Most car-loving folks will agree the exhaust note of a V8 engine is one of the most intoxicating sounds on this planet. Its staccato pentameter triggers something deep in the primordial cortex, causing most of us to whip our heads around to try to identify the source. Your author will gladly admit to once pausing not just mid-sentence but mid-word in a conversation when a hairy-chested muscle car barked to life across a suburban parking lot.
Perhaps this is why some automakers are experimenting with sound systems on electric cars designed not to necessarily mimic the sound of a roaring V8 under acceleration, but to at least generate some sort of spine-tingling racket at speed.
The venerable V8 is not the omnipresent authority it once was, with many automakers moving to smaller engines with some form of forced induction in order to keep up with the Joneses on power while also adhering to increasingly strict economy regulations. Witness the mighty F-150, a vehicle whose eight-cylinder take rate once towered over all other options but now finds a vast number of buyers popping for one of its admittedly excellent EcoBoost V6 engines.
Still, a few eight-cylinder vehicles remain – and we’ve gathered some of our recent modern favourites right here. Long live noise; long live the V8.
Lexus IS 500
We’ll kick things off with the impetus for this list. The new-for-2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance is a $72,900 ticket to a 472-horsepower naturally aspirated V8 engine and an entertaining quad-tipped exhaust system. With a flick of its starter button, this 5.0L Japanese NASCAR roars to life and lets your neighbours know you’re kicking off the morning commute with an eight-cylinder jolt of caffeine. Dual stacked tailpipes look great and emit a bark whilst prodding the accelerator pedal, especially in Sport+ mode. All those ponies are sent to the rear wheels, whose 265 section do their best to slingshot this super sedan to highway speeds in just 4.6 seconds.
Ford Shelby GT500
The name Shelby has been associated with V8 engines ever since a certain chicken farmer from Texas decided to shove eight cylinders up the nose of an AC Ace to make the very first Cobra. These days, the title is being bestowed on some of the most hardcore factory Mustangs ever to come out of Detroit, with the latest being the GT500. Its 5.2L V8 is not only larger in displacement than the 5.0L unit in other Mustangs, but it also makes a world-destroying 760 horsepower in concert with 625 lb-ft of torque and a cross-plane crank. The latter permits a different firing order than a traditional V8, explaining why this Shelby has more of a metallic zing than one might expect from an American engine. Amplifying all this is a set of pipes that can be tuned all the way from quiet (for those cold mornings when you don’t wish to wake up the neighbours) to the gloriously ear-splitting track mode.
Mercedes-AMG GT R
No, not that GT-R. Nissan’s Godzilla may be mighty, but it is powered by six cylinders, not eight. For that, we turn to Affalterbach and the engineers at AMG who have teased 576 horses out of its 4.0L twin-turbo V8. Why’d we pluck the R out of Benz’s deep roster of GT cars? Because its three-exit exhaust has a muffler (that doesn’t muffle much) constructed from titanium and a front section hewn from thin-walled stainless steel. While this benefits weight, it also benefits the ears. We will also give an honorable mention to the GT Black Series, a hyperactive offshoot of this model that makes 720 horsepower and was solely designed to attack the infamous Nürburgring.
Anything with a Hellcat Engine
This writer is taking a liberty with this entrant, since the legendary 6.2L supercharged V8 beast has been plugged into all types of vehicles from coupes to SUVs from the Stellantis group of brands. About the only vehicle that did not receive a Hellcat variant is the brand’s minivan – and we suspect that’s because the speed freaks at Stellantis simply couldn’t find a practical way to make it fit in a transverse engine compartment. But those cars that did find a Hellcat under their hood were blessed with not just 700 (or more) horsepower, but also the sort of auditory delights that were once illegal in 45 states and almost all provinces. Its exhaust system creates a tremendous racket to be sure, but the intoxicating high-pitched whine of the straight-cut gears in that supercharger, whinnying with every poke of the throttle, is an acoustic joy that is rapidly becoming more rare in our world.
Ferrari F8 Tributo
What list of great V8s would be complete without a Ferrari? If we were sowing our way through the pages of history instead of listing fantastic machines gracing this Earth within the last year or so, surely the magnificent mid-engined 458 Italia and its naturally aspirated 4.5L V8 would be our pick. However, sticking with recent offerings pushes us towards the 3.9L twin-turbo that cropped up in the 488 Pista and is now wound out to 710 horsepower in the F8 Tributo, a height that permits Ferrari to claim it to be the most powerful V8 ever to be mounted in a non-special series Ferrari. While forced induction such as turbochargers can muffle the wail of an engine – and the F8 does indeed sound different than the OG 458 – this iteration of the mill gives up nothing in terms of aural delight, bringing an unmistakable note that, to our jaundiced ears, is improved both in terms of intensity and sound quality compared to the 488 Pista.
Cadillac Blackwing V8
If Cadillac is leaving this decade as a purveyor of electric vehicles, then it’s sending off its internal combustion era with one helluva bang. Residing between the fenders of every Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is a 6.2L supercharged V8, hand assembled and capable of cranking out 668 horsepower plus a like amount of torque. Its exhaust rip sounds like God’s own bedsheets being torn in half, an eight-cylinder tribute to over a century of gasoline-fuelled Cadillacs. Best of all, it’s available with a six-speed manual transmission.
Jaguar F-Type R
This slinky Jag is one of those cars that looks even better in person, if that’s possible. There’s something about those fender curves and its slippery snout that create lustrous photos but manage to crank the appeal to 11 when viewed in the metal. Something else about this car best experienced first hand? Its roguish engine. In Canada, all models are powered by V8 mills ranging from 450 to 575 hp and feature an active exhaust system so one has the option of releasing the thrilling rumble at all engine speeds. In particular, the F-Type R uses its nearly 600-hp output to claw its way to felonious velocities in just 3.7 seconds. Let. It. Rip.
BMW M850i xDrive Cabriolet
Even though the styling decisions being made in Munich are causing some consternation, there’s no denying these Germans haven’t forgotten how to make a great V8 engine, even if it is placed behind a bizarrely shaped grille. We’ll pluck the 8-Series Cabrio from the brand’s roster, chosen for its 4.4L twin-turbo V8, which conjures a towering 523 horses and 553 lb-ft of twist. The burbles and barks from its exhaust system are best enjoyed without a roof, which is why we’ve selected the Cabrio to represent the best Bavaria currently has to offer in terms of engines with the same number of cylinders and sides in a stop sign.