In almost all cases, manufacturers who choose to equip their cars with a V8 engine do so knowingly and deliberately. After all, such engines represent the first big step in crossing over a threshold to where performance becomes the sole focus; efficiency and economy are often not even invited as guests for a ride-along in the back seat.
With a quick glance at the back mirror, those pesky 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder engines begin to disappear into the horizon. Then, with the proverbial “pedal-to-the-medal”, the V8 power plant unanimously declares “all-in” with a loud roar – because this journey is all about thrill-seeking and checking things off the bucket list.
While high-performance V8 engines have normally been reserved for exotics – and muscle cars, in the more distant past – its application has been seen more in the mainstream these days. With the proliferation of automotive technologies, the V8 engine has become a gateway into the world of attainable supercar performance; each new engine is better than the one before it. But if you prefer roaring V10s, or hearty V12s, check these links out. However, if V8s are more your cup of tea, read on.
Here’s the shortlist of 10 such engines, curated for your reading pleasure:
Ferrari’s F106 V8 engine dates as far back as 1973, where it first featured in the Dino 308 GT4. Right from the get-go, it produced an impressive 250 hp from a 2.9L naturally-aspirated engine, which featured a flat-plane crank and dual-overhead cams.
Such was the longevity and capability of the F106 unit, that it continued to be used – with significant updates and revisions along the way, including electronic fuel injection and multi-valve heads – for more than 30 years. Notable models which were equipped with the engine include the F355, 360 Modena, and arguably the most famous Ferrari of them all; the Ferrari F40, which fashioned a twin-turbocharged version of the F106 producing 471 hp.
Dodge Supercharged Hemi
Dodge’s Hellcat series of cars have really taken the world by storm, offering almost unfathomable power in a non-exotic production vehicle – or any vehicle for that matter. It’s truly a revival of the “American muscle” movement, with the supercharged Hemi able to produce as much as 807 hp and 717 lb-ft of torque via the Dodge Challenger Hellcat Super Stock. Handling, agility, and all that other kind of stuff aside, this makes the Hellcat Challenger/Charger the quintessential American sports car which can be had for well under the 6-figure mark brand new.
The automaker is now offering the 6.2L ‘Redeye’ V8 as a crate engine (aptly nicknamed ‘Hellcrate’) through Mopar. It can be purchased at a starting price of US$21,807. The ‘Redeye’ version comes with a larger supercharger than the previous Hellcrate engine and has been tuned for more boost, a slightly higher redline, and a host of other improvements. These are what has allowed it to improve from 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque to its current 807 hp state. An absolute unit.
Like other automakers on this list, BMW is no stranger to producing some of the world’s best V8 engines. The latest incarnation would be its masterpiece ‘S63‘ – a 4.4L twin-turbocharged engine that produces at least 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque in the current-gen BMW M5 sedan.
Though it’s true that this grants the quintessential luxury-performance saloon some serious supercar credentials, a look back to days gone by reminds us that engines such as the ‘S62’ and ‘S65′ deserve just as much recognition for their contribution to the Bavarians’ V8 platform. Respectively, each engine displaced 4.9L and 4.0L and were both naturally aspirated.
The 2UR-GSE is the latest iteration of Lexus‘ increasingly iconic naturally-aspirated V8 power plant. Currently reserved for the marque’s high-performance models – such as the IS F, RC F, GS F, LC 500, and brand-new IS 500 – the 5.0L engine blends typical Lexus reliability with a high-revving Japanese character. In its most powerful configuration, the 2UR-GSE produces 475 hp in the Lexus LC 500. Amidst an ever-changing landscape shifting towards hybridization and electrification, we hope that Lexus’ legendary naturally-aspirated V8 lives on for as long as possible
Much like our other selections, the 2UR-GSE owes much of its distinctions to predecessors such as the 1UZ-FE which debuted in 1989. This 4.0L V8 engine has proven to be bulletproof over the test of time, in addition to the universal recognition it has received for being smooth, refined, and sufficiently powerful for its intended application. It has served as the platform upon which the formidable GSE would eventually be conceived.
The F136 succeeded the legendary F106, first appearing as a 4.3L naturally-aspirated engine in the 2004 Ferrari F430, producing 483 hp. Like the F106, the F136 would see widespread application throughout the Ferrari lineup; however, it was also featured on a number of Maserati models in concert with the relationship between the two marques.
Most notably, a 454 hp, 4.7L version of the F136 featured on the Maserati GranTurismo and is widely regarded as having one of the best engine/exhaust notes to come out of the V8. The F136 would reach its zenith in the Ferrari 458 Italia Speciale, where it cranked out a massive 597 hp from its 4.5L naturally-aspirated power plant.
Perhaps the most significant (and regretful) fact about the F136, is that it is the last naturally-aspirated V8 engine Ferrari would ever produce. It was replaced by the twin-turbocharged F154 V8 engine in 2015, where it debuted on the Ferrari 488 GTB.
McLaren M838T / M840T
Despite only producing V8-powered automobiles since as recently as 2011 (via the MP4-12C), you could argue that McLaren‘s engineers are truly the world’s V8 engine artisans, and few would dispute that. After all, it’s virtually all they know these days, with every single McLaren model – bar the V6-hybrid McLaren Artura – fitted with some adaptation of their M838T or M840T twin-turbocharged V8 motors.
The 3.8L M838T is found in its Sports Series range of cars, which includes the entry-level McLaren 540C and goes all the way up to the indomitable 666 hp McLaren 675 LT. The 4.0L M840T features on all of the Super Series cars, which covers the ‘700 range’ of models, plus the addition of the McLaren GT. In its Ultimate form, the 4.0L unit – dubbed the M840TR – produces 814 hp in the McLaren Senna GTR. The McLaren Speedtail hybrid ‘hyper GT’ produces some 1,035 hp through the combination of an M840T and electric motor.
Introduced in 2014 for the C7 Corvette, the 6.2L naturally-aspirated V8 LT1 engine is part of GM’s 5th-generation small block engine family. It continues to be used on the present-day Camaro, with a new version of the engine – known as the LT2 – carrying on the bloodline via the brand new mid-engine C8 Corvette. The LT2 retains the 6.2L capacity but is more powerful than the LT1, producing at least 495 hp and 470 lb-ft in its latest configuration.
This was achieved by designing more efficient air-intakes sand exhaust manifolds, while also featuring a better lubrication system and more resilient camshaft. While it’s not a monster-out-of-the-box like say, Dodge’s Hellcat engine, the lightweight naturally-aspirated powerplant remains perfectly suited for what the Corvette is the best at delivering – brilliant all-around performance at a fraction of the cost of comparable options. The still-relevant LT1 is now being offered as a crate engine via GM’s performance division, with its 460 hp on tap for under US$10,000. Project car, anyone?
Audi 4.2L FSI
When Audi’s 4.2L FSI V8 engine was introduced, it was a bit of a departure from what Audi enthusiasts had grown accustomed to over the years. As one of the marques which helped to proliferate the use of turbochargers on production cars, the aforementioned engine first appeared in the 2006 Audi RS4 as a high-revving naturally-aspirated power plant.
Over time, it proved to be a fan-favorite in spite of its lack of forced induction and featured on such models as the RS5 and mid-engined R8. As a naturally aspirated unit, the FSI V8 was able to rev up to 8,250 rpm and had a distinctively exotic exhaust note, regardless of the model it was mounted in.
The engine remained naturally-aspirated up until its use in the 444 hp Audi RS5; since then, recent iterations of the engine are now turbocharged and produce up to 600 hp.
The modern-day Mercedes-AMG line-up is blessed with their omnipotent ‘M178’ 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8, which itself deserves all the plaudits and is a shoo-in for selection. While it’s the most advanced iteration of the automaker’s V8, our personal favorite would have to be the ‘M156’ 6.2L V8 first powered the 467 hp naturally-aspirated C63 AMG. Like its successor, the M156 would feature in almost every Mercedes-AMG model of that era, including the SL63.
The ultimate version of this V8 motor would be the ‘M159’, which was equipped in the automaker’s flagship SLS supercar, producing 622 hp. The SLS has since been succeeded by the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series, which produces 720 hp from its twin-turbocharged ‘M178’, and recently set the new production car lap record at the Nürburgring.
Ford ‘Voodoo’ Flat-Plane
The ‘Voodoo’ engine produced by Ford is a 5.2L naturally-aspirated V8 which was made especially for cars such as the 526 hp Mustang Shelby GT350 and GT350R. Suffice to say, the Voodoo was a match made in heaven for the line-up’s most balanced and track-focused Mustang models. By utilizing a flat-plane crankshaft, the engine weighs less and revs faster and higher (to 8,250 rpm) than the otherwise standard engines in other models. Its configuration also gives it an almost-exotic exhaust note, border-lining on ‘un-American’ – but owners won’t mind, as their domestic car hangs just fine with the exotics and other high-end sports cars on the race-track.
Following the template of past flat-plane V8 engines, the Voodoo applies similar principles as engines that once powered hot-rods and muscle cars back in the 20th century – with impressive bang-for-buck, the engines produced big horsepower at a fraction of the cost of what was used in European sports cars and even domestic rivals. This provided owners with a rightfully potent automobile, and extra money left in the bank. It’s hard to argue with that!