noise like a hive full of angry bees.

Fiat 500 Twinair

Fiat 500 Twinair © Fiat

No, this isn’t a mistake. The 500 Twinair sounds like a motorbike – and a noisy one at that. Shame its two-cylinder engine runs out of revs so quickly.

Porsche 911

Porsche 911 © Porsche

The current 911 still has a flat six tucked between its rear wheels, but it’s the earlier, air-cooled cars that are most pleasing to the ear. Their hollow bark is one of the world’s most distinctive engine sounds.

BMW M3 CSL

BMW M3 CSL © BMW

Type ‘M3 CSL noise’ into your favourite search engine and you’ll be rewarded with numerous clips of this special edition BMW being driven in anger. Its induction roar is like a DTM touring car racer.

Maserati GranTurismo

Maserati GranTurismo © Maserati

Let’s be honest, the V8-engined GranTurismo wasn’t the world’s finest sports car. But when something looks and sounds this good, it hardly seems to matter.

Maserati Quattroporte

Maserati Quattroporte © Maserati

A luxury saloon with a Ferrari engine? Yes please. This is a supercar in a sober suit – and its high-pitched wail is pure Italian stallion.

BMW M5 V10

BMW M5 E60 © BMW

Another large saloon with something special under the bonnet. The E60 M5 (2005-2010) has a 500hp V10 that won World Engine of the Year. Jeremy Clarkson compared its sound to a Ferrari F430.

Lexus LFA

Lexus LFA © Lexus

The LFA also boasts a V10 and, coincidentally, is also one of Clarkson’s favourites. Its ear-splitting scream could have Formula 1 cars cowering in fear.

Triumph Stag

Triumph Stag © Newspress

Here’s some true-Brit noise – the unmistakable growl of a Triumph Stag V8. Unfortunately, the Stag was so unreliable, its dulcet tones were rarely heard for long.

TVR Tuscan

TVR Tuscan © TVR

We had to include a TVR on the list, and the Tuscan, with its fabulous motorbike-style exhausts, is surely the obvious choice. This rumbling beast can set off car alarms at 50 paces.

Ferrari F40

Ferrari F40 © Silverstone Classic

The F40 is regarded by many as the finest Ferrari (and by extension, the finest sports car) ever made. It barks, hisses and spits like a living, breathing monster.

Audi R8 V10

Audi R8 V10 © Audi

As we’ve noted, there’s something about the aural excitement of a V10 engine in a road car. Audi’s flagship R8 is no different. Its guttural howl is a match for anything the established supercar makers can muster.

Saab 96

Saab 96 © Saab

You’ll hear a Saab 96 coming long before you see it. The humming of its two-stroke engine echoed across many a Scandinavian rally stage.

Aston Martin Vantage GT12

Aston Martin Vantage GT12 © Goodwood

Here’s a great roaring blast from Aston Martin past. This bass-heavy V12 is the equal of anything from Mercedes-AMG, which provides the firm’s new V8 engines.

Ford Focus ST

Ford Focus ST © Ford

We’re talking about the old, five-cylinder Focus ST here. Its deep, five-cylinder burble is unlike any other hot hatch.

Porsche Cayenne V8 diesel

Porsche Cayenne V8 diesel © Porsche

A diesel? Yes, really. The Cayenne’s oil-burning V8 did a very good impression of a big-capacity petrol engine, without the crippling fuel consumption. Shame it’s now been discontinued.

Bugatti Veyron Supersport

Bugatti Veyron Supersport © Bugatti

Surprisingly quiet at idle, the Veyron’s huge, 16-cylinder engine gulps so much air at speed that it sounds like the world’s fastest vacuum cleaner. In a good way.

Ford Mustang V8

Ford Mustang V8 © Newspress

Mustangs don’t sound quite right without a V8 engine. Its eight throbbing cylinders are as all-American as a Bruce Springsteen record.

Shelby Cobra 427

Shelby Cobra 427 © Newspress

The mighty Shelby Cobra was available with side-exit exhausts – all the better to hear that 7.0-litre V8 in all its deafening glory. A bona fide automotive icon.

Dodge Viper

Dodge Viper © FCA

The original Viper also had side pipes. Throw in an 8.0-litre V10 designed by Lamborghini and you have a recipe for full-on aural assault.

Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale

Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale © Ferrari

As shrieking Ferrari V8s go, nothing tops a 360 Challenge Stradale. A road-legal race car, it will make every hair on the back of your neck stand to attention.

Vauxhall VX220 Turbo

Vauxhall VX220 Turbo © Vauxhall

Vauxhall’s VX220 lives in the shadow of its more glamorous cousin, the Lotus Elise. However, in 2.0-litre Turbo form, it definitely has the edge in terms of ferocious engine noise.

Audi RS2

Audi RS2 © Newspress

The first Audi RS model borrowed various parts from Porsche, but its rambunctious five-cylinder engine was all-Audi. Once you got past the turbo lag, it sounded wonderful.

Mini

Mini © BMW Group

Many people of a certain age owned a Mini as their first car. For them, the whine of that transverse engine in first gear will always evoke the initial feeling of freedom behind the wheel.

Porsche Carrera GT

Porsche Carrera GT © Newspress

It’s a Porsche and it has a mid-mounted V10 engine. Is it any wonder the Carrera GT sounds like one of the Norse gods clearing his throat?

Alfa Romeo 8C

Alfa Romeo 8C © Alfa Romeo

Alfa’s attempt to ‘do a Ferrari’ wasn’t without flaws. But, breathing through four exhausts, it had an authentic Italian soundtrack – from angry snarl to high-pitched howl.

Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5 © Mazda

Mazda engineers tuned the exhaust of the original MX-5 to make it sound like a classic British sports car. They then added a healthy dose of Japanese reliability.

Ferrari 250 GTO

Ferrari 250 GTO © Newspress

The world’s most valuable car makes a suitably expensive noise. A 250 GTO sounds textured and utterly mechanical – you hear every pump, piston and belt.

Honda S2000

Honda S2000 © Honda

Revving a Honda S2000 to 9,000rpm is a life-affirming experience. VTEC variable valve timing makes the four-cylinder engine change character, like an automotive Jekyll and Hyde.

McLaren F1

McLaren F1 © McLaren

No car is built without compromise, but the McLaren F1 comes pretty close. Its V12 BMW engine develops 627hp and sounds absolutely feral.

McLaren 600LT

McLaren 600LT © McLaren

The 600LT has almost as much power as its famous forebear, despite hailing from the entry-level ‘Sports Series’ end of the McLaren range. Its top-exit exhausts pop and spit flames.

Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf © Nissan

Finally, how about some peace and quiet? The previous 38 cars have given us a headache, so we’ll cruise home in serene silence in the electric Nissan Leaf.

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