Even the Mercedes-AMG C63 is moving to a hybrid four-cylinder engine. With more car makers choosing small capacity engines, we look at the best V8s, an engine configuration that has powered many of our favourite models over the decades. Here’s our pick of the V8 greats in alphabetical order:
Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Aston Martin’s 5.3-litre V8 engine started life in the DBS in 1968, linking this new V8 era with the previous models that used a straight-six engine. It started life with 315bhp, enough to see the DBS from 0-60mph in 6.0 seconds, but it soon grew to 438bhp in the V8 Vantage that boasted a 170mph top speed. Unusually, the engine started life with fuel injection, but switched to carburetors in mid-1973.
The V8 also saw service in the wedge Lagonda and it was expanded to 6.3-litres in some Virage models. The final hurrah came in the Works-upgraded V600, which was a 600bhp, 600lb ft supercharged version that had a claimed top speed of 200mph and 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds. Aston built around 4500 cars with this V8 engine, including the Bulldog concept hypercar with a mid-mounted V8.
The Audi R8 was a sensation when it arrived in 2007, largely because it gave the Porsche 911 a bloody nose when few had ever managed to land a blow on Stuttgart’s finest. So much of the original R8’s appeal stemmed from the normally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 engine borrowed from the RS4. With 414bhp and a manual gearbox as standard, it revved, sounded and went brilliantly.
The V10 versions of the R8 may have been quicker, but the 4163cc V8 was still good for 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds and 187mph. More importantly, this all-aluminium 32-valve engine always felt eager thanks to variable valve timing and many felt its lightness made the R8 a nimbler car than its V10 siblings.
Bentley Arnage T
Developed by Rolls-Royce in the 1950s, the V8 that went on to power the Arnage is an object lesson in engineering refinement and evolution. While it started with a merely adequate output of less than 200bhp, by the time the Arnage T was launched in 2002 it had inflated to 450bhp thanks to twin turbochargers. This made it the most powerful Bentley built at the time.
Key to this engine’s longevity was its over-engineering from the outset. This made it capable of much more in later life, with the Arnage T capable of 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds. This was bettered with the final version of the 6.75-litre V8 used in the Mulsanne Speed, which offered 530bhp, 190mph and 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds. Not bad for a 60-year old design. This V8 engine died along with the Mulsanne in 2020.
After dabbling with a V10 motor, the BMW M5 is now back with a V8 after this design of engine first made its appearance in the E39 M5. It was an instant hit thanks to the 5.0-litre V8’s 394bhp punch that could see it from 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds on to a limited 155mph, or considerably more if derestricted.
The 4941cc all-alloy 32-valve V8 was a technical show of strength from BMW, featuring drive by wire throttles and individual throttle bodies. Known as the S62, the engine was also the first to have double VANOS variable valve timing, making the most advanced road car engine BMW had produced up to that point.
Mixing the refinement and luxury of a Cadillac with huge V8 power resulted in the CTS-V line of cars. All used the same simple two valve per cylinder V8 as the Corvette, starting out with a 400bhp 5.7-litre unit in 2004. This grew over time to a supercharged 6.2-litre motor with 640bhp to give the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63 a run for their money.
While some may have scoffed at this aluminium V8 engine’s simple design, it has proved enduringly strong and reliable. Built in GM’s Mexico plant, it has also been used to power several other fast GM cars and is even available to buy separately to fit into hot rods, kits and race cars.
Early Corvettes were offered with a choice of straight-six and V8 engines, but it’s the small block V8 that has gone to underpin Chevrolet’s sports car dynasty. There have also been big block models, with engines as large as 7.0-litres, yet the smaller unit is the one most enthusiasts want and has a history stretching from 1954 to 2003. This makes it one of the longest running production engines ever and more than 100 million of all types were made.
Among the more unusual versions of the Corvette’s small block V8 is the LT5 engine that used a double overhead camshaft design by Lotus for the ZR-1 model (pictured). This four valve per cylinder engine provided 385bhp to begin with, increasing to 405bhp. It was in production between 1990 and 1995, with 6939 units made for Corvette and some were also made for the Lotus Elise GT1 race car.
The Daimler SP250 ‘Dart’ was a sales flop, with just 2650 sold in five years between 1959 and 1964. Yet if you could look beyond the styling, there lay a superb, compact V8 engine. Designed by Edward Turner (1901-1973), who was responsible for some of Triumph’s best motorcycle engines, the 2548cc iron block V8 used a single central camshaft and short pushrods. It produced 140bhp, giving the SP250 a decent enough turn of speed for some police forces to order them as high speed patrol cars.
If Daimler had perhaps fitted the larger 4561cc V8 with 220bhp from the Majestic Major, it might have found the US sales it craved for the SP250. All was not lost, though, as Jaguar bought Daimler and used the small V8 in a Mk2 saloon shell to create the V8-250 that many reckoned handled better than the straight-six model with a Jag badge.
If internal combustion is entering its twilight years, the Dodge Challenger is determined not to go gently into that good night. Evidence of this comes in the form of the ChallengerHellcat Redeye, which comes as a street legal drag racer with 797bhp on tap from its 6.2-litre V8. It gets more than a little help from a 2.7-litre supercharger, the largest fitted to any production car.
If the Redeye sounds too overblown for your daily driving needs, Dodge will also sell you the standard Hellcat with a toned down 717bhp. Whichever you choose, you’ll enjoy the third generation of Hemi V8. It’s named after the hemispherical cylinder heads used to improve combustion, which helps explain why the Redeye can empty its 84-litre fuel tank in less than 13 minutes at full power.
The 355 was the first Ferrari to move from ‘junior’ supercar into the full-blown senior league. Much of this was down to the 3496cc V8 engine that used five-valve-per-cylinder technology which the Italian firm was employing in its Formula 1 cars at the time. It meant the 355’s engine revved higher and harder than most other V8s, delivering 380bhp to give 0-60mph in 4.6 seconds and a 173mph top speed.
The 90-degree V8 engine was mounted longitudinally and mated to a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, though Ferrari also offered its F1 automated manual. Whichever gearbox you chose, it was the Paolo Martinelli-designed engine that made the 355 such a desirable machine, selling more than 11,000 of all body types.
There have been Ford Mustangs for four- and six-cylinder engines, but the original pony car is always associated with a rumbling V8 motor. The latest generation of Mustang uses a 5.0-litre Coyote V8 with 463bhp, though there Shelby GT500 ups this to 760bhp from its supercharged 5.2-litre motor.
Early Mustangs from the car’s launch in 1964 came with Ford’s 260cu in (4.2-litre) small block engine. These cars are now among the most sought-after Mustangs as they were soon replaced with the 289cu in (4.7-litre) V8 that went on to power everything from pick-up trucks to the AC Cobra.
Jaguar was no stranger to supercharging by the time its X308 generation XJR was launched in 1997. By combining forced induction with the 4.0-litre aluminium V8 motor, the British firm endowed the XJR with 370bhp and enough performance to rival the BMW M5. The 32-valve V8 could take the XJR from rest to 60mph in 5.6 seconds and on to an electronically limited 155mph.
The supercharged V8 also started a legacy that continues to this day with supercharged V8 engines used in the fastest Jaguar and Land Rover models. However, few have come close to the blend of power, pace and refinement found in this XJR.
Jensen had already made good use of Chrysler’s V8 engine in the CV-8, but it was the Interceptor that perfectly married British good looks with American muscle. At a stroke, Jensen was part of the jet set in style and performance thanks to the 6.3-litre V8’s 325bhp and hefty 425lb ft of torque. It was enough to take the 1768kg Interceptor from a standstill to 60mph in 7.3 seconds and on to 133mph.
The optional SP model, which stood for Six Pack, had three twin-barrel carburetors and 385bhp. Jensen also offered the larger 7.2-litre V8 in the car from 1971, while the four-wheel drive FF model was added in 1968.
In 1996, the Lotus Esprit finally received the engine that many thought its looks deserved: a V8. This was the Lotus Type 918 V8 with a flat-plane crank and twin Garret turbochargers. In development, the 3.5-litre V8 made 500bhp, but Lotus reined this in to 350bhp for reliability in the production models. Still, it was enough for 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds and a 175mph top speed.
Although Lotus did not increase the power of this the Esprit V8 in its lifetime, performance was improved with the stripped-out GT. Then came the Sport 350 with stiffer suspension, AP Racing brakes, and big rear wing. It offered 0-60mph in 4.3 seconds and only 48 were built.
The McLaren P1 arrived in a giddy storm of talk of its hybrid power and 903bhp. While the electric motor adds a healthy 176bhp to the mix, it’s the twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8 that does the bulk of the work with its 727bhp. Derived from the same engine in other McLaren cars, the 3799cc flat-plane crank V8 will rev to a peak of 8250rpm.
Even though the P1 can drive for up to six miles on battery power alone, it’s the V8 motor that is the star of the show. It picks up revs so quickly and forces the P1 along, which is why it can cover 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds and hit 217mph flat out.
AMG’s record with potent V8s is long and distinguished, but the 2008 C63 stands out as a highlight, shoehorning in a 451bhp 6.2-litre motor to an unsuspecting C-Class. That wasn’t the end of AMG’s ambitions for this model, either, as they then offered the Performance Pack with 480bhp and then the DR520 with 513bhp.
All of this power would be pointless if the C63 wasn’t good to drive, but thankfully it scored a bullseye here. It’s nimble, agile and also capable of refined daily use, but the core of this car is always about that normally aspirated 6208cc V8 engine. Form the moment you turned the key, it let you know what the C63 was all about.
Morgan Plus 8
The Morgan Plus 8 may have looked much the same as its mild mannered Plus 4 sibling, but under the bonnet was a very different story. Here was Rover’s 3.5-litre all-aluminium V8 that gave the British sports car a 161bhp shot in the arm and meant 0-60mph in 6.7 seconds, three seconds faster than the Plus 4.
The Rover engine was ideally suited to the Morgan as it was light and compact, and it gained more power as time went on, ending up with a fuel injected 190bhp when the last Plus 8 rolled of the line in 2004. Morgan then revived the name with a BMW-sourced 4.8-litre V8 and 367bhp, giving 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds.
The Porsche 928 could be viewed as a failure. It was intended to be the car to replace the 911, yet the classic rear-engined model outlived the 928 and is still in production today. Yet, the 928 was successful as this V8-powered super coupe offered a very different experience to buyers not interested in the rawer 911.
So much of the 928’s poise, pace and refinement came from its turbine-like V8. It started with 4.5-litres and 240bhp, but grew to 4.7-litres and 300bhp in the S. That was followed by the 310bhp S2 and 5.0-litre, 316bhp S4. Best of the lot was the GTS with a 5.4-litre version of the V8 packing 345bhp, rounding off a total production run of 61,056 928s.
If ever you needed proof of the versatility of the Rover V8 engine, the Range Rover is it. The ex-Buick-designed V8 was used in the MGB GT V8, various Rover saloons and many sports cars, yet it was ideally suited to the dual-purpose Range Rover. On the road, the 135bhp 3528cc V8 could power the 4x4 along at up to 99mph in the original three-door. Off-road, 185lb ft of torque was more than sufficient to haul it up, over and through any terrain.
The Rover V8’s gentle woofle also endowed the Range Rover with the requisite sense of luxury this car exemplified. No wonder if lasted through till 2002 and the final P38A Range Rover with up to 225bhp in 4.5-litre form.
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Rolls-Royce’s hushed V8 had already seen service in the Silver Cloud II and III models, but it found its perfect home in the Silver Shadow. Up until 1970, it was in 6230cc capacity but then it moved to the 6750cc size that became the standard right up to when the engine finally bowed out in 2020, as already mentioned.
During development of the engine, Rolls-Royce tested a 7269cc version of the V8, but opted for the smaller capacity to reduce stress and maintain reliability. The concern was it would not be fitting to see a Rolls-Royce broken down at the side of the road due to engine failure.
The ‘B’ on the end of this Rover’s name is hugely important as it denotes the stately P5 gained the ex-Buick all-alloy 3528cc V8 engine. Not only did it transform the Rover’s performance, it elevated its image from bank manager’s car to Prime Minister’s transport, and Margaret Thatcher was famously reluctant to give up her P5B. The Queen also enjoyed driving one.
How important this new engine is evidenced by it wiping four seconds from the previous 3.0-litre six-cylinder car’s 0-60mph time. It was the right move just as Britain’s motorways were expanding fast, yet the V8 also fitted perfectly with the Rover’s hushed cabin and relaxed power in the saloon. Or you could choose the more raffish Coupe with lower roofline.
Toyota Land Cruiser
We could tell you about the petrol V8 engines used in the Toyota Land Cruiser, but the V8 that really grabs our attention is the 4.5-litre turbodiesel. It might have produced a modest 268bhp for an engine of this size, but 479lb ft of torque meant it could tackle any route with complete confidence. This explains why this Land Cruiser has found favour in many of the most extreme environments in the world.
Toyota also offered a turbodiesel V8 engine earlier in the Land Cruiser’s life in the square-rigged J70 generation. This was a single turbo engine, where the later 1VD-FTV is a twin-turbo unit.
Vauxhall has form of going a bit crazy now and again. The Lotus Carlton is clear evidence of this and the VXR8 is further proof. This four-door saloon was essentially a rebadged HoldenHSV GTS and came with the same supercharged 6.2-litre V8 as found in the Chevrolet Camaro. It gave the Vauxhall an impressive 576bhp, and all for a lot less than the price of a BMW M5.
With a 1.9-litre Eaton supercharger offering 150bhp more than the VXR8’s predecessor, performance was always going to be vivid. From rest to 60mph took 4.8 seconds and top speed was limited to 155mph. More tellingly, the VXR8’s V8 had the power to unseat the rear tyres at almost any speed, yet it also handled brilliantly when driven with some regard to the power on tap.