When you think of a V8 engine, any V8 engine, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll immediately think of an American V8 engine. You can find V8 engines in American cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers, supercars, and more. Plain and simple, they’re everywhere. That being said, you could make a strong argument that America doesn’t produce the best V8 engines.
In a recent video, we took a deep dive into some of the most popular and best Japanese V8 engines ever, but the German car fans out there felt left out. So, it’s we take to flip the script on its head and look at the best V8 engines to ever come out of Germany. We’ll look at BMW engines, Porsche engines, Mercedes engines, Audi engines, and more. Let’s get into it.
#1 BMW S65
Starting the list off, we’re going to take a look at my personal favorite German V8, which is the BMW S65 that you can find in the E90 generation M3. Keep in mind, this list is in no particular order, so although this engine is first, that doesn’t mean it’s the best of the bunch.
Interestingly enough, the S65 isn’t actually based on a regular BMW production engine, rather it’s derived from the S85 V10 engine used in the M5, but simply shrunken down to a V8. This is way different from previous M3 engines which were all based on existing BMW engines and then modified for the M3.
The S65 shares the same cylinder dimensions as the S85 V10 engine at a 92mm bore and 75.2mm stroke, as well as individual throttle bodies, double VANOS, and an insanely high 12:1 compression ratio. Power output is rated at 414hp and 295lb-ft of torque, which is very impressive for a 4.0L naturally aspirated V8 engine. For reference, that’s over 100hp per liter, something that Ford was just barely able to do with their 5.2L flatplane crank VooDoo engine.
The main version of the S65 is the S65B40, which is a 4.0L engine, but BMW also had the S65B44 for some special edition models and that engine was a more powerful 4.4L. Naturally, there are some downsides to the S65, most notably the connecting rod bearings which are well known for prematurely wearing out and potentially causing catastrophic engine failure.
Regardless though, the S65 is a pretty impressive little engine with an awesome exhaust note.
#2 Mercedes M156
As many of you already know, AMG started as an independent business that focused heavily on modifying existing Mercedes vehicles, but in 1999, Mercedes became the majority shareholder of the tuning company and by 2005, they were completely owned by Mercedes as a subsidiary company.
It was during this time that they began work on their first ever flagship powerplant for their AMG cars, codenamed the M156. Interestingly enough, this is a 6.2L engine, however, Mercedes has always called a 6.3L to honor their first mass-produced V8 engine, the M100.
At the core of the M156, we have a very strong aluminum block that featured a closed deck design derived from racing engines, a technique previously used on the SLR McLaren’s M155 engine. Bore measures 102.2mm and stroke at 94.6mm and stroke of 102.2, and more impressively, this was the first mass-produced engine to use a wire-arc spray coating, known as Nanoslide on the cylinder walls. This was done to improve durability and reduce by as much as 50% at 230 degrees compared to cast-iron cylinder liners, at least according to Mercedes.
At its lowest, the M156 produced 451 hp in the 2008 C63 and the highest-rated output of 518hp came from the later S63, E63, SL63, CLS63, and CL63 models.
#3 Audi 4.2L V8 FSI
An engine that may be slightly controversial to put on this list is the Audio 4.2L FSI V8 engine, which is the engine you can find in the first generation R8. This engine was based on the existing Audi 40 valve V8, but Audi and Volkswagen had a massive amount of components between the two, including the entire rotating assembly, the cylinders, the valvetrain, the oiling, and cooling systems, and much more.
Because this engine was used in a variety of applications ranging from SUVs to Sedans to literal supercars, Audi developed two versions of it, which are simply known as the “comfort” version and the “sports-focused” version. And more impressively, this was their first ever road-going eight-cylinder engine to feature Fuel Stratified Injection, or FSI, which was successfully developed by Audi in their Le Mans-winning R8 racing car.
And more importantly than anything with this engine, is that it was the basis of the 5.2L V10 FSI engine which you can still find being used today in the second generation R8 and the Lamborghini Huracan.
#4 BMW S63
Next up we have another BMW V8 engine. It was tough to pick this one, as both the S62 and S63 V8 engines are great in their own right, but for this video, we’ll be looking at the S63 simply because it’s way more powerful than the S62 and in my mind that makes it more worthy of being on this list.
Because of that name, you might think the S63 is an evolution of the S62, but that’s not exactly the case. The S63 engine as a whole features a few variants, but they’re all based on the N63, which also uses twin turbos and can be found in a bunch of different BMW applications.
The big difference between this new 4.4L V8 and BMW’s previous 4.4L V8 engines is the fact that this one uses a reverse flow, meaning it has a hot V, which simply means the exhaust manifolds are in the V of the engine, rather than the intake being in the V of the engine.
As compared to the N63, the biggest difference with the S63 is the addition of twin-scroll turbochargers which offer improved performance as compared to the standard single-scroll turbos.
Overall though, the S63 is a beast of an engine. It uses an 89mm bore with an 88.3mm stroke, bringing total displacement to 4.4L. The heads are aluminum as is the block to help reduce weight and improve thermal efficiency even more. Total power output ranges between 553hp and 591hp depending on the specific model and year of M5 you’re looking at.
#5 Porsche 918 Engine
This next engine is something I wanted to feature on this list simply for the fact that it has an insane power per liter for a naturally aspirated road-going engine, and then it’s made even crazier with a powerful hybrid drivetrain, and that’s the Porsche MR6 4.6L V8 found in the Porsche 918 and Porsche RS Spyder race car.
On the surface, this doesn’t seem like anything too crazy. It’s a 3.4L V8 with dual-overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. The MR6 engine dates all the way back to the 2005 RS Spyder which was competing in Le Man’s racing, but it wasn’t until 2013 that we saw the little racing engine modified for use in Porsche’s 918 Hypercar.
The important distinction between the MR6 engine in the RS Spyder and the version found in the 918 is a massive change in displacement from 3.4L in the RS Spyder to 4.6L in the 918. With that larger displacement, this 4.6L engine produces 599hp at 8700RPM naturally aspirated, and even more impressively, the engine only weighs 298lbs as per Porsche.
That kind of power per liter puts this engine into borderline unheard-of territory for a naturally aspirated road-going engine that hasn’t been modified by aftermarket parts or tuned with extremely high-octane fuels.
And because it was destined for the 918, this engine is paired with two electric motors adding an additional 282 horsepower, totaling 875hp and 944lb-ft of torque, all without any forced induction and with only 4.6L of displacement. I know this engine is generally kind of looked over for the simple fact that it’s in a hypercar that 99.99% of us will never be able to buy, but that is some flat-out impressive engineering and power output.
Some honorable mentions I’d like to throw out include the BMW S62, Mercedes M159, BMW OHV V8, Mercedes M155, Porsche M28, and the Opel Omega V8 which is ironically an American powerplant.