America’s 2019 V8 Performance Cars

Lately, it seems a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is lurking beneath the engine cover of practically every car on the road. Now we’ll be the first to admit there is much to be said for delivering performance and efficiency in the same package. To that end, some of these blown fours are capable of producing upwards of 300 horsepower. This was the stuff of science fiction 20 years ago.

However, when it comes to American muscle, tradition demands the presence of a ground-shaking V8 feeding power to the rear wheels. The good news is many of the efficiencies making it possible to extract 300 horsepower from those 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines has many of America’s 2019 V8 performance cars making more power than ever before.

Cadillac CT6-V

You're about to be out of luck if you’re craving an old-school full-size Cadillac sedan with a big V8 engine and rear-wheel drive. General Motors has announced the demise of the CT6 and hasn’t really said it plans to replace the car. Some feel if Cadillac wants to be taken seriously in the luxury class against rivals from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai it’s probably going to have to field a V8-powered rear drive full-size sedan. However, given the nature of today’s marketplace, that might not really be a necessity anymore. After all, Lincoln is getting by with twin-turbocharged V6 in the Continental.  

Whichever way it goes, if this is destined to be the last rear-drive V8-powered Cadillac sedan, its engine is a technological marvel. The powerplant uses a pair of turbochargers to get 550-horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque out of 4.2-liters. What's more, they are hand assembled (and signed) by one of six engine builders at the Bowling Green, Kentucky factory.  A ten-speed automatic transmission routes the output of what has been dubbed Cadillac’s Blackwing V8 to the CT6-V’s rear wheels.  That’s the good news. The bad news is the car is sold out and GM has announced the CT6 will be discontinued at the end of the 2019 model year. In other words, you can't get one—unless your order is already in.

Pricing started at $89,785

Cadillac CTS-V

When the Cadillac CTS debuted back in 2002, the model heralded something of a new philosophy at Cadillac. Tired of being an also-ran in the marketplace behind Europe's compact sport sedans, General Motors set out to prove it could build a car capable of matching the dynamics of the imports step for step. By all accounts, the General succeeded with the CTS. The car was handsome, handled well, had a respectable selection of engines and comported itself admirably in the marketplace.  

Two years later, Cadillac engineers transplanted a 5.7-liter Corvette engine into the CTS to create the first CTS-V.  The 400-horsepower engine made 395 lb-ft of torque and transformed the CTS into a genuine high performance sport sedan. The 2019 Cadillac CTS-V uses a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 good for 640 horsepower and 630 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission feeds thrust to the Cadillac’s rear wheels.

Chevrolet Camaro

The GM pony car entry has matured considerably over the years.  Where it used to be a straight-line wonder but a handful in the corners, Camaro now possesses a degree of road holding commensurate to its prodigious acceleration potential. In other words, today’s Camaro is more well rounded than at any other time in its history. In fact, the car’s agility almost qualifies it for true sports car status. A styling update for the 2019 model year also brings a sinister glare to its countenance when it fills the rear view mirrors of slower cars.  

The most potent versions of the Camaro feature a 6.2-liter V8. As configured for SS models, the engine produces 455 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque. This is routed to the rear wheels through your choice of a ten-speed automatic or a six-speed manual with rev matching capabilities. Meanwhile, Camaro ZL1 gets a supercharged version of the powerplant good for 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. Rear drive and the same transmission options complete the powertrain.

Pricing starts at $37,495 for Camaro SS and $64,195 for ZL1.

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Chevrolet Corvette

America’s only true two-seat sports car offering for the 2019 model year, the Chevrolet Corvette boasts a heritage stretching all the way back to 1953. Interestingly, the very first Corvette did not offer a V8 engine. Instead, in imitation of the European sports cars of the day, the first Corvette used an inline six. A V8 option was offered in 1955 and Chevrolet has not looked back since.

Now in its seventh generation, Corvette uses a 6.2-liter V8 ranging in output from a normally aspirated 455 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque to a supercharged 755 horsepower and 715 lb-ft of torque. Buyers can choose between a seven-speed manual transmission with rev-matching capability and a ten-speed automatic to feed power to the rear wheels.  In between these two extremes are a 460-horsepower normally aspirated version of the 6.2 and a 650-horsepower supercharged iteration. When it comes to performance acquired for dollars spent, the Chevrolet Corvette is easily the best value proposition available.

Starting prices range from $55,900 to $123,000.

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Chrysler 300

If you want to get a full-size rear-drive American luxury sedan with a high-performance V8 engine, you have but two choices. In other words, the 2019 Chrysler 300 is one of the two last big American high-performance V8 luxury cars available. Its crosstown rivals at Ford and GM switched to front-wheel drive and turbocharged V6s for most of their full-size models a while back. This leaves Chrysler sharing the rear-drive high performance full-size luxury sedan crown with the lame duck Cadillac CT6-V—which is already sold out and won’t be repeated next year.

On the other hand, Chrysler abdicated the extreme performance throne in this category when it killed the fire breathing 470-horsepower 300SRT back in 2015. These days, the most potent iteration of the 300 comes with a 363-horsepower version of the company’s 5.7-liter V8, which is good for 394 lb-ft of torque. This engine can be had in either the sporting-oriented 300S or the more luxurious 300C.  An eight-speed automatic transmission feeds the rear wheels in either case.

Prices start at $34,640 for the 300s and $41,695 for the 300C.

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Dodge Challenger

Just when you thought the horsepower wars had escalated to terminal ferocity, Dodge pulls 90 more horsepower out of its base Hellcat V8 to remain the most powerful American production V8 engine offered by a mainstream manufacturer. This keeps Challenger out in front of the pack in the contemporary pony car one-upsmanship stakes. This however, is about the only real advantage the Challenger has over its Camaro and Mustang rivals, both of whom offer convertible options as well as more modern platforms.

Still, the Dodge can boast far superior firepower with V8 engines ranging from a normally aspirated 5.7-liter producing 372 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, to the aforementioned supercharged 6.2-liter with 797 horsepower and 707 lb-ft of torque. By the way, this 797-horsepower engine is actually a detuned version of the 840-horsepower mill offered in 2018’s Challenger Demon. Residing between these bookends are a 375-horsepower version of the 5.7, a 485-horsepower normally aspirated 6.4-liter and a 717-horsepower version of the supercharged 6.2. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual and an eight-speed automatic for all except the 797-horsepower engine, which is only available with the eight-speed automatic.

Starting prices range from $33,995 to $84,995.

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Dodge Charger

Who says you can’t have high performance and a family car too? Boasting outstanding legroom as well as easy ingress and egress, the 2019 Dodge Charger is one of the most practical high performance sedans you can buy. It’s also the least expensive domestic way to combine V8 engines with four doors.

What’s more, those V8 engines are quite formidable, ranging from a normally aspirated 5.7-liter producing 370 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque to a supercharged 6.2-liter cranking out 707-horsepower and 650 lb-ft. In between, there is a normally aspirated 6.4-liter generating 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission feeds power to the rear wheels with each. Even better, these engines are mated to outstanding agility for a sedan; comfortable ride quality and a remarkable array of comfort and convenience features

Starting prices range from $38,995 to $67,995.

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Ford Mustang

Easily the most sophisticated of the American pony car offerings, contemporary iterations of the Ford Mustang have been compared favorably to the European grand touring coupes from Aston Martin. Yes, the Mustang’s materials choices and chic factor don’t exactly measure up, but the Ford is arguably just as handsome and easily just as capable performance-wise. One look at the 2019 Mustang Bullitt confirms the veracity of the former, while the Ford coupe’s V8 engine offerings back up the latter.

The Mustang GT gets a normally aspirated 5.0-liter capable of delivering 460-horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. This engine boasts a 7,400-RPM redline, which is practically unheard of in anything costing under $100,000. Most V8s in the Mustang’s price range rev to six grand. Meanwhile, the 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt gets 480-horsepower from the same engine. Transmission choices are a six-speed manual with rev matching and a ten-speed automatic. But wait, it gets even better; the 526-horsepower 5.2-liter Mustang Shelby GT350’s V8 winds to a stratospheric 8,250-RPM. That’s playing in Ferrari territory—for a fraction of the cost.  

Pricing starts at $35,355 for Mustang GT, $46,595 for Bullitt and $59,140 for the Shelby,

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