Engines are really complicated systems, but the base function they perform is providing somewhere for gasoline to explode in. This force is harnessed, camshafts are turned, and the rest is history. The bigger the explosion, the more power. But you need space for all that fuel.
A V8 engine is a motor comprised of two banks of four inline cylinders. When looked at from the front, the motor looks like a "v," each bank of cylinders making up an arm of the letter. Usually, the cylinder banks are placed perpendicular to each other, but other angles of orientation are used for various reasons of performance and fitment.
In a V8, there are eight cylinders to blow up gasoline in—simple as that. Because of that, it makes a lot of power. Eight cylinders are pretty much the maximum you can have in an engine before it gets impractical. While V10s, V12s, and V16s have all existed and worked, they're fickle and gigantic.
With the V8 representing an ideal blend of cylinders and displacement, automakers from around the world have made it their mule of choice for generating insane amounts of horsepower. Entire race series are dedicated to cars with V8s, and even non-gearheads understand that a V8 entails performance. Put simply, V8s rock. Naturally rumbling aspirated big-block American V8s are pitted up against shrieking low-displacement Euro twin-turbo creations. And some V8s are simply two engines welded together. Scroll down to see 20 of the most powerful V8 engines ever built.
20 Ferrari 488 GTB (661hp)
Ferraris go fast—we all know that. But the 488 GTB is the Italian stable's take on the high horsepower V8 Supercar. Like any good supercar, the motor is behind the driver, meaning the weight of the V8 is nicely centered in the car. The GTB gets the 488 numeration from the eight 488cc cylinders that comprise the monstrous twin-turbo Ferrari F154CB.
At 3.9L, this motor is no bathtub, but the Italians have talked this thing into revving up to 8,000 RPM.
This means the 488 GTB is a personal best for Ferrari in two regards; it has the highest power and torque output per liter of any Ferrari ever made. Records like this mean this is certainly one of the most powerful V8s of all time.
19 Maserati Quattroporte GTS (479hp)
Not all powerful V8s are wrapped up in sporty packages. Some of them come delivered in hefty pickup trucks, and others are strapped to the front end of giant American muscle cars. Maserati has chosen to put theirs in a luxury sedan. This car is meant to compete with Audis and stately Beemers, but what sets the GTS apart is that it has the same motor as the Ferrari 488 GTB. That’s right—this understated four-door is powered by Ferrari internals. Any sedan with twin turbos is super sick, and when it’s a Ferrari V8 getting the extra air, it’s even sexier. Fast cars are fun, and four-doors are smart, so why not just smash them all together and make a GTS? Thanks, Maserati.
18 Cadillac CTS-V (640hp)
This is the everyman's rocket sled. This is a Ferrari-conquering drag car, a Lotus-eating track ripper. The supercharged 6.2L V8 propels this car into Jaguar and Mercedes territory, at a fraction of the cost. Cadillac has done all us not-rich folks a favor and put a monster V8 in mid-range Sedan. Doubt this car's speed? It's dominated North America's premier GT racing series—The Pirelli World Challenge—every season it's competed.
Recently, the Cadillac race program had to start using the ATS as their race car because the newest generation CTS-V was too powerful to race.
Too fast for the track but cheap enough to seriously consider owning one day. And don’t even get me started on the wagon—slightly less horsepower but easily the best-looking car ever made. Period.
17 Ford Mustang GT (460hp)
Ah, the Mustang GT. An American Classic. This car started the iconic pony-car class of American cars, leading to dozens of affordable and powerful sporty American cars being created. The most recent generation of the Mustang GT does the model name justice. The Coyote V8 was designed to match the power output of class competitors but with a smaller displacement and lower weight.
Every detail of this motor has been tuned to create as much power as possible, and the 460hp Ford has gotten out of 5.0L is seriously impressive.
As if going fast in a straight line wasn’t fun enough, the newest Mustang is underpinned with a brand new independent rear-suspension system. Now, you don’t have to slow down for the corners.
16 McLaren 675LT (666hp)
The carbon-fiber “monocell” this car is built around weighs 75kg. You probably weigh more than the central member of this car's chassis. And you don’t have 666hp twin-turbo V8 to power you. You also aren’t a car. But the 675LT certainly is, and it’s a great car. The LT is an homage to the “long tail” McLarens, which blitzed Le Mans in the late '90s, taking the overall win in 1995 in one of the wettest Le Mans 24Hrs on record. This much horsepower from a 3.8L engine seems like a typo, but McLaren has put a laundry list of trick parts into this motor to attain such stupid horsepower. Lightweight connecting rods, a titanium exhaust, and bespoke camshafts are some of the changes McLaren has made to achieve maximum power from their engine. And it seems to have worked.
15 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat (707hp)
This looks fast. And it is. Because 707hp makes it fast. Laws should be in place to stop cars from leaving the factory with this much power. But they aren’t. And it’s great. Stock, this car will do a 10.5-second quarter mile. What? Coyote Ford motors are marvels of engineering. They're the product of huge budget and expert technicians left to run wild. It’s a powerful combo. There are no fancy suspension bits to go with this idiotic amount of power, but there are fender flares. Who needs handling when you look this good and go this fast? Go do burnouts in this because it's what you're supposed to do. Reviewers have found coming across the Hellcat as brutish. A supercharged 6.2L Hemi should never be subtle.
14 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z06 (650hp)
The C7 is already a quick car. The base model already puts out 455hp and gets up to 100 km/h in just under four seconds. Corvette decided to reintroduce the "Stingray" model name in 2014, bringing the line back after 46 years out of production. The "Stingray" name is legendary, and Corvette didn't want to let fans down. Thankfully, they didn’t. 625hp has been coaxed from the same 6.2L block as the base C7, except it has aluminum cylinder heads and a 1.7L Eaton supercharger. To go with the 650 ponies, there are 650 ft/lbs of torque as well. Corvette spent the rest of their efforts on making the Stingray lighter to maximize the power-to-weight ratio. It just so happens the carbon rockers and roof panels look super sweet, too.
13 Audi Avant RS6 Quattro (597hp)
Yeah, baby. Stupid-fast wagons with almost 600hp are a unicorn in the automotive world. Magical, allegedly mythical, and beautiful hot wagons float around the psyche of every gearhead. The Avant edition RS6 is magical and beautiful—but happily not mythical. But it can be a felony to own one.
The RS6 is banned in the US for reasons mostly unknown. Almost 600hp probably has something to do with it.
The 40.L twin-turbo V8 uses forced induction to make a lot of power out of not a lot of motor. The McLaren was smaller displacement and higher power, but that's a McLaren. This is an Audi wagon, a car your dentist might drive—if your dentist likes getting up to 200 km/h in 12.1 seconds.
12 Porsche Panamera Turbo S (570hp)
The Panamera had the potential to be a pimple on Porsche's otherwise stellar lineup. It’s a slightly awkward four-door, like a 911 with a very full stomach. And an extra set of doors. And what are most certainly excessive amounts of horsepower. It seems four-doors are the choice chassis to put hyper-tuned V8s in. No complaints, though—just an observation. Is this a supercar or a sedan? Who cares? The first generation of these was really ugly, but the 911 heritage shone through. The roofline has been figured out the second time round, and the performance stats are still staggering.
The 0-100 km/h time is three seconds, and it stops from 110 km/h in just under 50 meters.
But there’s a backseat, four doors, and trunk space. What a great world we live in!
11 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Wagon (510hp)
Wagons are the best; we all just need to accept it, and i'm trying my best with this list. Mercedes's front end of a C class is a great piece of styling, and Merc has been making sexy wagons for decades. What they haven’t been doing for decades is putting 510hp 5.5L Biturbo V8s in their wagons, let alone AMG prepped units. AMG is an outfit based in Germany that breathes on Mercedes motors and makes them monsters. Every detail is addressed by hand, and the finish quality is unmatched. The cheeky little 63 numeration sets this car apart as idiot fast. Compared to Mercedes' C65, the C63 models are lighter and 4-wheel-drive equipped. Ready to take the kids to school?
10 BMW E39 M5 (560hp)
BMWs are very unfortunate sleepers, as they're a high-performance luxury vehicle with unbelievably lame styling. German efficiency? Lots of suits buy Beemers to stand out a little on their way to the office. Unfortunately, they forgot that everyone else on their floor had the same idea. Picking the M5 may make you stand out because you'll be at the office before anyone else everyday—top parking priority guaranteed. Raises, optional. The M5 is one of the few naturally aspirated entries on this list, and to generate this type of horsepower, the M5 uses the M62 V8, which at 4.9Ls is Beemer's biggest ever power plant. Variable valve timing and hollow cams, along with other trick parts, mean no forced induction is needed—horsepower, au naturel.
9 Radical SR8 (380 hp)
So, this isn’t exactly the most powerful V8 in the world, but it, for sure, is one of the craziest. Right up front, yes, the SR8 is incredible; yes, it set a lap record at the Nurburgring, and yes, it is road legal. With all that aside, let's look at the little 380hp mutant, with its supernatural redline of 10,000 rpm.
This V8 is two-bored straight-four Suzuki Hayabusa blocks, mated together to create a 2.8L V8.
This isn’t science fiction. Radical chose this route, as there's an endless number of parts available for Hayabusa motors, the motor itself is reliable, and it weighs nothing. For the driver, this means the power band runs from 3,000 RPM up to 10,000 RPM, creating the storied endless accelerations of Radicals.
8 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series (622hp)
AMG is back, doing their part to make Mercedes as powerful as possible. They got pretty damn close with the SLS AMG Black Series. This is the supercar version of the SLS—as if it wasn’t already super enough. Mercedes has fielded their SLSs in international GT3 racing for the last few years, and this has inspired them to carry over the technology to a road car.
The redline has been pushed up to 8,000 rpm, the camshafts have been modded, and the air-intake ducts have been widened.
What makes this Black Series so cool is the attention to detail. The transmission is mounted 10 cm lower than stock for a low center of mass, and it's held in place with reinforced struts—ultra-fast, ultra-stiff, ultra-powerful, ultra-cool.
7 Chevrolet Camaro ZL=1 (650hp)
Camaros have been powerful for a long time, even during their dismal spell during the '90s, when the entire design department went blind. For like six years. The most recent Camaro comes with the furious 6.2L supercharged V8 found in the Corvette C7—good genes to be certain. What makes the ZL-1 awesome is the track-tuned package it comes with. American cars are only supposed to turn left, but this goes both ways really well. The carbon bits were designed in an F1 wind tunnel to actually help grip, and the suspension has been tirelessly tuned through Chevy’s race program. It’s super cool that this monster costs less than a base Porsche 911. It’s a big lovable V8 placed in a tidy and tight package. Two, please.
6 Spyker C8 Preliator Spyder (600hp)
Ever heard of this brand? Europe is a weird place, with weird companies making weirdly expensive, weirdly powerful cars. If you've ever wanted a 600hp mid-engined convertible, now you have it. This V8 is designed by the also-obscure Koenigsegg, and so details are vague. It’s a 5.0L and makes at least 600hp. The owner of Koenigsegg has gone on record to say his motors will last for 200 years, so I suppose reliability is certain. You get one choice of transmission, so let's hope you're all comfy with a clutch. This a boutique car, luxurious to the truest extent, but it packs a solid punch. Now, you can look exotic and exclusive in your boutique roadster while toasting any car that dares try to pass you in the right lane.
5 Jaguar F-Type SVR Coupe (575hp)
Not all Jags are green stately sleepers. Some come in an electric blue, do laps of racetracks, and make almost 600hp. This isn't your Grandpa's Jaguar.
This has two superchargers and will be moving at 100 km/h in 3.5 seconds.
The only problem is you can’t get it with a manual transmission, a true crime against honest gearheads everywhere. Jaguar knows that people who buy V8s like how V8s sound. On their website, you can even listen to the exhaust note before you order. Testers have measured the exhaust at an ear-splitting absolutely awesome 108 decibels. This isn’t a light car, but it'll run all the way up to 320 km/h, with the help of active aero features and, of course, an angry crackling V8 engine.
4 Lexus RC F (467hp)
Who knew Lexuses were fast? The brand has been trying to break into North America's luxury car market for the last few decades, and the RC F is an extra piece of artillery in their assault. This 467hp V8 is naturally aspirated, and Lexus has found an extra 51hp over the standard RC V8 through engine-management trickery. It’s rear-wheel-drive and has paddle shifters and a V8, so why don’t the kids love it? The styling looks like a partially melted Hot Wheels, even if it's an attempt at looking quick and sporty. The grille alone is enough to make one feel a little uncomfortable. All this styling comes at a cost, with the RC-F tipping the scales at over 1,800 kg, an atrocious figure. Who knew 467hp could be too little to go fast?
3 GMC Sierra Denali (420hp)
The classier cousin of the Chevrolet Silverado, this pickup comes in a million layouts of bed and cab sizes, along with various options for engines. How many doors and feet of payload space you'll have is up to you, but the engine choice is easy.
A 420hp 6.2L V8 is a lot of motor for a pickup truck, and this gets up to 100 km/h in under seven seconds.
Not face melting, but for a pickup truck—seriously impressive. Not every pickup is a utility vehicle; they can go fast too. It’s important to remember these trucks are designed to carry thousands of pounds in payload, so when there's no load, there’s a lot of power moving a lot less weight than expected.
2 Saleen S7 Twin Turbo (750hp)
Before we address how powerful this car is, it’s important to mention that this was designed with input from the legendary Ray Mallock, a British touring car team owner who's dominated any racing discipline he's entered. The firm's attention to detail and build quality is world-beating, and the Saleen is one of their more outrageous projects. This car has a 7.0L twin-turbo Ford V8 in it. That explains why the body on this car looks more like a plane's fuselage.
The 0-100 km/h time is an eye-watering 2.8 seconds.
As if this rocket wasn’t fast enough, Saleen issued a competition package in 2006 that allowed owners to boost their cars' horsepower to a ludicrous 1,000hp. Crazy stuff.
1 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454 (450hp)
To wrap up the world of big, bold, bulky V8s, it's necessary to pay homage to a great of the genre. American vernacular is one of the most recognized cultures in the world, and the big-block muscle car is quintessential to this culture. The Chevelle SS is THE muscle car. It came with a comparably paltry 450hp stock, but we all know how endless the performance options are for these motors. Large-bodied, sloppy-handling coupes are the perfect complement for naturally aspirated bathtub motors. This doesn't rev high, there are no tricky cams or valve timing, and there’s just a lot of space to blow up gasoline and a lot of gasoline to blow up. The American Dream needs the V8, and the Chevelle SS does the V8 more justice than most other cars do.
Sources: caranddriver.com; jalopnik.com; motortrend.com; autobytel.com