Way back in the late 1970s, when twin oil shocks and the then-new Corporate Average Fuel Economy mandate forced automakers to start focusing on energy efficiency, conventional wisdom had it that the V-8 would soon vanish. It didn’t quite work out that way and the engine of choice for many performance and heavy-duty vehicles has remained surprisingly robust.
But as global emissions and mileage regulations continue to tighten, the V-8 appears, once again, to be an endangered species, and the Hyundai Motor Group is the latest getting ready to throw in the towel.
The Korean carmaker’s luxury brand Genesis plans to abandon its 5.0-liter Tau V-8 when it rolls out new versions of its two biggest sedans, according to the marque’s CEO. That phase-out will begin later this year with the launch of a new version of the G80.
“The G80 range will be topped off by the V6,” Genesis CEO Manfred Fitzgerald told Car and Driver magazine. “We will have a brand-new G80 coming out this September in Korea and subsequently on global markets. With that car, you will see the next evolution of our design language.”
(Hyundai Group partnering with EV supercar maker Rimac. Click Here for the story,)
The G80, originally known as the Hyundai Genesis sedan, was the first of the Korean carmaker’s products to offer a V-8 when it made its debut in 2018 – the Tau engine contributing to its surprise win as North American Car of the Year, among other awards.
Hyundai expanded its luxury range with the subsequent launch of the Equus model and maintained the V-8 when it decided to spin off a luxury brand, the smaller and larger sedans becoming the G80 and G90, respectively.
The decision to eliminate the Tau from the new G80, due to debut in September, and the G90 to follow several years from now, means the Genesis also will skip offering a V-8 when the much-anticipated GV80, its first SUV, comes to market in 2020. That appears to be a shift in strategy from when we first saw the utility vehicle in concept form at the New York International Auto Show three years ago.
It’s not that Genesis – nor parent Hyundai — wants to walk away from one of its most well-reviewed engines, but “We really have to pay close attention to markets and legislation and hedge our bets,” explained Fitzgerald, adding that we should not “expect another evolution of the V8.”
Currently, G80 buyers have the option of ordering the Tau-equipped G80 making 420 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, or the 3.8-liter V-6 version making a more mundane 311 hp and 293 lb-ft. But there’s also the G80 3.3T Sport, kicking the six-bangers numbers up to 365 hp and 376 lb-ft. And there is room to bump the figures up even higher, should Genesis want the twin-turbo to fully match the power of the outgoing Tau package.
(Click Here for a review of the Genesis G90.)
There are reasons to believe the Korean luxury brand will, if anything, push for even more performance in future models, in fact. But it might take a decidedly different route to get there.
Last week, Hyundai Motor Group announced it will invest nearly $100 million in Croatia’s Rimac. That company is best known for battery-powered hypercars like the Concept Two. But Rimac is also looking to form alliances with more mainstream manufacturers, and the deal will see it provide powertrain technology to the various brands under the Hyundai umbrella. Speculation has it that this will mean an all-electric drivetrain in a production version of the wildly popular Essentia Concept Genesis shown in New York in 2018. The technology could be used in other Genesis models, too.
(Genesis goes electric with Mint Concept. Click Here to check out the urban microcar.)
Until a few years ago, V-8s (and V-12s) were considered an essential part of a luxury manufacturer’s line-up, but that has begun to change. Volvo, for one, has gone so far as to eliminate not only V-8s but V-6s, and other high-line makers are also moving to downsize their offerings. Cadillac has largely migrated to sixes, including some impressive twin-turbo variants – though the recent launch of its Blackwing powertrain suggests it will retain at least one V-8 option for the time being.
Meanwhile, Mercedes and BMW are also cutting back, with some reports suggesting the latter will go so far as to drop both V-8 and V-12 options when it brings out the next version of its flagship 7-Series sedan. Both companies are pushing fast into electrification and, if the rumors are true, a plug-in hybrid using a six would be the likely replacement. Significantly, that’s the approach being taken by Lincoln, a PHEV being the top-performance version of its new Aviator.
Even in the truck market, we’re seeing a shift away from eights. Ford now sells more F-150s powered by its various six-cylinder options than classic V-8s, and other manufacturers are following in that direction.
As proved true four decades ago, reports of the demise of the V-8 have been greatly exaggerated – to manhandle the familiar Mark Twain quote. But with eight-cylinder engines caught between government mandates and alternative powertrain technology, it’s likely they’ll become increasingly rare in the years to come.