Yeah, I know: a Bentley, an Ariel, an AMG Mercedes and a rebadged Holden aren’t typical group test competitors, but then this isn’t a typical group test. It’s not even really a ‘test’ in the traditional sense because surely there can’t be a winner.
These cars all have V8s but this isn’t a ‘greatest V8s of all time’ examination. Even a ‘greatest V8s on sale’ comparison would be stretching it. There are some great V8s whose makers couldn’t or wouldn’t pitch them in.
So what, then, is the excuse for lining up this quartet on the north side of the A3 Hindhead Tunnel on a Tuesday morning as a prelude to this feature?
A serious, state-of-the-nation assessment of the V8 engine’s future? Or maybe it’s because we fancied V8 accompaniment on a run through the longest road tunnel in the UK on our way to the south coast.
Our competitors go about the V8 thing rather differently. Bentley has made a turbocharged V8 for years, but only now has it tweaked this Audi-developed 4.0-litre two-turbo to put in the Bentley Continental GTC. It’s a prime example of downsizing; notable as much for its 25.9mpg and the cylinder deactivation as it is for its 500bhp.
Joining it in the blown corner is the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. AMG has hitherto had its charismatic 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 but has also downsized. And added turbos.
I’ve a soft spot for AMG V8s, not only because of how they sound but also because in the factory, engine development dyno rigs are hooked up to generators. So when an AMG engine is on the test bed, it’s producing electricity for the rest of the factory. There’s every change the Affalterbach worker are boiling their kettles courtest of a wrung-out V8.
We’re fans of the Arial Atom V8. We might have mentioned it in the past. It takes a certain mindset for a car company to decide a V8 is the right tool for powering a 550kg car. The Atom V8 makes 475bhp thanks to revving to the heavens. It has a flat-plane crank, too, so it doesn’t sound like a traditional eight.
Nothing in V8-land is quite so traditional as the engine installed in the Vauxhall Maloo. The Maloo might be an Australian wearing a British badge, but the engine powering it is pure V8 American tradition: the Chevy V8.
The latest Chevrolet LS3 motor displaces a heady 6.2 litres and can be considered the old stager here. It’s the archetypal V8. Ask a petrolhead to do a verbal impression of a V8 sound and the chances are it’ll sound like a Chevy. Lots of ‘blums’.