Tightening emission regulations mean fewer cars today have V8s, but as these three models show, this engine format isn’t going away so soon.
Enthusiasts love all kinds of engines. We love the inherent smoothness of a straight-6 or flat-6, the throb of a four-cylinder boxer, the growl of a V10 and the wailing of a V12. There is aural pleasure in an offbeat 3-cylinder or 5-cylinder motor, too. But there is really nothing quite like a bent eight that’s tuned for power.
However, due to stricter emission requirements and a looming ban on the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines in Europe, carmakers have been eschewing the V8 for either smaller engines or electric motors.
But don’t write this engine off just yet. The three V8-powered models we’ve gathered here prove it still has high-performance applications. Three of Sgcarmart’s writers explain how.
Clarence finds the Quattroporte Trofeo and its Italian charms irresistible
There are many reasons to lust after a V8. For many, that iconic engine burble, the vibrations that the 8-cylinder configuration generates, as well as that unavoidable association with the muscle cars of the 1960s and beyond, are understandably irresistible.
But I’ve opted to mark the great V8 in this Maserati Quattroporte Trofeo for two other reasons.
The first has to do with flexibility. With a total of 3.8-litres of capacity, the engine in this Quattroporte Trofeo is, in many ways, a zenith of many of the V8s that have come before.
With a whopping total of 573bhp and 730Nm of torque, you’re accorded the luxury of being able to simply cruise through the traffic of Bukit Timah Road in a completely unstrained and untaxed manner.
And yet, once the crests and dips of, say, Holland Road beckon, a simple squeeze of that gigantic carbon fibre paddle shifter is all it takes to elicit a downshift from the car’s 8-speed transmission, and you’re once again rocketed away with all of the ferocity and aural delight that has made this eight-cylinder combination so loved across the years, and become so iconic of the Maserati brand.
And the second reason, of course, is sheer style. With the V8 sitting under the long bonnet of this flagship sedan body adorned with but a few accents, the Quattroporte Trofeo offers just the right amount of muscularity without being overly flamboyant or attention-grabbing.
That means that you get to attend more formal events without looking out of place – something the two other cars in this story might have trouble with.
After you’ve had your fill of that carbon fibre on the dashboard, you can opt to lounge at the rear and enjoy the Quattroporte’s generous legroom, while being cosseted by full-grain leather seats.
Throw in the fact that Maserati already has a new Nettuno V6 engine – as used in the MC20 supercar and Grecale Trofeo – that makes this 3.8-litre V8 just that little bit more exclusive, and I think it is hard to deny the appeal of this combination.
Zhi Xuan feels that the XM’s plug-in hybrid V8 makes sense in today’s world
Large, fuel-hungry engines are a thing of the past and electric motors are the future, they say. With their ability to produce plenty of power without making lots of noise, it seems that they are the superior choice.
Well, that is where these ‘anti-ICE’ people couldn’t be more wrong. If you enjoy a powerful internal combustion engine, the sound, rumble and vibrations that it makes are just as important as the power it produces.
And that’s why the BMW XM’s choice of powertrain is such an excellent proposition. By pairing a thundering bi-turbo 4.4-litre V8 to a powerful electric motor, it puts out 644bhp and a monstrous 800Nm of torque that is sent to all four wheels.
Just imagine this – the XM weighs 2,785kg and yet it goes from zero to 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds.
When the engine comes alive, the XM belts out a tough, throaty and distinctive V8 rumble – rev it and you’ll even feel the car rocking from side to side! You can also set the car to electric mode, and it’ll instantly become silent, while still having enough power to leave others in the dust – up to a top speed of 140km/h!
While the way the XM picks up speed effortlessly is incredible, what’s even more impressive is how it manages to handle as well as it does with all that weight and ground clearance.
The suspension in the XM is sufficiently stiff to offer stable and reassuring driving dynamics, and yet (likely due to its weight) driving over bumps results in a more muted sensation than one would expect.
As the driver, you’ll feel that the ripples from the initial jolt of driving over an uneven surface is localised within that particular corner of the car – instead of the entire car being affected, the impact seems to be effectively absorbed by the suspension.
Thanks to its Active Roll Stabilisation feature that uses a 48-volt motor between each half of the anti-roll bars, the XM stays flat during corners, and exhibits little body roll.
By now, you should have understood the concept behind the XM – it is all about implementing cutting-edge technology to create a technological powerhouse.
And after driving it, I can assure you, there’s no need to listen to what naysayers think of a hulking V8 powerplant, nor those who criticise the XM’s radical styling. If the million dollar-XM is within your reach, I’d say go for it.
Jeremy says the SL55’s V8 is a soul-stirrer
The SL is Mercedes-Benz’s flagship roadster and with a 70-year lineage, it is one of the world’s most iconic convertibles, too. The latest model is larger, sleeker and more modern-looking than its predecessor.
Of course, I’m even more interested in the powerplant beneath the SL’s contemporary design. The SL55 AMG 4Matic+ is propelled by one of the most desirable V8 engines around: The twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 that kicks out 476bhp and 700Nm of torque.
Codenamed M177, each unit, in true AMG fashion, is assembled by a single engineer, whose name and signature proudly sits atop a small plaque adorning the engine cover.
Driven in anger, the SL55 AMG crushes the century sprint in 3.9 seconds – impressive for a hefty grand tourer weighing close to two tonnes. What’s truly remarkable about the SL, though, isn’t its speed. It’s the soundtrack it plays while going about its business.
With your eyes closed, you’d swear it was an old, naturally aspirated American muscle car and not a modern, turbocharged German roadster. With the engine mode in ‘Sport’ and Exhaust set to ‘Powerful’, the SL55’s V8 is like an orchestra. And your right foot is the conductor.
Mercedes-AMG tuned this motor not just to be rev-happy, but utterly responsive, too. The tach needle snaps to the right gleefully and instantaneously, for the SL55 makes its peak horsepower between 5500-6500rpm.
In fact, the V8 will be happy even if you only use four of the gearbox’s nine forward ratios (as I did), thereby keeping the engine speed in the upper part of the rev range.
Complementing this is the car’s ability to deliver topless motoring, which as you’d imagine, brings your senses even closer to that gem under the bonnet. The SL is many things, but to this petrolhead, it is one of the most compelling soul-stirrers available today.
Will the V8 engine survive electrification and consumers’ move towards EVs? Realists will say no, because the demand to do something about climate change is too great.
But if manufacturers still make cool cars like these, there may be hope yet. We certainly think so!
This article was first published on Sgcarmart.