For the most part, when you enter into a discussion of the best V-8 SUVs, you’re really talking about the best full-size SUVs. These days, the only ones left running V-8 engines are the big ‘uns, and they largely (no pun intended) reside in the luxury category. Interestingly, with the rapid proliferation of turbocharging, a number of models in this category either no longer employ V-8s–in favor of blown V-6s (most notably, Lincoln Navigator, and Ford Expedition) or it plays a significantly diminished role. Clearly, times have changed, and SUVs have too. This begs the question; how much longer with the V-8 be around? The day could come when the best V-8 SUVs are survivors.
BMW’s X5 was the first vehicle of its type to come to market with a decided focus on outstanding performance on pavement. It was also one of the first luxury SUVs. In typical BMW fashion, the X5 is first and foremost all about the driver. If you need a large luxury sport utility vehicle, but don’t want to sacrifice driving pleasure, the X5 should definitely be on your short list. If you’re looking for more style, the X5’s mechanically similar X6 sibling has you covered. The BMWs’ turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 makes 445 horsepower and 480 ft-lbs of torque. The engine is teamed with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. For the M versions, it makes 567 horsepower and 553 ft-lbs of torque. X5 V-8 pricing starts at $70,100. X6 V-8 pricing starts at $72,900.
Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon
Among the best V-8 SUVs, the mechanically identical Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon are among the last of the Truck-based models. The exceptionally robust large GM SUVs offer three-row seating, admirable cargo capacity, and impressive towing capability. With the potential to seat up to nine people, Tahoe and Yukon also deliver a quiet and comfortable ride on the highway, as well as nicely finished interior treatments. Their 355-horsepower, 5.3-liter V8 makes 383 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. Both rear and four-wheel drive are available. Maximum towing capacity is 8,600 pounds for Tahoe, 8,500 for Yukon. Pricing starts at $46,300.
Chevrolet Suburban/ Yukon XL
While the Suburban and the Yukon XL are essentially identical mechanically, the GMC gets the nod as the more luxurious and powerful of the two. The Suburban uses a 5.3-liter V8 with 355 horsepower and 383 ft-lbs of torque. The Yukon XL runs the 5.3 as its base engine, while also offering a 6.2-liter V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 ft-lbs of torque. With Yukon XL Denali, a six-speed automatic feeds either the rear wheels or all four—if four-wheel drive is chosen. Pricing starts at $49,000 for the Suburban, $50,440 for the Yukon XL, and $67,220 for Yukon XL Denali.
Cadillac Escalade/Escalade ESV
Completely redone for the 2015 model year, the Escalade now boasts styling wholly reminiscent of President Obama’s state limousine. In addition to luxurious, the Escalade is generously spacious, outstandingly comfortable, and equipped with all of the most contemporary luxury features you could possibly expect to find in a large luxury SUV. Escalade ESV provides more of the same, in a larger package. Long story short, the all-new 2015 Escalade is easily one of the class leaders. Designed strictly for the street, power comes from a 6.2-liter V8 good for 420 horsepower and 460 ft-lbs of torque. An eight-speed automatic is employed to route power to the rear wheels – or all four when the all-wheel drive option is selected. Escalade pricing starts at $72,970, Escalade ESV starts at $76,965.
Dodge has always positioned the Durango “in-between." Not quite a full-size SUV, but bigger than a mid-size, for many people the Durango falls into the “just right” category of the best V-8 SUVs. With seating for up to seven, the Durango also offers a great deal of versatility. While it isn’t one of the more capable machines off road, the Durango offers up to 7,400 pounds of towing capacity. The V-8 displaces 5.7-liters and produces 360 horsepower and 390 ft-lbs of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed transfer case complete the powertrain. Standard features include tri-zone automatic climate control, heated exterior mirrors, and a touchscreen interface. Pricing starts at $39,995 for a V-8 powered Durango R/T.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Easily the most versatile of American SUVs, the Jeep Grand Cherokee offers a nice mix of style and rugged capability. Back in 2011, the Grand Cherokee’s significant redesign moved it up several classes in terms of standard equipment, luxury features, and perception. Among the best V-8 SUVs on the market today, the Jeep Grand Cherokee boasts a thoroughly fashionable interior treatment as well as state of the art comfort and convenience. V-8 power comes from a choice of two engines. The 5.7-liter makes 360 horsepower and 390 ft-lbs of torque. The 6.4-liter makes 475 horsepower and 470 ft-lbs. Both are teamed with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Pricing starts at $40,855 with the 5.7-liter.
Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged/Range Rover Sport Supercharged
Considered the ne plus ultra of sport utility vehicles, Land Rover’s Range Rover is the most luxurious SUV out there. What’s more, the Land Rover Range Rover will take you anywhere on earth a wheeled motor vehicle could possibly travel. And, quite frankly, more than a few places the majority can’t. Yeah, it’s that good. If you’re more into smoking asphalt than conjuring plumes of dust, the Range Rover Sport performs on par with the best sport sedans out there. For both models, base V-8 power comes from a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 generating 510 horsepower and 461 ft-lbs of torque. Pricing starts at $79,995 for a V-8 Range Rover Sport and $101,995 for a V-8 Range Rover.
Lexus LX 570/Toyota Land Cruiser
While not absolutely identical, they are close enough to be covered in the same entry. Both are equally capable of mastering soccer fields and boulder fields. After all, they are built on the same platform; though the Lexus IS finished a bit more nicely. One of the true benefits of the LX 570/Land Cruiser is the fact their mechanical underpinnings are decidedly old school. When it comes to maintenance costs, this is highly advantageous. Power for the Lexus comes from a 5.7-liter V8 with 383 horsepower and 403 ft-lbs of torque (the Toyota gives up two horsepower and two ft-lbs of torque to the Lexus with the same displacement). Their four-wheel drive powertrains are tied together with a six-speed automatic transmission. Pricing starts at $80,155 for the Toyota, and $83,180 for the Lexus.
Mercedes-Benz G550/G63 AMG
One of the toughest vehicles ever made, the Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen (as it was originally known) was first developed for use by the Israeli military. Straight-up old school, the G550 eschews electronics in favor of mechanics. Power comes from a 5.5-liter V8 with 382 horsepower and 391 ft-lbs of torque. The AMG-powered G63 is fitted with a twin-turbocharged version of the 5.5-liter, good for 536 horsepower and 560 ft-lbs of torque. The seven-speed automatic transmission feeds a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a low-range transfer case, a limited-slip rear differential, and locking front, center, and rear differentials. Both will tow up to 7,000 pounds. G550 pricing starts at $115,400.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo
One of the most desirable of the best V-8 SUVs, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo performs just as strongly on pavement as it does offroad. Keep in mind; Porsche has an extensive rallying heritage. Any SUV the company puts out there will be reflective of its prowess in the area. In addition to its sheer capability, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo is an exceptionally luxurious automobile. Its 4.8-liter turbocharged V8 makes 520 horsepower and 553 ft-lbs of torque. An eight speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard. Cayenne Turbo pricing starts at $114,700.
In the introduction, we talked about how turbocharged V6 engines have replaced V-8’s in Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator. Hybrid powertrains are also making significant inroads. For example, the 2010 Volkswagen Touareg came to market with no V-8 option for the first time in the model’s history. This was previously one of the best V-8 SUVs out there. Today, rather than a V-8, the most powerful Volkswagen Touareg uses a hybrid powertrain consisting of a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 with a supplementing electric motor to make 380 horsepower and 428 ft-lbs of torque.