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10 Of The Most Unexpected Cars To Feature A V8 – HotCars

by Oct 26, 2022Blog0 comments

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Although it’s synonymous with big American muscle cars, the V8 made its way into cars of varying segments.
The V8 engine is one of the greatest inventions ever thought up. Not only is it an awesome engine for use in sports cars and big SUVs, but it is also a great design in general which has appeared in some pretty unexpected cars.
The V8 engine was first used in aircraft in the early 1900s by Frenchman Léon Levavasseur, before Rolls-Royce became the first automaker to utilize it for their V-8 luxury car. The first properly produced V8-engine car was the 1910 De Dion-Bouton before the Cadillac L-Head took over the title four years later – while also pioneering the electric starter motor. Since then, the V8 replaced the huge inline-8 engine in many automobiles and is still being produced in the same manner ever since. Some modern US V8s’ configuration dates back to the late 1800s in the positioning of its valve train – still the simplest and most reliable system for engines. After the US energy crisis, manufacturers returned to big, gas-guzzling V8s and many other countries’ automakers wanted in on the fun.
While the V8 is most famously connected to big American muscle cars, it made its way into cars of varying segments. Even if it might seem logical now, here are ten of the most unexpected cars from the last 50 years to feature V8 engines – available on the used carmarket.
The MG ZT is the sportier rebadge of the Rover 75 – a pretty great and comfortable British premium sedan. The ZT and 75 was built between the late 1990s and early 2000s in association with BMW, although unlike the BMW 3-Series it was built to compete against, the Rover and MG were front-wheel-drive.
This changed with the V8 model, which required a complete drivetrain rework to fit the new V8 engine, transmission, driveshaft, and differential going to the rear axle. The engine of choice was the 4.6-liter borrowed from the SN-95 Ford Mustang which produced 260 hp mated to a manual gearbox. While not the most exciting, it was pretty good as a compact premium sedan.
Volvo is an automaker mostly known for its absolute focus on safety and efficiency. Their cars usually feature some pretty economical 4-cylinder engines, or punchy 5-cylinders – with the odd straight-6 mixed in for good measure. It then took everyone by surprise when they unveiled a V8 option for their large S80 and XC90 models.
A V8 in a big SUV sounds pretty straightforward but fitting one transversely in the front of a medium-sized sedan was quite rare. The S80 V8 featured a 4.4-liter power plant designed by Volvo’s engineers, but built and tuned by Yamaha in Japan. The engine produced 311 hp in whichever model it was in. Noble – the small British automaker – was so impressed with the engine that they used it for their M600 supercar where it produced 650 hp thanks to slightly reworked internals and the addition of twin-turbochargers.
The Genesis G80 was the start of the Genesis luxury sub-brand of the Korean automaker, Hyundai. Initially the second-generation Hyundai Genesis, the G80 soon became a hit among the less expensive executive premium sedan segment. To compete within the class dominated by the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Audi A6, the G80 featured turbocharged 4-cylinder engines, V6s, and even a V8.
The top-spec model featured the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter Tau V8 which produced an impressive 407 hp in standard form, or 420 when specced in ‘Premium’ trim. The G80 V8 was available as either rear-drive only or all-wheel-drive for snowy and slippery conditions. Not bad for a Korean luxury vehicle.
The MGB is one of the best and easiest ways of getting into the world of classic cars. Many MGB models cost less than $10,000 and the driving experience is pretty great – when the car works. While the normal MGB featured a 1.8-liter inline-4, the fixed-roof MGB GT had the option of not only a straight-6 but even a V8.
The V8 in question was the Rover V8 – a heavily modified version of the original Buick V8. The initial MGB GT V8 displaced 3.5 liters, but this was enlarged to 3.9 liters and much improved mechanically to create a more reliable powerplant. This V8 gave the relatively light MGB GT a good turn of pace.
Related: How To Make An MGB Reliable: Electrify It!
The Ford Taurus is one of the most important cars in US history. It was not only a pretty great performance sedan with the SHO model, but it changed the rules on how cars could be designed. The first two generations of SHO featured specially designed V6 engines which made it faster and handle better than the equivalent Chevy Corvette.
The third generation went one step further and did the properly American thing and introduced a V8 engine for the model. This meant it was a V8-powered, front-drive sedan with some of the worst stylings in history. Unfortunately, Ford took away the manual transmission, leaving only a slow 4-speed auto. Still, the 3.4-liter V8 produced 235 hp thanks to a block from Cosworth and headers from Yamaha as Ford struggled to get the desired power out of their version.
While the Taurus ruled Ford’s US sedan market, the Sierra was the top dog across the pond in Ford of Britain’s territories. The Sierra Sapphire was the sedan version of the famous hatchback, but it didn’t lose any of the appeal – it simply added more practicality.
The Sierra Sapphire featured the same engines as the hatch – including the turbocharged 4-cylinder from the RS Cosworth – but it added all-wheel-drive into the mix. For the South African market, Ford South Africa wanted to take the Sierra Sapphire racing, so they homologated a V8-powered model, named the XR8. It featured the same 5.0-liter Windsor V8 as the Ford Mustang, producing a whopping 200 hp.
The original Lancia Thema was an executive sedan produced by the Italian automaker between 1984 and 1994. The Thema featured some pretty boring engines before the company introduced turbocharging and Alfa Romeo Busso V6s to spice up the range. The best version of the model was the Thema 8.32 – a V8-powered trim.
The Thema 8.32 featured the 2.9-liter V8 out of the Ferrari 308 GTB – fitted transversely – powering the front wheels. The engine was tinkered with to make it work in a sedan application, featuring a cross-plane crankshaft, smaller valves, and different firing order. The Thema 8.32 produced between 200 and 210 hp – depending on the market – and the engine was mated to a 5-speed manual transmission.
Most expect Cadillacs to feature V8 engines, but there were some models which never saw a V8 in their engine bay. With the energy crisis in descent, Cadillac needed to sell a vehicle that was on par with the European luxury cars of the time. Strange then that Cadillac engineers chose a front-drive platform.
The Allanté’s design was chosen out of a list of 1,700 other designs and needed to compete with Mercedes’ SL and Jaguar’s XJS. The model received a pretty generic 4.1-liter V8 – which grew to 4.5 liters over the years – but was replaced by the great 4.6-liter Northstar V8 in the Allanté’s final production year.
Related: Here's Why Doug Demuro Thinks The Cadillac Allante Is An Endearing Disaster
Kia is not an automaker known for its large engines. Most of the model range consists of 4-cylinders and V6s. This changed with the Borrego full-size SUV. Launched in 2008 and sold until the second-generation model was launched in 2019, the Borrego Limited featured a smaller version of the Hyundai Tau V8.
The 4.6-liter unit produced 360 hp and can tow an impressive 7,500 lbs – compared to the 3.8-liter V6’s 5,000 lbs limit. The V8 remained in production in the US but was dropped from most other markets due to the rising oil price. The Borrego was dropped completely in favor of the Sorento. The Borrego remains in production in South Korea, but with a diesel V6 as the only option.
The Ford Capri was Ford of Britain’s answer to the Ford Mustang. The Mustang was a large and lumbering sports car which was difficult to use in European cities, so the Capri was developed. Smaller and more efficient, the Capri became an instant hit.
The Capri features a series of small 4-cylinder engines, with the largest of the bunch being a 3.0-liter V6. While this was true for most of the countries it was sold in, the South African market had a trick up its sleeve. A small company named Basil Green Motors produced the Ford Capri Perana 5.0-liter Windsor V8-powered model – a homologation for racing. This made the Capri as powerful as the standard Mustang, but with a lot less weight. Not bad for a little British sports car.
Michael De Kock is passionate about cars and everything from avocados to particle accelerators. He has studied psychology and knows a little bit about fixing cars (old Land Rovers mostly). He also blogs and has a book, 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads, available on Amazon. His philosophy in life: Stop the hate – Adopt a V8.