It you had to judge an engine configuration of the breadth of its aural abilities, you would have to put the V8 at the top of the leader board. Yes, there are some truly exceptional engines out there, but the V8 can offer both a grunty, deep, filling-extracting roar and a high-pitched, ear-drum-puncturing scream. So which V8s are the best?
The nine best sounding V8s of all time
This is utter filth. Really, it is. So filthy, in fact, that the C7.R should have had some kind of mature content sticker in its day, something to warn spectators of the dirty, dirty noises that were soon to fill the air.
Competing for the first time in 2014, the C7.R was based on the Corvette C7, the seventh and final front-engined Corvette, and used broadly the same 5.5-litre naturally-aspirated V8 engine as its predecessor the C6.R. It won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2015 (and nearly in 2017, succumbing to a last-last lap puncture after a battle with an Aston Martin), and over the course of five years it took 17 victories, including wins in the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Daytona.
With a new flat-plane crank, mid-mounted V8 engine in the C8.R, that booming V8 Corvette thunder will never be heard again. Still, what a sound.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage
The new Aston Martin Vantage is good at many things, but when it comes to noise its predecessor has it licked. The V8 Vantage, launched in 2005, used a 4.3-litre version of the 4.2-litre V8 from the Jaguar XK. The XK was a fairly gentle soul, its V8 quite happy to pipe up from time to time but, overall, still relatively quiet. The V8 in the V8 Vantage, however, was an ear-bashing hooligan.
With 385PS (380bhp) the V8 Vantage was quick and exciting, but not so quick that its V8 tune couldn’t be enjoyed at sensible speeds. Even when the bore and stroke was increased in 2008, taking it from a 4.3- to a 4.7-litre and hiking up the power and torque figures, the beautiful sound remained unchanged. Sure, the exhaust certainly relaxed the V8’s vocal chords, but it was a good, real V8 soundtrack, with none of the fake pops and bangs that have become all too familiar nowadays. And if you thought it was a loud engine in the road car, the V8 Vantage racer, the car that won the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2017 and the LMGTE Am class in 2014, was on another level still.
When we lost the Maserati GranTurismo at the end of 2019 we lost something very, very special: its V8 engine, the F136.
Developed by both Ferrari and Maserati, the F136 first appeared in the Maserati Coupe in 2001, and tickled the ears of car enthusiasts everywhere as a 4.2- and later a 4.7-litre until the GranTurismo finally kicked the bucket. As beautiful as the GranTurismo sounded, it is in the Quattroporte that we think it was at its best. It didn’t actually sound any different, to be fair, but you expect a decent engine in a sportscar. In a big, luxury saloon though? Not so much. What made the Quattroporte so special was that it could sing a tune that no other executive saloon could match and likely never will again.
Well we couldn’t not have a Cam-Am V8 in here somewhere could we? If you’ve been to Goodwood at any point in the last couple of decades you will have, at some point, experienced the deep, guttural V8 roar of a piece of Can-Am machinery. There are many fine machines to choose from – Hamills, Lotuses, Lolas – and many fine V8s, but the McLaren M8F tops the lot.
Built for American competition the M8F was a development of the M8A and subsequent M8s. It had 900PS (888bhp) from a gut-kicking 8.8-litre V8, which meant that each cylinder would be bigger than the entire engine of an EcoBoost Ford Fiesta. Imagine that, eight engines worth of capacity sitting just a few inches behind your head. They sound preposterous and, as you’ll see from any video, they deliver an almighty punch.
There’s been a Ferrari V8 on the list already, yes. But it was in a Maserati, so this still counts, right?
Ferrari’s mid-engined V8 machines have come on a very long way since the F355 back in 1994, but it’s the F355’s 3.5-litre V8, the ‘Tipo F129B’ and ‘Tipo F129C’, that we’re settling on. Unlike its predecessor, the 348, the F355 had a 3.5-litre engine rather than a 3.4-litre but, crucially, had five-valves per cylinder. The result was 380PS at 8,250rpm and a sound that’s still special to this day, even without a more modern, freer-flowing exhaust. With an exhaust? Well, F355s border on the ‘I think that’s a Formula 1 car’ kind of sound quality.
Mercedes C63 AMG
Ah yes, the 6.3-litre AMG V8, a masterpiece of German engineering. Except, well, it was actually a 6.2-litre, even though Mercedes used to put ‘6.3’ badges on some of its cars… But we’ll gloss over that.
The 6.2-litre ‘M156’ engine was an absolute hoot, the last hurrah for the naturally aspirated V8 as big AMG models since have used the M157, a twin-turbo 4.0-litre unit. The M156 was splashed liberally over the Mercedes-AMG line-up, but found its happy place in the C63 AMG from 2008 to 2015.
Underneath the bonnet of this fairly small, regular looking Mercedes saloon sat an engine almost 50 per cent larger than that of both the E92 BMW M3 and the B7 Audi RS4. Talk about overkill. The C63 was launched with 457PS (450bhp) but over its lifetime that figure jumped to 487PS (480bhp) and then 507PS (500bhp) with the curtain-call ‘Edition 507’.
Modern AMGs sound good, but the old NA V8 was a real gem, with a healthy dollop of induction noise on the inside of the car and a throaty bark on the outside.
Yes, the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 from the Jaguar F-Type can sound a little over enthusiastic when the exhaust really starts to pop and bang, but the very fact that Jaguar still makes this engine and this car should be celebrated.
Known at the AJ8, this wonderful lump of noise has been around in one form or another since 1997, with capacities ranging from 3.5- to 5.0-litres (it’s this engine that loosely relates the aforementioned Aston Martin V8 Vantage to the current F-Type, despite the age difference). In the F-Type it is supercharged, but you’d be hard pressed to notice when that mad-cap V8 really lets rip.
With emission regulations becoming ever more strict you’d have to say this engine’s choir days are numbered, but we’re incredibly privileged to have had front-row seats to its concerts for quite so long.
The old Ford GT40 competed with several different V8 engines over the years, and frankly any one of those engines could sit here quite happily, but it’s the 7.0-litre ‘FE’ that makes the cut.
First used and raced in the Shelby Cobra in 1965, it was punted over to the GT40 and became the engine that powered Ford to its first Le Mans win in 1966. It has powered numerous NASCAR and drag racing victories, too, and was even used in twin configuration by the US Navy SEALS to power some of the smaller, speedier boats…
Modern V8s are all well and good, but there’s something so pure, so raw and physical about the sound that’s emitted from a big ol’ American lump like the FE.
Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale
The smallest V8 on this list and by quite some margin, the 2.0-litre, flat-plane crank, dry-sump V8 from the 33 Stradale is something special. Very, very special.
A naturally aspirated wonder, the dinky V8 produced around 230PS (227bhp), so not an awful lot in the grand scheme of things. Then again, the 33 Stradale, launched in 1967, weighed just 700kg thanks to its aluminium body, meaning a power to weight ratio of 328PS per tonne. The saloon lunatic that is the modern Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio has a power to weight ratio of 324PS per tonne… In short, the 33 Stradale’s little V8 was punching high, and if you’re lucky enough to see or hear one today you’ll probably lose control of your knees.
Which of these V8s sounds the best?
Join our motorsport community
Get closer to motorsport at Goodwood! Join the GRRC Fellowship to be first in the queue for event tickets, to attend the GRRC-only Members' Meeting and to enjoy year-round, exclusive benefits.
Sign up for Motorsport news
Stay in the know with our newsletters that contain all the latest news, stories and event information.