Years into the future, looking back on the current state of high-performance motoring in this country, it will be clear that the best V-8 sports cars on sale today are some of the best of all time. Performance levels are higher than ever, and despite these vehicles’ unabashed focus on going fast, they also evince a premium feel worthy of the latest luxury entries. And remember, it takes more than merely providing a potent V-8 powerplant to make it on this list. The roster here further showcases the traditional two-door body styles and dramatic, aero-friendly exterior design language that one associates with sports cars.
Note: for the sake of V-8 variety, each auto brand was limited to one entry.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06
The ultimate expression of the seventh-generation supercar, the 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06—particularly when upgraded with the Z07 performance package—is literally the most capable Corvette ever sold to the public. Needless to say, it’s also one of the best V-8 sports cars now available from any automaker, thanks to a supercharged 6.2-liter engine that can unleash 650 hp and 650 lb.-ft. of torque. Backed by that blown motor and an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Corvette carves its way through the 0-60 sprint in fewer than 3 seconds (and in 3.2 seconds with a standard seven-speed manual). Also of note: Chevy will offer 500 units of the Z06 in a special “C7.R” trim that honors Corvette Racing—recent class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Ferrari 488 GTB
The Prancing Horse is well known for providing mid-engined supercars, but the new 2015 Ferrari 488 GTB presents a new pinnacle of performance for the segment—and represents one of the best V-8 sports cars in the world. More to the point, the 488 GTB’s 3.9-liter turbocharged engine will serve up in excess of 660 hp and 560 lb.-ft. of torque, enough for drivers to go from 0 to 62 mph in 3 seconds, arrive at 124 mph in just 8.3 seconds and reach 204 mph at full gallop. The 488 GTB is a slippery beast, too. In fact, the new car further sets a fresh production benchmark for Ferrari aerodynamic efficiency, a measure of how effectively a vehicle balances downforce and drag.
Aston Martin V-8 Vantage S
Perhaps better associated with Bond (James Bond), Aston Martin actually has a successful, ongoing motorsports tradition that underpins one of the best V-8-powered sports cars for luxury owners: the 2015 Aston Martin V8 Vantage S that is a direct descendant of the brand’s Le Mans entries, which captured two GT-class pole positions in this year’s grueling endurance race. The “S” model ups the performance ante for the street—albeit not to the level of the V-12 Vantage—and extricates 430 hp and 361 lb.-ft. of torque from its 4.7-liter engine. In the mid-engined Vantage, with its Sportshift II seven-speed automated manual transmission, that translates into a top speed of 190 mph and a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds.
Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R
When does a modern-day muscle car quality as one of today’s top V-8 sports cars? When it’s a light-weighted, track-focused edition like the 2015 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R. Created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a Mustang racing icon, the GT350R puts its own unique spin on the V-8 powertrain with the first flat-plane crankshaft ever used by Ford in a production vehicle. The construction allows for improved engine breathing in the 5.2-liter unit, also ensuring it’s the most powerful naturally aspirated Ford production engine ever, with more than 500 hp and 400 lb.-ft. of torque. As another Ford first for this manic Mustang, the car’s lowered curb weight even leverages standard carbon-fiber wheels.
Sure, the crazy-fast 2015 Koenigsegg Regera reigns as one of the most powerful V-8 sports cars, but with this Swedish exotic, that 5.0-liter engine is ably assisted by a direct-drive transmission and three electric motors—including one at each rear wheel—to deliver incredible outputs that exceed 1,500 hp and 1,475 lb.-ft. of torque. As a result, drivers with 20 seconds to spare—and a closed course of their own—can run the Regera up to a terminal velocity of 248 mph, yet also see an all-electric, fuel-saving driving range of more than 30 miles. However, production is limited to 80 units, according to the Koenigsegg camp, since 80 “symbolizes the principle of domination, control and achievement in Pythagorean numerology.”
Jaguar F-Type R
The 2016 Jaguar F-Type R furnishes something that’s relatively rare among the fastest V-8 sports cars and just might come as a bit of a surprise to old-school Big Cat fanciers: quickly improving quality marks. In the latest J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, for example, both Jaguar as a whole and the F-Type specifically earned third-place honors, the former for overall initial quality and the latter in its segment. The 2016 F-Type R then adds a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 into the mix, with that engine capable of cooking up 550 hp and 502 lb.-ft. of torque. Additionally configured with standard all-wheel drive and a sport suspension with active dynamics, the F-Type R can purr through 0-60 sprints in 3.9 seconds.
Bargain hunters for the best V-8 sports cars have an unlikely ally in McLaren. After all, while the British performance brand remains committed to supplying the world with breath-taking supercars, it also has made a noticeable effort at making its products more affordable. Of course, in the case of the 2015 McLaren 540C, we’re still talking about an entry point of $165K, although that does cover a 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 engine that can make 533 hp and 398 lb.-ft. of torque. Said setup also makes quick work of the typical performance tests, accelerating from a dead stop to a mile a minute in a mere 3.4 seconds and freeing the 540C to achieve a top speed of 199 mph.
If your only exposure to the words “Gran Turismo” comes from the acclaimed video game by Polyphony Digital, the folks at Maserati might want a word with you. Their 2015 Maserati Granturismo is a real-world rocket that’s one of the nation’s most exciting V-8 sports cars. And with a 4.7-liter engine providing thrust—454 hp and 384 lb.-ft. of torque, to be exact—the Granturismo reaches a terminal velocity of 185 mph with 0-60 acceleration of an apt 4.7 seconds. But it does so with a full dose of Italian luxury, aided by handcrafted construction, a Trofeo Design sport steering wheel, top-rated technologies and numerous opportunities for personalization, including two different MC Sport Line appearance packages.
Mercedes-AMG GT S
The 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S is highlighted by a hallmark of the AMG brand, boasting a sophisticated engine that’s hand-assembled by the company’s experts in a dedicated facility in Germany. That ferocious powerplant, however, is no hothouse flower that’s going to wilt in the heat of enthusiastic driving. Instead, drivers can count on its 4.0-liters of displacement and twin-turbo induction for 503 hp and 479 lb.-ft. of torque. And that output, in turn, is good for a 3.7-second 0-60 run. Complementing that performance—and firmly establishing the GT S as one of the best V-8 sports cars of the year—are additional AMG go-fast goodies, ranging from an adaptive suspension to a hi-po stopping system.
At this date, the 2015 Audi R8 does happen to be a bit long in the tooth, yet it still leaves key rivals snapping at its heels, courtesy of a standard 4.2-liter V-8 engine. Nor is catching up to the R8 an easy task, because that unit can belt out 430 horsepower and 317 lb.-ft. of torque, which enables drivers to dash from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds and touch 188 mph on the track. Moreover, the four-rings brand did find some ways to freshen up the car for the 2015 model year with three more exterior colors, a diamond-stitched Alcantra headliner, Laser Red brake calipers and power-folding, heated exterior mirrors, that latter of which become standard for one of the best V-8 supercars currently at dealerships.