Pros: Excellent acceleration and (for utility vehicles) towing capability; smooth operation

Cons: Unimpressive fuel economy

Summary: If you're shopping for a car and you see "V8" or "V8 engine" in the description, it generally means that car has an engine that's big and powerful, but not especially fuel-efficient.

V8 engines are all about power as soon as you step on the accelerator; you'll definitely feel the difference. Passing-performance is impressive with modern V8s. There's often a sensation that the vehicle will never stop accelerating, so you'll need to exercise restraint to keep your license. But V8s are equally great when you're taking off from a stop, because they have excellent low-end torque that can effortlessly shove you back into your seat and get the vehicle up to speed.

V8s are also inherently smoother than 4-cylinder engines and V6s -- one reason why they have historically been featured in luxury cars.

Also, a testament to their fundamental strength and durability, V8s are the go-to engines for most work trucks.

On the downside, V8s simply aren't that fuel-efficient. Also, if the vehicle wasn't designed with a V8 in mind, the engine may be crammed into the engine bay, which can raise repair costs because there's less room for the mechanic to work.

It's becoming more difficult to find new vehicles with V8 engines. Smaller 6-cylinder engines, often with turbochargers, are increasingly replacing V8s.

But if you're a V8 fan, don't worry, because there are many V8-powered vehicles still available on the used-car market.

What it means to you: The V8 engine is an indulgence in most passenger vehicles, but par for the course in big trucks. Your lifestyle will determine whether a V8 is right for you.

author photo

Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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