Classic Car Engine Comparison: V6 vs. V8

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Published: 06th March 2012
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What Is The Difference Between a V6 & V8 Engine?

The shortest and simplest answer is: two pistons. The difference they make is debatable. A V-6 is a six-cylinder engine, and a V-8 is an eight-cylinder engine. A V-6 engine has 3 cylinders on each side, and both sides are angled away from the center of the engine, forming a "V" shape. V-8 engines are the same shape, but offer 4 cylinders on each side. Something to note is that the V-6 and V-8 are installed differently. V-6 engines are attached so that the cylinders are perpendicular to the car’s fenders. IE If you “pop the hood” up and are facing the car’s engine, the cylinders are on the right and left of it. In contrast, V-8 engines are much larger, so they are put in sideways. IE If you’re facing the engine, the cylinders are at the top and bottom of it, running parallel to the fenders.

V8 car engines have more Horse Power, which means better acceleration.
OK...So a V8 engine will give you more power...but at what price?
A V8 engine has 8 cylinders = lots of power, but lousy gas mileage.
A V6 engine has 6 cylinders = not as much power, but better gas mileage.
A V4 engine has 4 cylinders = even less power, but MUCH better mileage.

Although cars with V8 engines *usually* have the worst gas mileage, some SUV cars with V8s “break the mold” and get *better* gas mileage. In many cases, a full size SUV is actually underpowered when fitted with only a V6 engine. This makes it have to work harder, resulting in worse gas mileage. In this case, an SUV with a V8 engine, when driven exactly the same as that exact SUV with a V6, should get better gas mileage. It will also have extra Horse Power, for better acceleration, if you need it.
Some V8's have better torque. Yet, many V6's can be tuned to have better torque at low range. (This is what you need to get out of snow and mud and go up hills.)

Most V8 engines marketed over the last 10 years are “overhead valve, push rod” engines, and were built in the USA. Many of the V6 engines built during this period are a mix of “push rod” and “overhead cam” engines built in many different countries throughout the world. The quality varies by origin: some are very good and some very poor. For example, the small block, Chevrolet engine has evolved into a very dependable one, with good performance, and durability with fuel injection. It features some of the most reasonably priced parts of any engine in the world. Most American built V8 engines are a good value for exactly this reason. Foreign built engines tend to cost twice as much as American engines. A case in point in that a V6 engine (non overhead cam) is nearly as expensive to build as a V8 engine. An overhead cam V6 engine is much more expensive because most of them are built in Japan and Europe by various manufacturers. One exception is the 3800 Buick built V6 engine, which was originally designed in 1961 and may have been used in more cars then all other V6 engines combined. This V6 is relatively cheap to rebuild and usually goes well over 100,000 miles before it needs major repairs.

Two pistons difference...and the debate rages on in Internet forums Internationally. There is no “right” answer, but that never stops us from passionately picking sides. Be it cars (V8’s have more Horse Power! V6’s have better gas mileage!), guitars (Fender rules! Gibson rocks!) or even beer (Tastes great! Less Filling!), who’s right or wrong is never clear.

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