by Chris Chase
Eight-cylinder engines are out of fashion in many vehicle segments, thanks to modern technology that allows six-cylinder motors — and even some four-cylinders — to make as much power as V8s used to be known for. Still, a V8 remains one of the most straightforward ways to generate the power needed for towing a large trailer, which is why these engines still dominate in full-size pickup trucks.
For the purposes of this article, we’re looking at V8-powered SUVs, an increasingly rare breed that combines the interior comfort of a utility vehicle with the power of a big engine. We wanted to see what kind of fuel economy you could expect when shopping for a five-year-old SUV with 4WD/AWD and a V8 under its hood, so we’ve compiled a list of the top five most efficient models, according to Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption ratings database.
Thanks to a tie for fifth place, we actually came up with six models for your consideration. We also found another indicator of the modern V8 engine’s target audience: five of the six vehicles listed here are luxury models.
- Mercedes-Benz ML 550 – 16.3/11.8/14.2 L/100 km (city/highway/combined)
Porsche Cayenne Turbo – 16.7/11.2/14.2 L/100 km (city/highway/combined)
Our fifth-place tie pits a pair of German luxury models against one another. The 2015 Mercedes-Benz ML 550 boasts a 4.7L turbo V8 (402 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque), a seven-speed automatic transmission, and standard all-wheel drive. This posh machine came standard with performance brakes, ambient interior lighting, power-folding side mirrors, navigation, and air suspension. The 2015 model year was the last before Mercedes renamed this model the GLE-Class.
The Porsche Cayenne Turbo ties the ML 550 for combined fuel consumption with a 4.8L V8 (520 hp/553 lb-ft), eight-speed transmission, and all-wheel drive. The Cayenne Turbo is a sportier drive than the Benz ML, but is similarly luxurious, equipped with navigation, leather upholstery, an active air suspension, navigation, 14-speaker stereo, and adaptive sport seats.
- Lexus GX 460 – 15.7/11.7/13.9 L/100 km (city/highway/combined)
In fourth place is the Lexus GX 460, another luxury model that also acquits itself nicely in off-road settings. Its soft suspension allows plenty of articulation for traversing rough terrain and also delivers a comfortable on-road ride. Power comes from a 4.6L V8 making 301 hp and 329 lb-ft of torque, paired with a six-speed transmission and 4WD with low-range gearing.
In 2015, all GX 460 models came with heated and ventilated leather seats, a sunroof and a power-adjustable steering column. If you can find one with the optional Executive Package, you’ll get a 17-speaker stereo, navigation, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel with wood and leather trim, and a crawl control system that acts like cruise control at off-road speeds.
- Cadillac Escalade – 15.9/11.1/13.8 L/100 km (city/highway/combined)
Cadillac redesigned the Escalade into a new generation for 2015, lending this big luxury model sharper looks, more power, and an eight-speed transmission to replace a six-speed. Its new V8 was a 6.2L engine that makes 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque.
Standard features in 2015 included LED headlights and taillights, a transmission oil cooler, road-sensing suspension with rear automatic load leveling, power-folding side mirrors with driver auto-dimming, power-adjustable steering column and pedals, three-zone climate control, and heated and ventilated front seats. The Escalade’s top-end Platinum trim also boasted adaptive cruise control and massaging front seats.
- BMW X5 xDrive50i – 16.1/10.9/13.8 L/100 km (city/highway/combined)
In 2015, the xDrive50i model was one of two V8 variants available, the other being the comparatively wild X5 M. In xDrive50i trim, a 4.4L turbo V8 (445 hp/479 lb-ft) works with the X5’s able chassis to provide agile performance without the comfort compromises of the M model’s stiffer ride.
Standard features included 19-inch wheels and tires, adaptive headlights and brake lights, auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel with power adjustments, soft-close doors, and navigation.
- Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon – 15.1/10.4/13.0 L/100 km L/100 km (city/highway/combined)
GM redesigned its Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon for 2015. While they share a lot of DNA with the Cadillac Escalade, they boast better fuel economy thanks to a smaller, less-potent engine. It’s a 5.3L V8 that makes 355 hp and 383 lb-ft, fed through a six-speed transmission and 4WD with low-range gearing.
In their entry-level trims, the mechanically identical Tahoe and Yukon are relatively straightforward workhorses that nonetheless come with niceties like three-zone climate control, power-adjustable front seats, heated side mirrors and rear park assist. Moving up a trim level brings active safety features like forward collision warning/avoidance, heated front seats, passive keyless entry, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, and power-folding third-row seats. Top-end models also came with General Motors’ magnetic ride-control suspension, whose tighter handling lends a driving feel like that of a smaller vehicle.