Ranked: the highest-revving car engines ever made

There’s little to touch the sound of a high-revving internal combustion engine.

It sends the rev counter needle up into the red and a shiver down your spine. Here’s our list of the best, revviest road car engines in ascending order of spin speed:

Lamborghini Huracan STO - 8500rpm

With the words ‘Super Trofeo Omolagata’ in its name, you know the Lamborghini Huracan STO is very special. At the heart of this track-focused model is the same 5.2-litre V10 as other Huracan models with a rev ceiling of 8500rpm. It produces 631bhp, enough to see the lightweight STO from 0-62mph in 3.0 seconds flat.

What marks out the Lamborghini’s V10 engine is not the dizzying rev limit so much as the way it races towards the red line. Unlike some of its turbocharged rivals, the Huracan is naturally aspirated. As a result, it seems to build in an increasingly rabid fashion as revs rise, helped by having to propel less weight as there’s no four-wheel drive system in this model, only rear-wheel drive.

McLaren 570S - 8500rpm

A 3799cc twin-turbo V8 from McLaren was always going to be special and so it has proved. In the 570S, it happily revs all the way to 8500rpm, though peak power of 562bhp arrives a whole 1000rpm beforehand, so the driver has a bit of leeway before changing up a gear.

The 570S’s peak torque comes even further down the rev band, with a 443lb ft maximum spread between 5000- and 6500rpm. Combined with the 562bhp, it sees the 570S from a standing start to 60mph in 3.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 204mph.

Audi R8 V10 - 8700rpm

The Audi R8 may share its 5.2-litre V10 with its Lamborghini cousin, but parent company Audi clearly wanted something extra for its side of the family. This explains why the R8’s engine spins to a maximum of 8700rpm compared to the Huracan’s 8500rpm.

Maximum power of 562bhp arrives at 8000rpm, giving a useful margin before an upshift is required in the seven-speed S tronic gearbox. Flat out, Audi says each piston is travelling at 26.9-metres per second, which is more than 60mph on every stroke.

Ferrari F12tdf - 8900rpm

If you’re going to name a car after one of the most evocative road races ever, it had better be something special, and the Ferrari F12tdf was just that. On looks alone, it was a winner and paid homage to the 1960s 250 GT models, while under the bonnet of the tdf was a 6262cc V12 with 769bhp, up 40bhp on the standard 512.

This engine was carefully balanced at the factory to reduce mechanical friction and used lighter materials for some of the motor’s internal components. The result is an engine that can rev to a peak of 8900rpm yet remains supremely smooth.

Honda S2000 - 8900rpm

If you need proof that you don’t require a millionaire’s budget to enjoy giddy rev limits, the Honda S2000 is Exhibit A. At its launch in 1999 as a 50th birthday present to itself, the Honda came with the most power per litre, naturally aspirated engine in the world, producing 240bhp. To access this power, you had to work the engine hard and this is when you discovered the joys an 8900rpm red line.

So much power and high-revving fun was achieved using Honda’s V-TEC variable valve timing. However, in the interests of durability, Honda lowered the peak rev ceiling to 8200rpm in 2004, which felt a bit flat compared to the earlier version.

Ferrari 458 - 9000rpm

The Ferrari 458 made a huge impact when it arrived in 2009 to replace the F430. Just on style, the 458 had the job wrapped up, but Ferrari wanted to make sure there was clear air between the newcomer and its predecessor, so the 458’s 4.5-litre V8 came with 562bhp and a heady 9000rpm red line.

If the 458 was allowed to reach peak revs in top gear, it would touch 202mph. To help the motor spin so quickly, it had graphite-coated pistons to let them slide up and down the cylinders with less friction.

Lexus LFA - 9000rpm

The LFA was a no-expense-spared exercise in creating a halo model for Lexus, and at its heart was a 4.8-litre V10 engine that whizzed up to 9000rpm. This motor could rev so quickly and freely that Lexus had to use a digital rev counter as an analogue one could not keep up with the way the motor changed revs with each gear shift through the six-speed transmission.

The 553bhp engine was only ever used in the LFA and, while it certainly gave Lexus the halo it wanted, the engine was developed in collaboration with Yamaha. With Yamaha’s expertise in this sort of high-revving motor from its motorcycles, it used titanium for the connecting rods and valves to reduce weight and reciprocating mass. This is also why a V10 configuration was chosen to give smaller, lighter pistons than a V8 of the same capacity would use.

Porsche 911 (991) GT3 - 9000rpm

Undoubtedly one of the sweetest spots of the Porsche 911 range, the GT3 is a car to stimulate the sense on every drive. Much of this is down to the 4.0-litre engine of the current model that will spin right up to 9000rpm. With peak power arriving at 8400rpm, there’s no objective need to go beyond this point, but the noise will have you touching the red line every time.

The GT3’s race-bred pedigree is obvious in the engine’s specification, which is a close match for the Cup competition car’s. It’s also built on the same production line as the racing cars by Porsche’s Motorsport department.

Porsche 918 Spyder - 9150rpm

A V8 engine layout is not often the first choice of designers seeking to build a high-revving engine. Then again, Porsche has always relished a challenge, so the 918 Spyder has a 4.6-litre V8. That’s smaller than many V8s, which helps each piston rise and fall more quickly inside the cylinders. Maximum power of 600bhp arrives at 8600rpm, but keep your foot on the throttle and it runs into the limiter at 9150rpm.

The Porsche’s engine might not rev quite as highly as the Ferrari LaFerrari’s or have as much power, but the 918 Spyder is quicker from 0-62mph, taking 2.8 seconds compared to the Italian’s 3.0 seconds.

Ferrari LaFerrari - 9250rpm

The LaFerrari’s engine is based on the same basic unit as the F12tdf’s, but Ferrari was never going to let its limited number hybrid hyper car flagship out of the gates with just the same numbers. Instead, the 6.3-litre V12 was put together with even lighter internal components and the rev limit raised to 9250rpm, with maximum power of 789bhp arriving at 9000rpm.

This much power was achieved without the aid of turbochargers and, with help from the LaFarrari’s electric assistance, it could cover 0-62mph in 3.0 seconds flat and head on to a top speed of 217mph.

Suzuki Cappuccino - 9300rpm

Few things in life sound better than a Suzuki Cappuccino’s tiny three-cylinder engine being wrung out to its 9300rpm red line. It might not be the quickest car, even when driven in this manner, but you simply won’t care as you’ll be too busy delighting in the noise and grabbing the next gear to do it all over again.

Even better, the Suzuki’s 657cc turbocharged engine is unlikely to threaten your driving licence while making the most of its 63bhp and peaky maximum revs. Top speed is 93mph, so you can revel in its quick spinning nature with a clear conscience.

Honda S800 - 9500rpm

Honda’s experience with motorcycles, and particularly racing on two wheels, was a great influence on the S800 sports car. This compact two-seater might have been intended as a rival to the MG Midget and Triumph Spitfire, but the Brits’ plodding motors couldn’t hold a candle to the S800’s ravenously revving 791cc four-cylinder motor.

It may have had a small capacity, but those high revs endowed the S800’s engine with 70bhp at 8000rpm and gave it a 100mph top speed. It was also capable of an impressive 35mpg when you weren’t enjoying the noise from the engine being driven flat out.

Mazda RX-8 - 9500rpm

Rotary engines lend themselves to high revs as there are no pistons going up and down in a cylinder. Instead, there’s a triangular rotor that spins around a central shaft. It’s a design Mazda has made its own over the years, with the RX-8 the most recent recipient, though this type of engine has also powered Mazda to Le Mans victory in the past.

The RX-8’s 228bhp version of the 1.3-litre rotary engine is a twin rotor design, so has two chambers that share the same central shaft. This design also gives the RX-8 its distinctive engine sound when it’s pressed towards that 9500rpm rev limit. And you’ll need to if pressing on – just 159lb ft of torque is available.

Ariel Atom V8 - 10,600rpm

The Ariel Atom V8 is a number generator. It has 500bhp, weighs just 550kg and takes a mere 2.3 seconds to accelerate from rest to 60mph. It’s also quicker from a standstill to 100mph than a Bugatti Veyron. However, one of the most dizzying of the Ariel digits is the 10,600rpm of its engine.

The motor is a 3.0-litre unit developed from a pair of Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycles engines spliced on a common crankshaft. This explains why peak torque arrives at 7750rpm. If you opted for the marginally more road-biased road-track model, the rev limit was set at 10,500, 100rpm less than the road-race version.

Murray T50 12,100rpm

Gordon Murray doesn’t do things by halves, so when he decided to create his T50 supercar, it had to have a naturally aspirated V12 engine. Cosworth Engineering designed the 3.9-litre motor, which sounds and revs like a 1990s Formula 1 engine as it reaches a peak of 12,100rpm.

The engine makes 650bhp, which seems modest compared to many hypercars, but lightweight comes to the T50’s aid. It also revives Murray’s ‘fan car’ idea from Formula 1, though this is aerodynamic grip rather than claiming to be for engine cooling.

Chrysler Turbine Car 44,600rpm

The early 1960s became known as the Jet Age for advances in aircraft and car styling reflected this in the US. Only one American fully embraced these technical advances and it was the appropriately named Chrysler Turbine Car. Only 55 were built as test beds for the gas turbine engine, and only 10 avoided the crusher.

The turbine engine generated a modest 130bhp, but it could also give maximum torque of 425lb ft, so it was up to the job of propelling the mid-sized two-door saloon at a reasonable lick. Unfortunately, Chrysler lost faith in the project and it stalled before the turbine engine had a chance to show its true worth.

Rover Jet 1 56,000rpm

We admit this was never a roadgoing model, but the Rover JET1 was a fascinating glimpse of what could have been for the 1950s British motor industry. As jet engines were literally taking off in aeronautical world, Rover applied this thinking to its cars and built the gas turbine-powered JET1 based on a P4.

The engine was a twin-shaft turbine that produced 145bhp, more than any Rover had up to that point. It could cover 0-60mph in 11.0 seconds, making it very quick for the period. It could rev all the way to 56,000rpm and inspired Rover to work with BRM on a Le Mans race car with a turbine engine that could hit a peak of 65,000rpm, but no road car ever resulted from all of this development. The prototype is today on display at the Science Museum in London.


Ranked: the highest-revving car engines ever made A close look at the fastest engine-speeds and the cars they could be found in