Although the Ford EcoBoost gets credit (or blame) for being the trend-setter in truck and SUV engine downsizing, there's no question the trend has begun to catch on in earnest among trucks and SUVs. The primary reason is rapidly increasing CAFE standards, and manufacturers scrambling to become compliant while still meeting customers' expectations of power and responsiveness.
At one time considered almost mandatory for full-size trucks and midsize or larger SUVs, the V-8 has been slowly fading away. While it's still offered in one form or another on many models, some models that previously offered a V-8 have dropped it completely, replacing it with naturally aspirated, turbocharged or supercharged V-6s, or in some cases, even four-cylinders! Here are a handful of V-8s that have been dropped in favor of smaller engines over the past several years.
Ford 3-valve 4.6-liter V-8
Replaced By: 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6
Models: Ford F-150, Ford Explorer
When it was introduced in the early 1990s, the Ford Modular V-8 engine family was a model of state-of-the-art features and refinement, reportedly modeled and benchmarked after Mercedes-Benz's overhead-cam V-8s of the time. It ultimately preempted all of Ford's OHV V-8s, and even spawned a 6.8-liter V-10 variant in the Super Duty trucks and E-Series vans, replacing the 460-cubic-inch big-block V-8. Multiple variations of the modular found their way under the hoods of many Ford car, truck, and SUV models.
In the final generation of its rear-drive, body-on-frame form, the Explorer got a three-valve 4.6-liter V-8 making 292 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. With its transition to a unibody, transverse platform, the Explorer dropped its V-8 option, initially offering the 3.5-liter naturally aspirated Duratec V-6. Ford's 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder soon followed as an option, and, most recently, the turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 was introduced in the Sport model, unquestionably trouncing the output of the most powerful V-8 offered in the previous Explorer by more than 70 hp and 50 lb-ft of torque.
Volkswagen/Audi 4.2-liter V-8
Replaced By: 3.0-liter Supercharged V-6, 3.6-liter VR6
Models: Volkswagen Touareg/Audi Q7
We've been fans of Volkswagen's and Audi's V-6s and V-8s for quite some time. Both are smooth and powerful, but have distinctly different characters. The 4.2-liter V-8 was tuned to a modest 310 hp and 302 lb-ft of torque in the Touareg, while the Q7 got a direct-injected version producing 350 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque.
The V-8 was replaced in the Q7 by two versions of Audi's irrationally named 3.0T supercharged V-6, in 280 hp and 333 hp forms. While down slightly in horsepower and torque compared with the 4.2, few customers seemed to notice or care, and the eventual addition of the TDI diesel model gave buyers plentiful torque with good fuel economy. The V-8 in the Touareg was eventually replaced by VW's 3.6-liter narrow-angle VR6 with 280 hp, and also by the supercharged 3.0 in the Hybrid model. The TDI V-6 was also made optional in the Touareg, arguably taking the place of the V-8 as a premium engine option.
Land Rover 5.0-liter V-8
Replaced By: 3.0-liter Supercharged V-6
Models: Range Rover Sport
We should clarify that the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 has not entirely disappeared from the Jaguar/Land Rover engine portfolio, but it looks like it might be endangered. The 2013 Range Rover debuted, still offering the non-supercharged 5.0 as its base engine in the U.S. and other markets.
However the 2014 Range Rover Sport has adopted the new 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 that has displaced the N.A. 5.0 among most of JLR's products. Power is down slightly, to 340 hp and 332 lb-ft from 375 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque, but thanks to a new eight-speed transmission, as well as a massive weight loss, Land Rover is claiming the 2014 Range Rover Sport with the supercharged V-6 is slightly quicker than its naturally aspirated V-8 predecessor. We're thinking it's probably just a question of time before the supercharged V-6 replaces the 5.0 in the flagship Range Rover as well.
General Motors 4.8-liter V-8
Replaced By: 4.3-liter EcoTec3 V-6
Models: Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra
GM's oddball 4.8-liter Vortec V-8 engine was always marginalized, overshadowed by the higher-volume, and higher-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8, which continued to receive steady improvements to enhance power and efficiency, while the 4.8 soldiered on the entire time without benefit of cylinder deactivation, and always saddled with a four-speed automatic, even after the 5.3 got a six-speed. Initially introduced with 255 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque, the final version of the 4.8 cranked out a respectable 302 hp and 305 lb-ft of torque.
We've always loved the 4.8 for its lively, free-revving character, and found it responds especially well to aftermarket supercharging. But with a clean-sheet 4.3-liter direct-injected V-6 on the way that promises to nearly match the 4.8 for power with much greater fuel efficiency, it was not a huge surprise that the 4.8 was dropped from the options sheet with the introduction of the 2014 Silverado and Sierra.
Chrysler 4.7-liter SOHC V-8
Replaced By: 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6
Models: Ram 1500, Dodge Durango, Jeep Grand Cherokee
Just this week, Chrysler officially confirmed what we've expected for some time. The 4.7-liter overhead-cam V-8 would be discontinued in favor of cranking out more Pentastar V-6s. The 4.7-liter was never a bad engine per se, but following the reintroduction of the modern-day Hemi in 2003, was almost immediately overshadowed in both power and popularity by its historically named bigger-inch brother.
The introduction of Chrysler's critically acclaimed 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 in the Ram, Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee did not help things for the mid-pack engine. In the Ram 1500, the Pentastar made a mere 5 hp less than the 4.7, and while the V-8 held a decisive edge in torque over the new high-tech six on paper, the Pentastar had the advantage of the new TorqueFlite 8 eight-speed transmission, which effectively masked the engine's torque shortfall, while delivering much better fuel economy than the 4.7 could ever hope to deliver. Having recently spent some extended seat time in a Pentastar-powered Ram, we can't say we'll miss the 4.7 greatly.