What Does a V8 Engine Mean for Pickup/SUV Owners?

Once you start looking at full-size SUV’s and pickup trucks as potential tow vehicles for your RV, you soon notice that most of them have V8 engines.

What Does a V8 Engine Mean? The V stands for the shape of the engine. The 8 stands for the number of cylinders in the engine. So, a V8 engine means a V-shaped engine with a total of 8 cylinders.

In a regular engine, the cylinders – usually four of them – are aligned in a row. In a V-shaped engine (V6, V8 or even larger), the cylinders are arranged in a V-shape.

V8 engine

Don’t go looking for this thing under the hood of your vehicle. The cylinders and pistons are inside a big black box that’s the engine of the vehicle so you can’t see them without opening that box. Which you don’t want to do, unless you are a mechanic who needs to fix the engine. The engine box is sealed for a reason and the sealing is done in the factory. Once opened, it’s never as good as new – plus, you need to have the right tools to close it properly. So, don’t even try.

V8 engines are commonly found in SUVs, pickup trucks, luxury cars, sports vehicles, and muscle cars. They are a variety of V-shaped engine. The difference between a V8 engine and other V-shaped engines is how many cylinders the engine has. In the case of a V8, it’s eight cylinders.

V8s are renowned for providing an even, reliable driving experience.

V8 Engines: The Distinction Between Diesel and Gas

So, when an engine is a V8, does that mean it’s a diesel engine or a gas-fueled one?

It means neither. V-shaped engines, including V8s, can run on either diesel or gas fuel sources. That doesn’t mean that the same engine can run or both! An engine is always either a gas engine or a diesel engine. All I mean to say is that there are V8 gas engines and there are V8 diesel engines.

Having said that, diesel V8 engines are more uncommon.

Some examples of V8 engines/vehicles that run on diesel are:

  • Electro-Motive’s 567 eight-cylinder engine, in which the cylinder is positioned at an angle of 45 degrees
  • Scania and Yanmar’s Brons V8 two-stroke diesel engine
  • Scania AB V8 diesel engine in Sweden
  • Omega D8 diesel engine in Korea, which was made by Mitsubishi
  • IVECO’s IVECO-aifo V8 diesel engine in Italy, seen in the Astra HD7, Orlandi Poker, Eurostar, Turbostar, and Turbotech vehicles
  • Fiat’s V8 diesel engine, which was used first in the Des-8280 (sold in 1975) and later in the Fiat 8V
  • Rover’s Meteorite diesel engine, which was an update on an engine design that dated back to 1943 from the Rolls-Royce Meteor 60-degree V12 engine
  • Land Rover’s 2006 TDV8

V8 gas engines are far more common.

Some more interesting V8 engines/vehicles that run on gas are:

  • Volvo’s Philip, a concept car from the 1950s that began with a V8 gas engine but later changed to have a double B18 engine.
  • Mitsubishi’s 1998 8A8 engine, which was a 4.5-liter V8 with gasoline direct technology, double overhead camshafts, and alloy heads

More commercially, you can find V8 engines from more upscale vehicle manufacturers like Radical, McLaren, Land Rover, Jaguar, Bentley, and Aston Martin.

How Big Do V-Shaped Engines Get?

There are several types of V-shaped engines, with V8 on the bigger end. Engines start at four cylinders and continue at five, six, eight, 10, and sometimes even 12 cylinders. It’s likely to only see a 12-cylinder or V12 engine in luxury sedans or military vehicles. Rolls-Royce once made a V12 tank engine based off its V8 Meteorite engine.

Why V-Shaped Engines Are Stronger

Between inline engines, horizontally-opposed engines, and V-shaped engines, which are the strongest and most powerful?

The answer is V-shaped engines all the way.

Their shape and the arrangement of cylinders allows V-shaped engines to receive more load from the pistons without wearing down.

The durability of these engines is another major benefit. If your vehicle has a crossplane crankshaft, you typically get more vehicle balance and thus improved handling. V8 engines are also relatively short, even though they’re heavy. Expect to pay more for a vehicle with a V8 engine as well. Those are the few cons on a long list of pros, though.

Let’s get back to the V shape of these engine

As you know from earlier in this article, that shape refers to the arrangement of the cylinders. Sometimes vertically-placed cylinder alignment is used instead for an inline engine. You will only see this engine type if your engine has four or five cylinders.

Once you get above six cylinders, the classic V shape comes into play. In the case of a 10-cylinder or V10 engine, there’d be five cylinders on either side of the V. With a 12-cylinder or V12 engine, it’d be six cylinders on either side.

In addition to inline engine cylinder arrangement, some manufacturers opt to use what’s known as a horizontally-opposed cylinder alignment. You’ll see this most often in Subaru and Porsche vehicles. These engines are often referred to as boxer or flat engines due to the arrangement of elements within the crankshaft. The pistons look akin to boxing gloves with the way they protrude, hence the name. The cylinders of horizontally-opposed engines are placed adjacent to the crankshaft.

So why choose one type of cylinder configuration over another? A horizontally-opposed engine allows for great handling due to the center of gravity, which is lower. V-shaped engines have a better center of gravity as cylinder count increases. Lastly, inline engines are more compact, narrow, and tall, so the vehicles that contain this engine can often be smaller themselves.

What Does a V8 Engine Mean to a Vehicle Owner?

As you now know, V8 engines are stronger and more efficient than other engine types. They may be more expensive, but they and their V-shaped counterparts are favored by some of the biggest vehicle manufacturers in the world.

If you prefer larger, tougher vehicles (and you must if you’re reading this blog) like trucks and SUVs, you should know that V8 engines are ideal for these as well. Trucks and SUVs tend to get more horsepower with a V8.

How Much Horsepower Can You Get from a V8 Engine?

Let’s talk horsepower for a moment.

Horsepower is essentially a measure of the force produced by your engine. The earliest examples of V-shaped engine horsepower ratings were low. Back in 1907, the Touring Car from Hewitt Motor Company was beloved for its horsepower. It was able to achieve 60 HP with its V8 engine. At the time, that was incredible. Today? It’s not quite as big a feat.

That means a truck or SUV with a V8 will be faster and more powerful than one with a V6 engine. If you were to pit a V8 against a V10 or a V12, those engines would have higher horsepower. Considering that anything above a V10 is typically reserved for luxury sedans and military vehicles, if you want a truck, then a V8 engine is perfect. You’ll get plenty of horsepower and thus speed as well as strength and reliability.

Finally, let’s look at a few of the more popular pickup trucks and see which have V8 engines – and which don’t.

Mid-size pickup trucks with V8 engines

The title should have a question mark. As in, “Mid-size pickup trucks with V8 engines?”. And the answer is no. These compact pickups aren’t meant for heavy loads or towing. As such, they often have 2.5L 4-cylinder regular engines, much like mid-size SUV’s.

A few examples –

  • The GMC Canyon is available with only one V-shaped engine and that happens to be a V6.
  • With the Toyota Tacoma, the more affordable models come with a 4-cylinder engine while the luxury models like the TRD Pro or Limited also have a 3.5L V6 gas engine.
  • The Nissan Frontier is the same with 4-cylinder engines on most models and V6 engines available on the larger trucks, those with longer beds and crew cab configurations.
  • Chevrolet’s Colorado also comes in a choice of 2.5L 4-cylinder engines or 3.6L DOHC V6, depending on the exact model and build.

Full-size pickup trucks with V8 engines

In this class, V8 engines come into play. A full-size pickup is heavier than a mid-size one and – more importantly – is designed to carry heavier loads.

Ford F-Series

Even the light duty Ford F-150 only comes with V-shaped gas engines, or a diesel super-turbo. All models – from the XL to the Platinum – are available with the 5.0L Ti-VCT V8 engine, although you can choose a cheaper V6 engine too. With the Lariat, King Ranch or Platinum you also have the option of going with the 3.0L Power Stroke® Turbo Diesel engine.

As expected, Ford’s heavy duty models – the F-250 and F-350 – need stronger engines. This is where you’ll find the larger 6.2L 2 V8 (Flex-Fuel) engine. Of course, with heavy-duty, diesel is a popular choice and here Ford offers a super-powerful V8 diesel engine: The 6.7L Power Stroke® Diesel V8 Engine.

Chevrolet Silverado

The popular Silverado 1500 – Chevy’s light-duty full-size truck – comes in a choice of one of three engines. All of them V-shaped, with one being a 4.3L V6. The other two are V8 gas engines, varying between 5.3L and 6.2L in engine volume.

As for the stronger Silverado 2500HD and Silverado 3500HD we’re talking only V8 engines. You can get these Chevy trucks either with a Vortec 6.0L V8 gas engine or the Duramax 6.6L TURBO-DIESEL V8.

Ram Trucks

Surprisingly, Ram’s half-ton truck – the Ram 1500 – doesn’t have a V8 engine. Ram offers all of its Ram 1500 models with a 3.6-Liter V6 gas Engine.

Moving to heavy duty, things change – as they must – the Ram 2500 is offered with either a 6.4L HEMI® V8 gas engine, or a diesel engine (not V8 though), the 6.7L Cummins® Turbo Diesel I6 engine. The same Cummins diesel engine also powers the larger Ram 3500.

GMC Sierra

GMC has two versions of its Sierra 1500 trucks. The regular GMC Sierra 1500 can be purchased with one of three types of engines (which also affect choice of drivetrain and body):

  • 4.3L EcoTec3 V6 engine
  • 5.3L EcoTec3 V8 engine
  • 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 engine

GMC’s heavy duty trucks include the Sierra 2500HD with its 6.6L Duramax Diesel engine and the Sierra 3500HD which comes with a choice of two V8 engines:  The Vortec® 6.0L  V8 gas  engine or the more powerful Duramax® 6.6L Turbo Diesel V8 engine.

I hope that list helps you gauge what the market has on offer. Of course, other factors come into play even when choosing the type of engine, let alone your truck. Check out my post about gas vs. diesel engines for trucks if that happens to be the next question on your mind!

And don’t forget to leave a comment to let me know if you drive a V8 engine or are planning on a vehicle that has that type of motor.

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