The best sounding cars of all time
Cars that deserve to be turned up to 11
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-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© 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
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
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
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
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
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© 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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© 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
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© 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
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
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© 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
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
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
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© 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© 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© 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
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
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© 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© 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© 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
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
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© 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
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
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
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
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.