High-revving heroes | Six of the Best

Too many modern cars treat the redline as taboo – but not this lot

By PH Staff / Saturday, 4 February 2023 / Loading comments

Ferrari 458 Speciale, 2015, 7k, £354,990

There are cars and then there are cars – and then there are cars. Make no mistake about it, there are great ones still to come, but then there are those behind us and some of their like will never be seen again. This list, by its very nature, pays tribute to the fallen. Because while petrol engines have still to hit their technological zenith (anyone who doubts this has not been paying attention to the strides made just in the last decade) it is hard to imagine Ferrari replicating the emotional payload delivered by the 458 Speciale. The 4.5-litre F136 V8 was already a masterpiece, but the 605hp at 9,000rpm version in the racier model easily qualifies as one of the most devastating atmospheric engines ever made. They were always silly money, but now the car carries its absurd asking price like a badge of honour. Here’s one from 2015 with 7k clocked. Goosebumps.

Honda S2000, 2007, 31k, £20,890

The reason most modern road car engines don’t rev much beyond 6,500rpm is that it’s technically wearisome to do so. Much better to stress your components in less examining ways and preserve fuel at the same time – that’s why very high-revving engines are typically the preserve of very expensive cars. But Honda is the most notable outlier in this long-running trend, and it’s no coincidence that among mainstream brands the firm tends to absorb the most affection from enthusiasts. We might’ve listed any of its performance cars, but the S2000 was an obvious high point, launched to help celebrate the firm’s 50th anniversary. Perfection was denied to the model for various reasons, but no one quibbled with its extravagant 9,000rpm redline. Arguably there are better sports cars for the money, although you won’t find any that stand apart to a greater extent in this day and age.

Audi R8, 2009, 33k, £59,994

It is conceivable that you might not have much like the V10-powered R8 at launch. After all, here was a car that seemed to be flagrantly riding the coattails of its Lamborghini sibling, and arguably wasn’t as convincing to drive as the cheaper entry-level model endowed with the lusty V8. But times change – in 2023, the prospect of a V10 in a car as usable as the R8 is roughly the equivalent to fairy dust, heaped in a pile sufficiently large to overshadow your house. Here’s one with 33k on the clock for £59k, which is roughly what you’d need to buy a respectable four-cylinder Porsche 718 Cayman. The latter would be everything you hoped for, of course – but with more than twice the cylinders and 525hp available at 8,000rpm, the R8 is different gear. Buy it with a manual gearbox and you’ve got a garage filler for the ages.

Lotus Exige S Club Racer, 2008, 55k, £33,000 

The pairing of lightweight Lotus sports cars with the Toyota 2ZZ-GE four-cylinder, in both its naturally aspirated and supercharged forms, really was a match made in heaven. Here was the fizzy twin-cam four-pot that both Elise and Exige deserved, making peak power at 7,800rpm and going all the way to 8,250rpm, with greater dependability than the K Series could offer. Greater marketability, too, as the engine swap meant they could be sold in the USA. It’s hard to go wrong with either car or either engine variant, and for many the 2ZZ era represents peak Exige and Elise, lighter than the cars that followed and more powerful than the originals. This Exige is a supercharged Club Racer, being sold at a well-known specialist, set for circuit in a fresh white respray and with Gordon Ramsay of all people as a former owner. Revs don’t come much more rewarding.  

Porsche 911 GT3, 2018, 6k, £169,995 

Porsche was always going to find it hard to replace the Mezger flat-six in its GT cars, such was its appetite for revs, its durability, and its unique character. Then came the first 991 GT3s, PDK only and with those infamous engine issues – that wouldn’t do. But the firm was back in business for the 991.2 and the incredible 4.0-litre, still blowing minds to this day in the middle of a GT4 RS. With the same ability to scream to 9,000rpm, only now with a manual gearbox option and without the reliability concerns, the 991 GT3 really, really came good with its facelift. So good you wouldn’t question anyone’s desire to resist a 992 swap. This one carries maximum purist kudos as a manual Clubsport – Sapphire Blue does it no harm, either – and the asking price is £170k.  

Lexus LFA, 2012, 6k, £POA 

After so much deliberation, it once looked like Lexus wouldn’t make the LFA. We should all be very grateful it did, as this is one of the 21st century’s best supercars, powered by one of the all-time great engines. The Yamaha-developed 4.8-litre V10 was an absolute masterpiece, famously so responsive to the throttle that it mandated the fitment of a digital dash – needles just wouldn’t move fast enough. The noise as it homed in on 9,000rpm was like nothing else, higher pitched than something like a Carrera GT and really not far from the F1 V10 that it was built to celebrate. As if that wasn’t enough, the LFA was also beautifully built and an inspiration to drive. No wonder they’re now commanding a million quid. This one is even right-hand drive, which very few of the 500 are, so you’d need no excuse to drive it whenever and wherever… 

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