V8 engines have been part of the automotive landscape for over a century. The V8 design is uncommon in regular passenger cars and crossover SUVs these days, but it’s still popular for performance cars, pickup trucks, and full-size SUVs because of their high horsepower and torque.
Let’s take a closer look at what a V8 engine is and whether it’s right for your next ride.
What Does the “V” Stand For?
The “V” in V8 represents the shape of the engine. A V8 has two banks of cylinders in a V-shaped formation. The “8” represents the total number of cylinders.
How Does a V8 Work?
A V8 engine works like any other 4-stroke internal combustion engine. A fuel/air mixture enters the eight cylinders through intake valves. The pistons inside the cylinders compress the fuel/air mixture, and the spark plugs ignite it. Then, exhaust escapes out of the exhaust valves, and the process repeats.
This process cranks the pistons up and down. All eight pistons connect to a crankshaft at the bottom of the V shape in a V8 engine. The crankshaft turns and sends power into a transmission. The transmission delivers that power to the wheels through either a driveshaft or CV shafts.
Generally speaking, the higher the displacement of an engine, the more power it generates. However, forced induction with a turbocharger or a supercharger can make a smaller V8 more powerful than a bigger naturally aspirated V8. For example, the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 available in the Dodge Challenger is more powerful than the naturally aspirated 6.4-liter V8 available in the same car.
Advantages of a V8
- Power: The biggest advantage of a V8 engine is its high horsepower rating. V8s are typically found in sports cars with muscular performance and trucks with impressive towing and hauling capabilities.
- Simplicity: Turbocharging is more common than ever in production cars, but most V8 engines on the market today are naturally aspirated. If you prefer the simplicity that comes with big power from a big engine rather than adding the complication of forced induction, you’ll appreciate a V8.
- Sound: At the end of the day, there’s nothing quite like the satisfying growl of a V8 engine.
Disadvantages of a V8
- Inefficient: V8 engines are generally thirsty for fuel compared to smaller 6- and 4-cylinder engines.
- Heavy: A front-engine, V8-powered sports car can tend to be a little nose-heavy because of the big engine upfront. This can have a negative impact on how the vehicle handles.
- Expensive: When a car or truck has an available V8 engine, it’s usually one of the more expensive engine options.
What Cars Have a V8?
With a few exceptions, V8 engines are most commonly found in performance cars, full-size pickup trucks, and full-size SUVs. There are V8s available in sports cars like the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro and every full-size pickup on the market today, including the Ram 1500, Ford F-150, and others.
The Dodge brand is particularly bullish on the V8 design. All three models in the Dodge lineup (the Charger sedan, Challenger coupe, and Durango SUV) have multiple V8 engines available, giving them the performance and attitude of an old-school muscle car.
V8s are also common in big SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe, Nissan Armada, and GMC Yukon. One notable exception is the Ford Expedition, which is powered by a turbocharged V6 with V8-like performance and capabilities.
V8 vs. V6
The difference between a V8 and a V6 engine is simple. A V8 has eight cylinders, while a V6 has six cylinders. Both engine designs use a V-shaped formation for their cylinder banks.
The two extra cylinders available in the V8 engine might give it an edge in speed and power compared to the six-cylinder counterpart. However, the V6 engine has an advantage in fuel economy as the larger V8 engine tends to require trips to the gas station.