Japan is known for using smaller, sometimes turbocharged engines (like the Honda K20) instead of the large V8s produced by the Americans (such as the Chevy 350). Needing to make their cars more appealing, they designed their intake and exhaust sounds to be the best in their class, as opposed to the American way of just putting an exhaust on and the car sounding amazing right off the bat.
The sound a car makes is one of the most important aspects gearheads consider when purchasing a new ride. To some, even a small city car with a raspy exhaust note is preferable over a big car with an exhaust that sounds like a hairdryer. These days, with the various emissions regulations and mandatory particulate filters, cars are all beginning to sound the same – and boring.
Throughout history, auto manufacturers were still free to make their vehicles sound as they wanted them to – even within the last few years after regulations started endangering the internal combustion engine. Here are some of the best-sounding Japanese and American sports cars ever produced – one of which is still on sale.
10 Toyota Supra Mk4
The Supra has been Toyota’s definitive sports car since its introduction in 1978. It was the Mk4 Supra that caught the world’s attention, thanks to its almost endless modifications. It had a 3.0-liter straight-6 with a choice of either a naturally aspirated trim, or two massive turbos stuck onto the side of the engine.
The Mk4 produced between 220 and 325 hp, depending on the specification, however with a simple remap of the engine control unit, Supras can achieve power figures nearing the 500 hp mark. Furthermore, the Supra makes a great sound, even in stock form – but an aftermarket exhaust system can even enhance that.
9 1969 Dodge Charger R/T
The Dodge Charger is one of the cars which springs to mind when the words ‘American muscle car’ is uttered. Not only is it an awesome car to look at, but it is a massive vehicle to maneuver at over 208 inches in length! The Charger was available with a range of engines, although the top-of-the-line R/T was the one to go for.
It featured a 426cui (7.0-liter) HEMI V8, mated to either a 4-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic, producing 410 hp with drive going to the rear wheels. This made the Charger R/T one awesome-sounding smoke machine. The engine was fitted with a cross-plane crankshaft – as was the way to go at the time – resulting in the cylinders’ odd firing order, creating one of the most iconic idle sounds of any car in history.
8 Mazda RX-7 FD
The Mazda RX-7 FD was one of the greatest – if not the greatest – rotary-powered cars ever produced. It had a 1.3-liter twin-turbocharged twin-rotor, producing around 260 hp and 217 lb-ft of torque. This power figure may not sound all that great from a twin-turbocharged engine, but the RX-7 FD’s second party trick was the fact that it only weighed 2,700 lbs.
The great thing about this car was the noise it made. Few cars have a characteristic exhaust note to rival that of a screaming rotary. With minor modification, this already loud mosquito could achieve insane sound levels, worthy of putting it in the list of best-sounding cars ever.
7 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS
The Chevrolet Camaro was launched to go to battle with the likes of the Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger, and featured Chevrolet’s now-famous 350cui (5.7-liter) V8, producing 300 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. Like the Charger of the time, the odd firing order of the pistols meant that the Camaro produced an amazing sound when revving from idle.
Even though the Camaro was late to the party compared to the Mustang’s 1964 and the Charger’s 1966 launch, it still became a success story which is still being sold today.
6 Shelby Mustang GT500
The current Shelby Mustang GT500 features something which no other GT500 has ever had – a flat-plane V8, like the kind found in a Ferrari. The Mustang GT500 is based on the Shelby GT350, which is where the change in engineering started. Both the Voodoo and Predator V8s found in the GT350 and GT500 respectively is based on the Coyote V8 found in the Mustang GT.
Unlike the Mustang GT which has an unequal rumble, the GT500’s V8 sounds aligned and in equilibrium, resulting in a satisfying burble from the exhaust. The sound is accompanied by the whine of a supercharger, adding to the already thrilling experience.
5 Honda NSX
The first generation Honda NSX was a titan in the affordable, economic, and reliable sports car world. It was not only mistaken as a Ferrari, but it drove like one as well. The updated NSX even received Honda’s brilliant V-TEC camshaft system, resulting in an even better driving experience.
The 3.2-liter V6 sounded exotic from the factory already, with a slight raspiness during hard acceleration when the V-TEC kicked in, and with some slight modifications, the car sounds worth much more than it is. Today, the NSX has a massive following with members owning cars in almost infinitely different states of tune.
4 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon
The Challenger SRT Demon was based on the Challenger SRT Hellcat, Dodge’s highest-performance muscle car. It had 130 hp more than a ‘normal’ Hellcat, meaning 840 hp going to the rear wheels only via an 8-speed automatic. The SRT Demon was a monster.
Apart from all the options and accessories available – each at a ridiculous price of $1 – the Demon was king of the production-car drag records. It set new records left and right after owners took delivery of their cars – so much so that the car was banned from competing in the sport it was built for. Luckily, owners can still drive their cars on the road, resulting in video footage that makes your hair stand on end.
3 Nissan GT-R Nismo R35
The current generation Nissan GT-R has been on sale since 2009 when it took the world by storm with its revolutionary launch-control system. Since then, the model has received various updates to the performance, exterior, interior, and software. In 2013, Nissan updated the range to include the GT-R Nismo, a track-focused version of the normal road car.
The GT-R Nismo features the same 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 as in the normal version. However, it has been updated to 600 hp and has a claimed 0-62 mph time of 2.5 seconds – a feat that has been proven on multiple occasions. The Nismo also features a revised exhaust system, resulting in one of the best V6 engine sounds of any car.
2 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing
The CT5-V Blackwing is the last hurrah of an era. It is the last manual-transmission V8 saloon being produced before electric cars take over. With that being said, it is an amazing car to feast your eyes on. Based on the Chevy Camaro platform, the CT5-V Blackwing features the engine from the Camaro ZL1, producing 670 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque, going to the rear wheels only – as opposed to the normal CT5-V which is available with all-wheel-drive.
The exhaust has been tuned by Cadillac to be as sporty as possible, especially in track mode, resulting in a sleek, elegant Cadillac saloon with the noise of an angry dinosaur. It has a slight supercharger whine to emphasize its sportiness, making the whole car even better.
1 Lexus LFA
The Lexus LFA is the best-sounding car in the world. This is not an opinion – it is a fact. The only other car that comes close to it is the Porsche Carrera GT, which makes almost the same exhaust note, albeit at a lower pitch.
The LFA’s masterpiece of an engine is a 4.8-liter naturally aspirated V10, producing 550 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. It is brilliantly packaged as it is a V10 – the size of a V8 and the weight of a V6. The engine note is tuned to be similar to a Formula 1 race car for the road. Toyota’s own engineers hail it as “the roar of an angel”, which pretty much sums up how great the LFA really sounds.
The LFA inspired Lexus Electrified Sport concept has one big problem.
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