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Have electric cars ended the V8? Not so fast! Nissan Patrol, Ford Mustang and Ram 1500 prove there's still life in big, powerful petrol engines

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The Nissan Patrol is enjoying its best sales since the Y62 generation first arrived back in 2013.
The Nissan Patrol is enjoying its best sales since the Y62 generation first arrived back in 2013.

For all the talk of electric vehicles lately, you’d be forgiven for thinking that petrol and diesel cars were a thing of the past.

Given the slow uptake of EVs in Australia, and slow progress on incentives of any kind, internal combustion-powered cars are likely to be with us for a while yet. Some more progressive types will lament this fact, while petrol-head enthusiasts will love it.

With Mercedes-Benz recently confirming that its new-gen AMG C63 performance car will switch from a brutal V8 to a four-cylinder plug-in hybrid powertrain, you can understand why some people might think V8-powered cars are headed for the history books sooner rather than later.

But a glance at Australia’s best-selling cars list proves that it couldn't be further from reality. In fact, V8-engined models are enjoying something of a renaissance in Australia.

Sure, the heyday of Aussie-built V8-powered Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons has been over since local manufacturing operations were shut for good in 2016 and 2017 respectively, but there’s a long list of V8 cars still on sale in Australia in 2022.

Part of the reason for the V8s doing so well is the pandemic. When the government shut the international borders, Australians were forced to holiday at home and a record number bought caravans. They also bought vehicles that are powerful enough to tow caravans, and that’s why this group of V8-powered behemoths have sold so well.

The Nissan Patrol, which uses a 5.6-litre petrol V8, is selling in numbers it hasn’t seen in more than a decade, back when the Y61 version was offered with a diesel engine.

The Ram 1500 is selling like hotcakes.
The Ram 1500 is selling like hotcakes.

The V8 upper-large four-wheel drive wagon has also benefited from Toyota’s struggles to manage supply of its still very new LandCruiser 300 Series.

In the first nine months of this year, Nissan has sold 4499 Patrols, which is more than any full year of Patrol sales since the Y62 model arrived in Australia in early 2013.

Other hulking towing machines that are proving popular are the big American pick-up trucks - the Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado. Both are re-manufactured to right-hand drive right here in Melbourne, and both are powered by petrol and/or diesel V8s.

Interestingly, another two massive pick-ups are headed Down Under soon. The Ford F150 is coming next year and the Toyota Tundra will eventually hit showrooms, but these two are powered by turbocharged - and in the Tundra’s case, hybrid - V6 petrol engines.

The Chevy Corvette is pricey but popular.
The Chevy Corvette is pricey but popular.

Already this year, Ram has sold 3636 examples of the 1500 - not to mention the 517 examples of the larger 2500 and 3500 - while GMSV has found homes for 1530 Silverados.

Another wildly popular V8 is the Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series. Toyota stopped taking orders for the old ute a couple of months back after it realised it could not keep up with demand, but it has still recorded 9083 registrations this year. That’s enough to make it more popular than cheaper 4x4 utes like the Nissan Navara (7333) and Mazda BT-50 (8018).

Moving away from utes and four-wheel drives, one of the biggest V8 success stories of the past decade has been the Ford Mustang sports car.

Sales have slowed in recent years, particularly in 2022 as keen buyers await the Australian showroom arrival of the new-gen Mustang late in 2023. However, the two-door coupe and convertible hit a sales high of 9165 sales in 2017, making it Ford’s second best-selling model behind the Ranger ute (42,728) that year by some margin.

The Mustang has been a huge hit for Ford in Australia.
The Mustang has been a huge hit for Ford in Australia.

Ford may sell a more efficient turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder variant of the Mustang, but Ford Australia confirmed that the V8 makes up 85 per cent of total Mustang sales.

Another American V8 muscle car doing well is the freshly launched Chevrolet Corvette. Despite a starting price of around $145,000, the Vette has already found 181 buyers in Australia so far this year.

Premium carmakers are still doing well with V8 models too. Jaguar reduced the F-Type sports car range down to V8s only, and the V8 version of the Land Rover Defender is a popular pick.

Other brands like Lexus, Maserati and Porsche offer V8s in a number of different models, including sports cars and performance SUVs.

The V8-powered Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe will remain on sale for a while yet.
The V8-powered Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe will remain on sale for a while yet.

The big three Germans - Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz - are still very much in the V8 game, particularly for performance models, although Benz is slowly moving away from larger capacity engines in its smaller AMG models, as confirmed last month with the reveal of the new-generation C-Class-based AMG C63 sedan and wagon.

AMG has dropped the 4.0-litre V8 in the outgoing model in favour of a hyper four-cylinder turbocharged plug-in hybrid pumping out an unbelievable 500kW and 1020Nm, significantly up on the 375kW/700Nm of the V8.

The outgoing generation C63 Coupe will continue to be sold in Australia for a while yet, so Benz V8 fans still have some options beyond the big SUV brawlers like the AMG GLE63 and the like.

Mercedes says the C63 Coupe is the best-selling V8-powered AMG in Australia, and it was even the top-selling AMG model overall for the two years following its launch. V8s made up around 35 per cent of AMG sales in Australia over the past three years, which is impressive, given how popular smaller four-cylinder models like the A45 and GLA45 are.

Tim Nicholson
Managing Editor
Calling out the make and model of every single car he saw as a toddler might have challenged his parents’ patience, but it was clearly a starting point for Tim Nicholson’s journey into automotive journalism. Tim launched the program, Fender Bender, on community radio station JOY 94.9 during completion of his Master of Arts (Media and Communications). This led to an entry role at industry publication GoAuto, before eventually taking the role of Managing Editor. A stint as RACV’s Motoring Editor – including being an Australia’s Best Cars judge – provided a different perspective to automotive media, before leading him to CarsGuide where he started as a Contributing Journalist in September 2021, and transitioned to Senior Editor in April 2022, before becoming Managing Editor in December 2022.
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