When we talk about what makes a manufacturer recognizable, several things come to mind: looks, interior design, performance, etc. The most important thing however, is probably the engine. The beating heart of any car is what makes it unique and gives it character. The chassis plays a big role and so does the suspension, brakes and everything else, but it's the engine we most often fall in love with really. So, rather unsurprisingly, we associate a certain type of engine with a certain manufacturer. Although today, many manufacturers use a certain type of engine, the original maker is remembered and recognized for the effort. Here are some of the more iconic ones:
Subaru's Four-cylinder Boxer
Among the four-cylinder world, Subaru's boxer engine makes a true impression. The most used engine in the world is probably the inline four-cylinder, so we didn't bother to include any of them. Instead, we're starting the list off with one of the most legendary engines of all time: the horizontally opposed "Boxer" engine. Subaru has become well known for their use of only boxer engines, and it's arguably the four-cylinder that brought them all that glory. An Impreza WRX STI with a modified version of the engine won the world rally championship several times back in the mid 2000's, boosting the company's sales by a large amount. The sound a boxer engine makes is unique and can't be mistaken for anything else.
Toyota's Inline Six
Toyota isn't the only company to make inline six-cylinder engines. Far from it. BMW makes arguably even better engines today, but it's the old JZ platform that people are most fond of. Toyota did have a few other engines with different designations, but it's the JZ which proved to be the most reliable and effective. It was able to hold an incredible amount of power with unrivaled reliability. That's probably the reason JZ engines are still so sought after even today. Everyone is hoping Toyota will make a JZ successor one day, but with stricter emissions every year, it's looking less and less likely.
This engine needs no introduction. The LS engine has been in production for as long as there have been cars on the road. It's been shoved into almost everything GM makes at one point, and recently it's become so popular that it's been used as a crate engine for other project cars such as BMW, Toyota, Subaru and Mazda. The reason is rather simple. They're very reliable, parts can be found everywhere on the cheap, they can make a lot of power and perhaps more importantly, a lot of torque. The size is compact, so they can fit into virtually every car out there.
We could have included Lamborghini on this list, but since Ferrari started making cars first, we decided to go with them instead. The truth is that nobody buys a Lamborghini for its engine. You fall in love with their looks. If you want a big, shouty V12, you go to Ferrari. Traditionally, it's always been the case. Their flagship models have always carried a large V12, either in the back or in the front. The newest F12 Berlinetta is a showcase in what Ferrari is capable of when given freedom to do what they want. A large, front-engined GT car with 730 horsepower going to the back wheels, the way it should be. Who doesn't want that?