The automotive industry is central to the history of Detroit as a city, and the V8 engine is a central part of that story. From classic muscle cars to stately cruisers and massive pickup trucks, the V8 has been featured in just about every form of automobile to come out of Detroit in the last century.
When compared to other engine layouts - like a Boxer four, a flat six, or even a V10 - the V8 offers improved balance, the potential for a high power-to-weight ratio, and, of course, the distinct exhaust roar that has come to typify every automotive enthusiast's love of cars. The earliest V8 was patented in 1902 by a French engineer who essentially cobbled together two V4 engines for use in planes and boats. The form was so successful that only three years later, a V8-powered car set the world's land speed record of 109.65 miles per hour.
Henry Ford revolutionized the automotive industry by using his assembly line production method, but he also revolutionized the V8 by building the engine block for his Model 18 in one piece, and the resulting flathead V8 helped to spawn the power wars that ruled Detroit for decades to come.
Today, those power wars are making a resurgence, but overall the V8 is a dying breed. Innovations like turbocharging and lightweight construction methods have combined with fuel prices and emissions standards to create an automotive industry increasingly focused on efficiency rather than driver enjoyment. But most brands still release a few V8-powered cars every year, nonetheless. Keep scrolling for the 10 best Detroit V8 cars for 2019, and 10 models that could use a little V8 power.
20 Sweet V8: Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Chevrolet's Corvette ZR1 sits above the messily escalating power wars currently dominating the mindset of Detroit's automotive manufacturers. In ZR1 trim, the svelte yet futuristic Corvette acquires a package of more aggressive cladding, mean-looking wheels, and an optional enormous rear spoiler.
All the looks are secondary to the supercharged V8 under the ZR1's hood that produces 755 horsepower and 715 lb-ft of torque, allowing for a 0-60 time of only three seconds.
Not many cars at any price from any brand can hope to match its performance - especially given its low (for a supercar) price tag of around $120,000.
19 Needs V8: Lincoln Continental
The return of the Lincoln Continental sounds like news that's almost too good to be true given Detroit's slow but steady departure from producing sedans of any kind. Blame it on the popularity of the crossover, but it seems like large luxury four doors are coming out of Germany and Asia more than the domestic market. With long, clean lines hearkening back to the original Continentals, typified by the fourth generation with its suicide doors, the new model features a few different engine options, topped by a twin-turbo V6 producing a respectable 400 horsepower. But even though efficiency is important in the industry, it seems wrong that the 2019 Continental won't receive a beefy V8.
18 Sweet V8: Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye
The Dodge Challenger dominated automotive news when the limited-edition Demon trim hit streets last year. And though 2019 won't see quite as insane performance from the highest-spec Challenger, the new Hellcat Redeye still produces plenty of the brute force that consumers have come to expect out of today's Detroit muscle car wars. The Redeye will pump 797 horsepower out of its supercharged 6.2-liter V8, and will cost more than $15,000 less than a Demon did when new (though the Demon's 840 hp will certainly be missed by the more selective crowd). A standard Hellcat, meanwhile, will be motivated by 707 horses, and starts below $60,000.
17 Needs V8: Chevrolet Impala
The Chevy Impala has only seen a few gap years in its production run since debuting for the 1958 model year.
From incredibly long coupes of the 60s and 70s to the boring four door sedans of the 90s and early 2000s, the Impala has seen plenty of change over the ensuing decades.
Still, the name alone carries a weight within the industry, and with the success of Mustang, Camaro, Challenger, and Charger models right now, plenty of consumers hoped Chevy would return the Impala to its former glory. Instead, the model has remained a commuter sedan - with no hope for a V8 in sight.
16 Sweet V8: Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE
When Chevrolet resurrected the Camaro for the 2010 model year, the car's style and performance represented a way forward for the struggling Detroit automakers hot off a government bailout.
In many ways, the Camaro has remained at the forefront of today's V8 power escalations, and for 2019 the ZL1 1LE package sits at the top of the Camaro lineup.
Tuned specifically for track day fun - though some hardcore canyon running should be just as enjoyable - the ZL1 1LE cuts weight, adds wider tires at the rear, and sends 650 horsepower to the rear wheels from its supercharged V8. Best of all, the only transmission on offer is a six speed manual.
15 Needs V8: Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
Chevrolet debuted the Colorado ZR2 model as a clear response to the market domination that the Ford F-150 Raptor has enjoyed for the last few years. While the Colorado doesn't have the stark name recognition of the Raptor, Chevy did add plenty of suspension bits, a skid plate, and the optional snorkel to help set its product apart. But rather than make a Raptor equivalent fitting into the same categories, Chevy would have been better served by producing a Raptor-beating pickup option - and tossing a torquey V8 into the Colorado would have been a solid bet from performance, desirability, and marketability perspectives.
14 Sweet V8: Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
For the more reasonable family man who wants a Dodge Challenger Hellcat but needs the utility of a four door sedan, the 2019 Charger Hellcat should fit the bill nicely. Sure, it doesn't get the full upgrade to Redeye status, but with a 707 horsepower supercharged V8 shared with the base Challenger Hellcat under its hood, the Charger is ready to wow the kids while blasting to and from school every day. Though other manufacturers have taken note of the recent Charger model lineup, which once sat at the very top of the high-powered sports sedan heap, it's nice to know Dodge still dedicates plenty of resources to a slightly less press-friendly model.
13 Needs V8: Ford Explorer
The Ford Explorer helped to solidify the role that the SUV has taken over in the domestic market.
Originally a simple, utilitarian box with plenty of room for gear and optional four wheel drive, the Explorer has unfortunately followed the rest of the SUV segment and trended towards commuter-level comfort and borderline minivan capability.
For 2019, as the crossover has continued its meteoric rise, Ford could have taken the opportunity to throw a V8 option onto the list for Explorer buyers, but instead opted to stick with the uninspired recipe that has served them moderately well for the last decade.
12 Sweet V8: Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
While Ford has been fairly open about future plans to scrap most of its car lineup, the manufacturer has managed to keep fans of the Mustang at bay fairly effectively. Alongside a 50th anniversary Bullitt edition in the works and the track-focused GT350R, a new Shelby GT500 should hit streets in 2019 badged as a 2020 model year.
Teaser photos have revealed an aggressive front end and roofline, set to match the rumor of a supercharged V8 rather than the GT350R's naturally aspirated powerplant.
It seems reasonable to expect the GT500 to keep pace with the Dodge Challenger Hellcat and Chevy Camaro competition, with handling to rival either, as well.
11 Needs V8: Ford Special Service
Every driver knows the mental pinch of fear that pops up whenever a Ford Crown Victoria pulls up from behind. The Crown Vic's distinctive, boat-like styling combined with a rugged versatility and reliability to make it the perfect law enforcement vehicle, with plenty of grunt under the hood to chase all but the fastest supercars and motorcycles. Now, Ford has created a new Special Service Plug-In Hybrid, essentially a Fusion Energi with a few extra bits added in for law enforcement purposes. It's not pursuit rated, however, and probably would be more attractive for police departments if drivers could have V8 confidence rather than the efficiency of a 21-mile all-electric range.
10 Sweet V8: Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R
With all the supercharging and turbocharging going on in the automotive industry these days, a nice normally aspirated V8 almost seems like a throwback from a forgotten era.
But the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R is certainly no aging dinosaur, with a track-tuned suspension setup, plenty of aero and downforce producing details, and a barking flat-plane Voodoo V8 under its long hood.
The 5.2-liter engine produces 526 horsepower, though - a figure that might not sound impressive given the monstrous output of fellow V8-powered Detroit products, but that nonetheless figures to slot in perfectly while rowing through a six speed stick shift on high-revving track days.
9 Needs V8: Chevrolet Malibu
The Chevrolet Malibu is another classic Detroit model that has slowly transformed into a boring commuter sedan with a focus on efficiency and affordability rather than any semblance of style. As consumer demand for sedans has dried up, Chevy is faced with a challenge of how to keep their models relevant. Even though fewer competition will remain as other brands fold up model lines, rather than returning to impeccable design and solid V8 power, it appears Chevy is content to double down on a bland product rather than inspiring buyers to remember what made the Malibu great so many years ago.
8 Sweet V8: Cadillac CTS-V
Cadillac has long combined quintessential Detroit power with a level of luxury that's a step above the rest of its competition. The modern CTS-V sedan is no different, with 640 horsepower on tap thanks to a supercharged 6.2-liter V8. Throw in Brembo brakes, an eight speed automatic, and four doors, and essentially the CTS-V is a four door, boxy Corvette with plenty more room for the family. Cadillac is marketing the car as track ready, and its 200 miles per hour top speed certainly maxes out much higher than any other domestic people hauler, while its 3.7 second sprint to 60 mph should shake up the groceries sufficiently.
7 Needs V8: Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Jeep's Wrangler line has managed to stay mostly true to its form over more than three decades of production. Sure, the iconic form has grown in dimensions, adding a bit more comfort in terms of both interior amenities and street-driving quality, but all in all a Wrangler is still easily recognized as a Wrangler.
But the Wrangler Rubicon has always begged for a V8 under the hood - an engine that can rev high while crawling over rocks in super low gears.
Plenty of aftermarket modders have tossed V8 powerplants into their custom builds, and Fiat Chrysler's got plenty of V8 engines in their lineup. The connection doesn't seem totally insane, but nonetheless remains unlikely.
6 Sweet V8: Jeep Grand Cherokee
So many manufacturers are turning to smaller, efficiency-oriented, supercharged and turbocharged engines for their SUV and trucks to help meet MPG goals that it's nice to see Jeep sticking with an optional V8 for their Grand Cherokee. And with Texas-based Tuners offering an upgrade package for the top spec Grand Cherokee Trackhawk package that should boost output up to around 1,000 horsepower, the off-roading world has a new king of the hill (albeit one that can also sprint to 60 miles per hour in under three seconds). Quick trips up to the ski slopes will combine the confidence of four wheel drive with borderline supercar performance.
5 Needs V8: Jeep Renegade Trailhawk
The recent unveiling of Hennessey Performance's 1,000 horsepower Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk was a fun moment for any fan of Detroit V8 power. But Jeep's recent expansion into a few more models, like the Renegade and Patriot, not to mention the transformation of the Cherokee into essentially a crossover, was thrown into stark relief by the Trackhawk. Especially the Renegade in Trailhawk form, which almost seems to be related except for the fact that it tops out at 180 horsepower and shares its platform with the Fiat 500X - something that's not about to change, though FCA could make help the Renegade out by tossing in a V8 engine option.
4 Sweet V8: Chrysler 300S
Chrysler's lineup of actual Chrysler-badged cars has shrunk and shrunk, but at least the staid old 300 model is still running strong.
And with a V8 engine available in S trim specifications, the big sedan makes a statement that Chrysler is here to stay, and not just to focus on selling Fiat 500s, either.
That V8 is a 5.7-liter, 363 horsepower normally aspirated example sending power to all four wheels, nothing to scoff at even if pure stats these days seem like they have been totally warped by most of Detroit's fascination with enormous superchargers and dragster levels of acceleration.
3 Needs V8: Buick LaCrosse
The Buick LaCrosse sits atop the brand's lineup as their flagship sedan. Many consumers will have to be forgiven for thinking Buick may have gone the way of Pontiac, as Buick seems here to stay with surprisingly strong sales despite bland design and even blander power. Considering the long tenure of Buick's history, producing a range-topping sedan that doesn't even have a V8 option seems like the same kind of mistake Pontiac (or even Saturn!) made on their slow and steady trudge towards automotive irrelevance. With fully specced Buick easily approaching the price tag of Europe's premier sports sedans, don't be surprised to find the V8-less LaCrosse in the junk heap sometime soon.
2 Sweet V8: Dodge Durango SRT
Plenty of drivers may be confused as to the difference between Dodge and Ram these days, but everyone is happy with the massive power news coming out of Detroit, regardless of nameplates and monikers.
Dodge's Durango SUV often gets forgotten as it sits between the Charger and Challenger's muscle car styling and the work-force utility of Ram pickups, but Dodge hasn't forgotten all about the Durango during the escalating power wars.
In top spec, the Durango SRT features a 6.4-liter V8 cranking out 475 horsepower - numbers strong enough to draw in the attention of law enforcement agencies who will employ modded Durangos as pursuit vehicles.
1 Needs V8: Ford F-150 Raptor
For years, the Ford F-150 Raptor had a corner of the market to itself. Bold styling, serious off-road capability, and no competition was a recipe for success that Ford enjoyed until very recently, despite the Raptor's drivetrain which centered around a twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine producing 450 horsepower. But with other brands bringing their take on off-road specific, aggressively-styled pickups to the market, Ford seemed like they should have taken the leap and crammed a V8 under that big hood, ideally one shared with the raucous Shelby Mustang GT350R. Unfortunately for buyers and Ford alike, the idea hasn't hit home, or at least not yet.