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

Once you start looking at full-size SUVs 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, and 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

Are you curious about what kind of engine your vehicle has? If you aren't mechanically inclined, one of the best ways to determine what kind of engine your vehicle has is to use a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) decoder. Locate the VIN on your vehicle, type it in, and you're done! The decoder will do its thing and show you some interesting things about your vehicle, including the number of cylinders the engine has.

V8 engines are commonly found in SUVs, pickup trucks, luxury cars, sports vehicles, and muscle cars. There are a variety of V-shaped engines. The difference between a V8 engine and other V-shaped engines is how many cylinders the engine has. For example, a V6 has 6 cylinders, and a V8 has 8 cylinders.

V8s are renowned for providing a powerful, reliable driving experience.

V8 Engines: The Distinction Between Diesel and Gas

So, when an engine is a V8, does that mean that it runs on diesel or gasoline?

Well, both! Some V8s run on diesel and some run on gasoline. However, that doesn't mean that the same engine can run on both kinds of fuel! An engine can only run on one fuel source or the other.

Having said that, diesel V8 engines are becoming less common as automotive technology advances. Engine manufacturers have figured out how to increase output from diesel engines with fewer cylinders. For this reason, modern diesel engines in passenger vehicles virtually all have 6 or fewer cylinders. For example, the 6.7 liter Cummins Turbo Diesel engine that powers heavy-duty pickup trucks only has 6 cylinders.

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 engines that run on gasoline are far more common.

Some more interesting V8 engines/vehicles that run on gasoline 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 the V8 configuration on the bigger end. Engines typically start at four cylinders and continue at 5, 6, 8, 10, and sometimes even 12 cylinders. 12 cylinder engines are usually only found in luxury sedans, racing cars, and military vehicles. Lamborghini is a good example of an automotive manufacturer that's well-known for its impressive V12 engine. Rolls-Royce once made a V12 tank engine based on its V8 Meteorite engine.

Why V-Shaped Engines Are Stronger

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

The answer is V-shaped engines all the way. The 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 cross-plane crankshaft, you typically get more vehicle balance and thus improved handling. V8 engines are also relatively short, even though they’re extremely 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, however.

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

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 are five cylinders on either side of the engine. With a 12-cylinder or V12 engine, there are 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. This engine is often referred to as the Boxer 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 lower center of gravity. 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 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 your best option. You’ll get plenty of horsepower, speed, 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 4 or 6 cylinder engines, much like mid-size SUVs.

A few examples -

  • The GMC Canyon can be equipped with a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine, a 3.6 liter V6 engine, or a 2.8 liter diesel engine.
  • The Toyota Tacoma can be equipped with a 2.7 liter 4 cylinder engine or a 3.5 liter V6 engine.
  • The Nissan Frontier can be equipped with a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine or a 4 liter V6.
  • The Chevrolet Colorado can be equipped with a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine, a 3.6 liter V6 engine, or a 2.8 liter diesel engine.

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

The Ford F-150 comes with two different turbocharged gasoline V6 engines, a 3.3 liter naturally-aspirated V6 engine, a gasoline V8, or a diesel engine. 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. These trucks can also be equipped with a new 7.3 liter gasoline V8.

Chevrolet Silverado

The popular Chevrolet Silverado 1500 - Chevy's light-duty full-size truck - can be equipped with a 2.7 liter turbocharged engine, a 4.3 liter V6, a 5.3 liter V8, or a 6.2 liter V8.

Chevrolet's heavy-duty trucks - the 2500 and 3500 - can be equipped with a 6.6 liter V8 or the 6.6 liter diesel V8.

Ram Trucks

The Ram 1500 can be equipped with either a 3.6 liter V6, a 5.7 liter V8, or a 3 liter diesel engine.

The Ram 2500 can be equipped with a 6.4 liter V8 or a 6.7 liter diesel 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):

  • 2.7 liter turbocharged engine
  • 3 liter diesel engine
  • 4.3L EcoTec3 V6 engine
  • 5.3L EcoTec3 V8 engine
  • 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 engine

GMC's heavy duty trucks - the Sierra 2500 and 3500 - can be equipped with a 6.6 liter gasoline V8 or a 6.6 liter diesel engine.

We 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 our post about gas vs. diesel engines for trucks for more information!

And don't forget to leave a comment to let us know what you think of V8 engines.

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