Do I Need a V8? Or Is a V6 Good Enough?

A 2023 Corvette Z06 Coupe is parked on a tarmac. It is orange. We see it from a front quarter angle, facing slightly to our right.

Quick Facts to Know About V8 vs. V6

Which is better, a V6 or a V8? This question may seem outdated to some in this age of turbocharging, hybrids, and electric vehicles. However, it’s still relevant, particularly when shopping for a truck or SUV. Moreover, with gas costs fluctuating, fuel economy remains on our minds. Ultimately, we can’t tell you which is better because it boils down to your specific needs. What you want to accomplish with your vehicle should determine whether a V8 or V6 suits you.

We aim to arm you with enough knowledge to make a choice that best suits your needs. Since this isn’t a general discussion of powertrains, we will concentrate on the V8 and V6, leaving out 4-cylinder engines and electric powertrains. We will ignore V10s and V12s, as well.

Engine Anatomy: What Is the ‘V’?

The basic function of an internal combustion engine (ICE) depends upon the motion of pistons to rotate a crankshaft, which in turn powers the wheels via a gearbox. Pistons can be of various sizes, but each accomplishes its task within the confines of a cylinder. In simple terms, the more pistons, the greater the power potential. Consequently, when we refer to the number of cylinders in an engine, it’s really about the number of pistons.

Engine designers can arrange the cylinders in a straight line (inline) or divide them into two parallel rows with an equal number of cylinders. When divided into two rows, the cylinders must be angled inward at their base to attach the pistons to the crankshaft running along the bottom center of the engine. In other words, the parallel rows of cylinders form a “V” shape.

Although you could find inline-8 engines in a few models 60 or 70 years ago, today, the inline arrangement is confined to engines with six or fewer cylinders. Those with eight or more cylinders and most with six cylinders are in the V configuration.

The advantages and disadvantages of inline versus V are for another time.

What Is a V8 Engine?

Two rows of four cylinders each comprise a V8 engine. Generally, V8 engines are larger, heavier, more fuel-thirsty, and more powerful than V6 engines.

Why You Need a V8

The reasons for choosing a V8 differ depending on whether it is a car instead of a truck or SUV. It also may depend on if you plan to tow with the vehicle, or not.


At least for now, a V8 is the choice for most drivers looking for high-performance or horsepower and torque from a car. Whether a coupe, sedan, exotic, or sports car, the V8 often remains the go-to engine. Carmakers offering V8s typically reserve them for their top-end models.

Well-suited for performance cars, V8s offer a higher power ceiling and deliver that power in a smooth, linear progression. Moreover, they emit a fierce growl that engines with fewer cylinders simply can’t duplicate.

Cars offering a V8 are a rapidly shrinking slice of the automotive pie. Muscle cars and high-performance sports cars are some of the last V8-equipped cars.

Check out these examples of high-performance V8 cars:

Trucks and SUVs

Whereas the V8 vs. V6 debate for cars primarily revolves around performance, it’s more about cargo-carrying capacity and maximum towing limits in trucks and SUVs.

In general terms, V8s bring a higher capacity for power (power ceiling). A V8 is more capable if you need your truck to pull or haul heavy loads often and for extended periods. Those additional two cylinders sharing the workload means the stress of pulling a heavy load over long periods gets lessened for all the cylinders.

Although V6 engines are gaining ground, V8s still rule among full-size trucks and SUVs. This is particularly true when used for work and towing.

Check out these examples of trucks and SUVs offering V8 engines:

What Is a V6 Engine?

Unlike an inline-6-cylinder engine with all six cylinders in a single row, a V6 offers two rows of cylinders, three to a row. Generally, a V6 is lighter, more fuel-efficient, less pricey, and provides better handling than a V8.

Why You Need a V6

The V6 doesn’t have the cachet of the V8. However, regarding practicality and efficiency, the V6 wins the day. Today’s V6s, especially with turbocharging, are not just a sensible V8 alternative but can rival V8s in performance and work ethic.

Consequently, the issue is less about why you need a V6 and more about why you would buy a V8. In most applications, a V6 can deliver equal performance at a lower cost — both in terms of the purchase price and fuel costs.


For many models, a V6 supplies the thrust for the top-end trim level. The V8 has all but disappeared from the engine arsenal of cars for most mainstream brands, leaving the V8 to reign supreme for muscle cars and some luxury models.

Moreover, some form of a V6 even supplies the go for a growing number of performance cars.

Check out these cars with a V6 at the top of their engine food chain:

Trucks and SUVs

Often, there is little output difference between a V6 and a V8. For example, the Ford F-150’s 5.0-liter V8 produces 400 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. Its 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 generates 400 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque.

As for towing, the V6 outshines the V8 in the above example. The V6 can tug up to 14,000 pounds, while the V8’s maximum towing capacity is 13,000 pounds. However, due to the V8’s greater size and weight, we’re back to that sustained power advantage V8s generally offer over V6s.

So, unless your truck or SUV is going to be a real workhorse, you’ll probably appreciate the lower operating and repair costs of a V6. You will also almost always pay less at purchase for a V6. Check out the examples below of trucks and SUVs with a V6 engine.

What Is the Difference Between V8 and V6 Engines?

The primary difference is the number of cylinders: a V6 has six and a V8 has eight. Because of this, a V6 is lighter and burns less fuel than a V8. However, most V8s can haul and tow more than most V6s.

In summarizing the differences, we generally find that V8s, in relation to V6s, cost a little more at purchase, burn more fuel, weigh more, and usually can tow and haul more, enduring less stress.

By comparison, V6s cost less at purchase, burn less fuel, and weigh less. For example, the 2025 Audi Q7 55 comes with a 335-hp V6, gets 18/23/20 mpg city/highway combined, weighs 5,049 pounds, and starts at $66,995. The 2025 Audi SQ7 has a 500-hp V8, gets 15/21/17 mpg city/highway/combined, weighs 5,291 pounds, and starts at $92,590.

Do You Really Need a V8, or Can You Buy a V6?

The vital half of the above question is, do you really need a V8? Usually, you would look for a V8 if you were buying a muscle car or some other high-performance vehicle. Otherwise, eight out of 10 times, the answer is no, you don’t need a V8. With all the engine technology developments, including advances in turbocharging, a V6 will usually fulfill your needs. Many performance cars, like the Kia Stinger and Nissan GT-R, get their thrust from a V6. However, a V8 is the engine of choice for truck and SUV buyers intending to tow or haul heavy loads, including a camper. That’s where the V8 brings a slight edge. However, for most truck and SUV applications, a V6 will more than get the job done.

With ever-tightening government mileage mandates, the V8’s days are likely numbered. This seems counterintuitive as the market relentlessly marches toward trucks and SUVs. Even in these segments, though, the V6 has made huge inroads.

Nope, unless you’re shopping for a high-performance vehicle or a towing and hauling workhorse, you can find a V6-powered car, truck, or SUV that will do everything you need.

RELATED: 4-Cylinder Engines Today Are as Powerful as V8s Were in 2001

Editor’s Note: Even though the decision between a V6 and a V8 is rational, sometimes we make vehicle decisions for other reasons. For instance, I’m a big fan of the Toyota 4Runner. I’ve owned three over the years (a second-generation 1993 Limited, a third-generation 1997 SR5, and a fourth-generation 2005 Limited), and my favorite by far was the 2005 — because it had a V8. I loved the way it sounded and the way it doled out its power. After I sold my 2005 (big mistake), I considered buying a fifth-generation 4Runner, but I couldn’t pull the trigger — because Toyota discontinued the V8 in the 4Runner beginning in 2008. Even though the 2008 V6 outperformed the 2005 V8, I’m out there hunting for a fourth-gen 4Runner. Rational? Not really. — Senior Editor Jason Fogelson.

Which Is Better: A V8 or V6?

Picking between a V8 and a V6 depends on how you use the vehicle and what you want it to do. Usually, V8s are the go-to engine for hauling or towing heavy loads. A V8 is more of a want than a need for just about any other application. The highest-performance muscle-car models like the Dodge Charger Hellcat and Chevrolet Camaro SS rely on V8 engines. However, because V6 engines are lighter and more fuel-efficient, they are often the better choice for most drivers.

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