There are so many fantastic engines from so many different automakers. Great engines can come from any car maker, from any country and can be any size or shape. What makes an engine special is not just horsepower or torque. What makes an engine special is how it makes you feel when you mash the throttle. There’s no specific recipe, just a combination of good performance and great character and a good history doesn’t hurt either. So here is a list of my top five greatest engines of all time:
- LS7 (7.0 Liter V8 – Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Camaro Z/28)
It may seem a bit odd to put a small-block, pushrod Chevy motor in the top five engines of all time, but make no mistake – the LS7 is the real deal. Built originally for the 2006 Corvette Z06, the LS7 is a 7.0 liter, naturally-aspirated V8 that produces 505 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. While not the most powerful engine in the world, what makes the LS7 so great is the way it delivers its power. It’s got a buttery smooth, linear power band that pins you in your seat as it roars to its 7,100 RPM redline. Not only does it have good power, but the engine is quite scalable as well, and can be used in many different applications. Chevrolet has stuffed it under the hood of two Corvettes and a Camaro.
It’s also been used in racecars, helicopters and the fastest road car in the world – the Hennessey Venom. It’s also quite famous amongst the aftermarket crowd, who like to stuff it, along with so many other LS engines, under the hood of anything they can find. Due to its size, thanks to its pushrod, small block design, it can fit in almost anything, despite being 7.0 liters. Overall the LS7 has been a very iconic, usable and enjoyable engine, so it deserves to be in the top five.
- 1LR-GUV V10 (4.8 Liter V10 – Lexus LFA)
An engine made by Toyota makes it to number four of all time? In my book it does. The V10 in the LFA is one of the most incredible engines of all time. Some may say that it is the single greatest engine ever made. Jeremy Clarkson, of Top Gear, even claims the LFA to be the greatest car he’s ever driven. The LFA’s mighty 4.8 liter V10 is loaded to the gills with technology; forged titanium connecting rods, forged aluminum pistons, titanium valves and dry sump lubrication are just some of the incredible technologies in this engine.
What it’s most famous for, however, is the fact that it can rev to its 9,000 RPM redline in less than one second. That isn’t a typo, that is the actually claimed time it takes to reach 9,000 RPM from zero. Unreal. It also produces 552 hp at 8,700 RPM. But the best part about the LFA engine is the noise. It makes a shriek like nothing else outside of a Formula 1 car. Yamaha helped design the cylinder head as well as the exhaust, so it sounds and feels like no other engine on the road.
- S14 (2.3 Liter I4 – E30 BMW M3)
BMW has made countless great engines over the years, ranging from four-cylinders like the new 2.0 liter, turbo all the way to the V12 in the McLaren F1. I knew BMW would have an engine in the top five, it was just a matter of which one it would be. It was hard choosing, but it I had to pick only one, I’d pick the S14, 2.3 liter, naturally-aspirated four-cylinder from the original M3. Is the S14 the most powerful BMW engine ever? Of course not, it only makes a, meager for modern day, 197 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. But that isn’t what made the S14 so special. The S14 was originally a racing motor but BMW needed to put it in a road car to go racing in the World Touring Car Championship and a requisite 5,000 cars needed to be made.
The engine was designed by Paul Rosche and is, in my opinion one of the finest engines ever built. It’s smooth, with just the right amount of power and it revs freely and makes a great noise while doing it. It’s also so friendly, it loves to be pushed to redline every chance it gets. It’s the kind of engine that asks to be pushed harder. The E30 M3 is widely considered as the single greatest sports car of all time and the engine has a lot to do with that. The combination of history, prestige and how much fun it is to drive, makes it number three on the list of best engines of all time.
- 4.0 Liter flat-six (997 Porsche 911 GT3 RS)
All GT3s are fantastic, they’re sports cars in the purest form. All engines GT3s use at fantastic as well. But the truly special one is the 4.0 liter in the 997 GT3 RS, only produced in 2012. The 4.0 liter, Mezger flat-six shares its block, long-stroke crank and titanium connecting rods with the GT3 RSR race car. It also creates 493 hp and revs to 8,500 RPM and makes a flat-six howl that no other engine can match. It’s the kind of road engine that real race drivers can appreciate. The 4.0 Mezger in the RS is something special that only lasted one model year for only a handful of units. If it weren’t for the absolutely excellent engine in my number one spot, this would take top trumps.
- F140 FC (6.3 Liter V12 – Ferrari F12 Berlinetta)
Winning the international engine of the year award in 2013 for best performance engine, the naturally-aspirated V12 in the F12 is the best engine I’ve ever heard of. It’s the only engine that Jeremy Clarkson deemed too powerful. Making 730 hp at 8,250 RPM, screaming on its way to its 9,000 RPM redline, this V12 is a monster. This is possibly the closest thing to a racing engine currently on sale. It has a rip-roaring soundtrack, revs faster than anything not called an LFA, and creates gob and gobs of power. How does it possibly get better? As great as the other engines are on this list, none can top this magnificent Italian thoroughbred.