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Firing on 10 cylinders

india Updated: Aug 27, 2009 16:01 IST
Grease Monkey

Did you go see the Porsche Carrera GT at the Porsche Centre? It will be on display till mid-January, after which you’ll have to go to the soon-to-be-opened Porsche museum in Stuttgart to view the same car.

The Carrera GT uses a V10 engine — that is, ten cylinders in two banks of five cylinders each. This engine layout wasn’t favoured much by automobile manufacturers, because a V8 provided sufficient power with better economy, and a V12 wasn’t too complex to build and run.

A Viper that’s lightning fast
However, we have American madness to thank for promoting V10s in modern roadgoing cars. All it takes is the words ‘Dodge Viper’ for a light bulb to go off in a car nut’s head. The Americans have a fondness for pickup trucks, and they firmly believe that diesel oil is for truckers only. Therefore, engines with lots of power and torque were required to move their heavy pickups at the pace that they liked. Of course, cheap gas helped the cause, and the Dodge Ram pickup truck was born — with a ten-cylinder engine.

When Dodge decided that they needed a halo car, they developed a two-seater sports car with a modified version of the same truck engine, and the Viper (also called “Chrysler Viper” and “Dodge SRT-10”) came into the world.

Sure, it handled no better than a cow on cough syrup, the side exhausts meant that the passenger was constantly sweating and had to watch out for burnt calves while exiting the car after a long drive, and it used up more gallons of fuel per mile than a frat party would consume beer per hour, but it sounded like nothing else on the planet, and the 600 bhp it now generates from 8.2 litres will get you to 100 kph faster than you can blink.

A sting in the bonnet
If that isn’t enough for you, but you still want a piece of American iron, you have two choices: one, opt for the Bristol Fighter. Bristol is a small British manufacturer that makes sports cars, much like Lotus does. However, the Fighter is a lighter car than the Viper and develops 630 bhp from the same engine. If you want yet more, specify the Fighter T and earn yourself 1012 bhp.

If you’re in America, contact Hennessy Tuning for the Venom 1000, a twin-turbo, 1000 bhp version of the Viper.

That is probably one of the most frightening cars on the planet for an unskilled driver. The latest Dodge to possess ten cylinders is the Challenger SRT-10, which has yet another version of the Viper’s engine.

The Lamborghini league
The Europeans have never taken to ten-cylinder engines. However, there are a few European cars that use the V10 to good effect. The Lamborghini Gallardo, for example, started out in 2004 with a 5.0-litre, 500 bhp engine, and the current Gallardo LP 560-4 commands 560 bhp from 5.2 litres.

Lamborghinis are exclusive, but if you want an exclusive Lamborghini, Heffner Tuning in the USA will turbocharge your Gallardo for a fee! The latest variant of the Audi R8 sports a 5.2 litre V10 engine with 528 bhp. If that sounds suspiciously like the Gallardo, it’s because Audi owns Lamborghini, and a little “inspiration”, as the people from Bollywood would say, is inevitable.

My favourite V10 is the one under the bonnet of the Audi RS6, which is an estate (and now, saloon) car that competes with the likes of the E-Class and 5-series. Only this one has two turbochargers, and 580 bhp — 20 bhp more than the Gallardo. ‘Nuff said.