9 Oct 2012

Big Beasts - affordable V8s

The V8 engine lies at the very heart of motoring history and legend.  A V8 can rumble, or it can howl and shriek.  It can make those with a keen ear, attuned to such things, turn - and smile.  It can make the hairs on the back of the neck prick up.

The V8 layout does things to people that no other engine configuration can.  There is something about the balance (or lack of), the noise it produces, the throbbing feel through the body and the response it produces when the accelerator is depressed.

V8s feature in some of the most exciting, and expensive, cars on the road today.  From the crackling roar of the unit in Jaguar XKR-S, via the thunderous din in the various 6.3 AMG Mercedes' all the way to the muted throb in the Range Rover.

So what affordable V8s are available to the average motorist?  In Speedmonkey tradition we've put a £10,000 limit on our choice and bring you the best V8s on the market.  We've tried to choose cars as practical as possible - but sometimes the heart overrules the head so have allowed the odd two seater sportscar.

BMW M5 - 5.0 V8

£10,000 will buy you a 2001 M5 with 400bhp, in good condition with full BMW (and BMW specialist) service history.  For the money you'll get a very sensible four door saloon with plenty of bootspace - plus one of the most magical engines ever made.  Being a BMW the V8 howl is slightly muted and controlled.  But never mind that, the M5 is one of the most respected and well reviewed cars of the past few years.  Just make sure it has been cosseted.  If something goes wrong it will be expensive.

Vauxhall Monaro - 5.7 V8

Under-appreciated and underpriced.  The Monaro is one of the great Q-cars.  A fairly bland saloon body with an enormous V8 lump under the bonnet -  and rear wheel drive.  You can get a mint 2006 Monaro for under £10,000 - and you won't regret it.  The noise is less restrained than in German cars.  The driving experience is easy and smooth at low speed, and verging on the lairy at higher speeds.  Prices have dropped so much that further falls will be at a lesser rate.

Audi S4 - 4.2 V8

Between 2003 and 2007 Audi used it's 4.2 litre V8 in the S4.  They took their standard unit (found in the RS6 and S8) and shortened it to fit into the much smaller A4 body.  For £10,000 you can buy an S4 as a cabriolet, saloon or estate.  The saloon or estate are the ones to go for as you can get a 2005 whereas the cabriolets tend to be a year older for the same money.  With 4 wheel drive and 344bhp the S4 is the very embodiment of a sensible performance car with a fantastic V8 soundtrack.

Porsche 928 - 5.0 V8

Fancy something a bit more unusual?  The 928 was Porsche's attempt at a Grand Tourer and it pretty much ticks every box.  For this money it is much more important to buy on history, condition and provenance than age.  A mint mid-eighties model is a much better buy than a less well looked after early-nineties 928.  The woofing great V8 sits under the bonnet rather than over the rear wheels so making the 928 an easier drive than the 911.  And, as with all these cars, the soundtrack is glorious.

Jaguar XK8 - 4.2 V8

Not an entirely dissimilar proposition to the Porsche 928.  The Jaguar XK8 can be had in convertible or coupe.  You can choose from a supercharged 4.2 litre V8 with 370bhp, or a naturally aspirated 4.2 litre V8 with 300bhp.  The £10,000 will get you a 2002 model in supercharged form or a 2004 without the supercharger. Make sure it has a full service history.  Make sure it has been looked after.  Then enjoy.  Jaguar make some of the best V8s in the business - and they make some of the best sounding too.

Range Rover - 4.4 V8

For this money you'll get a 2004 Range Rover Vogue with a 4.4 litre V8.  With 305bhp the Range Rover is no slouch but weighing in at 2.5 tonnes it is the heaviest drinker of our selection.  This is a massively sensible and attractive car in all categories - size, luxury, presence, speed - except running costs.  It will do about 15mpg.  The V8 in a Range Rover is a tried and tested BMW lump which Land Rover have tuned to provide easily accessible power throughout the range.  It also produces a very pleasant low frequency V8 thrum.

Mercedes CLK 55 AMG - 5.4 V8

This may be a controversial choice.  Most people would go for the C 55 AMG but the price of the C Class with the 5.4 litre AMG engine is only just starting to dip below £10,000.  Whereas the CLK has lost value quicker and there are a lot more too choose from.  Thus, the prospective buyer can afford to be more choosy.  And will need to be.  An AMG Mercedes is a brute of a car.  The engine sounds glorious - one of the best ever made, and a sonic treat for the ears - but if anything goes wrong it will cost.  AMG components, such as brakes, cost a lot more than standard Mercedes kit so, if in doubt, go for the standard 5 litre, non AMG, V8.

Maserati 3200 GT - 3.2 V8

You'll be able to pick up a 2001 3200 GT for the money.  Italian exotica does not come cheaper.  Go manual transmission, go full dealer history, go get your head checked.  If you buy one of these cars it will cause you to lose lots of money, turn all your hair grey and may lead to divorce.  It will go wrong and you will spend a fortune fixing it.  Be warned.  But, if you ignore our advice and buy one then you will be rewarded with one of the richest soundtracks to come out of Italy since the three tenors got together.

TVR Chimaera - 4.0 V8

For this money you will get a mid-nineties slice of Blackpool rock.  The Chimaera is the British equivalent of the Maserati 3200.  Impractical, fast, brutal, unreliable, gorgeous and - with it's virtually unsilenced Rover V8 - thunderous.  You have to be prepared for it to go wrong.  The dashboard will randomly stop working, the battery will go flat and you won't be able to get in it (the door handles are electronically controlled) but you won't care when you fire up the V8 because you will be captivated by it's sheer bluster.

Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor - 4.6 V8
So left field it's on a different map.  Ebay currently has a handful of these for sale (click here to see).
For this money you can get a 2004 New York Police Interceptor.  They have 210bhp and are UK registered, taxed and MOT'd.  The interior looks dreadful, the seats about as supportive as a tax inspector and the engine has hardly any power for it's vast size - but it's an American cop car!