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V6 vs. V8 Engine: What is the Difference?

Feb 21, 2021

Do you know what the difference is between a V6 vs. V8 engine? While both are common terms seen when shopping for vehicles, some people aren't aware of which is better for them. To put it simply, a V6 engine has six cylinders for fuel intake, whereas a V8 engine has eight.

2021Toyota Tacoma TRD V6

At their core though, both engines work the same way. Inside the ‘cylinders’, gasoline is ignited to create a continuous sequence of small and rapid explosions. These explosions occur at all moments while the engine is running.

The energy from these explosions within the cylinders rotates the engine, converting the energy into mechanical force that is used to drive the vehicle down the road.

The Big Three: Horsepower, Torque, and Mileage

Many different types of engines exist, but each has three attributes that most shoppers are typically concerned with.


The first is horsepower, which is a general measure of the engine’s peak performance, or ability to do work.

Economy cars, like the Toyota Corolla, typically have 150 to 180 horsepower. Many family crossovers, like the new Toyota RAV4, have 190 to 220 horsepower. Many high-performance cars, like the Toyota Supra, have 300 or more.

2021 Toyota Camry V6

What is Horsepower? To put this in layman’s terms, an engine’s horsepower is like the top speed at which an athlete can run.


The second attribute is torque and is important to the shopper who works their vehicle hard, since it better represents an engine’s ability to handle tough work.

This is why torque is the go-to figure for many shoppers considering a Crossover & SUV or Pickup Trucks that will be used frequently to tow or haul heavy objects. What is Torque? To put it more simply, an engine’s torque is the amount of time that is required for an athlete to reach their speed.

So if you need to pull something with your vehicle, having strong torque will allow you to get up to speed more efficiently and easily.

2021 Toyota Highlander 7 Passenger SUV

Fuel Economy

The third attribute is fuel economy, which is the amount of gasoline an engine uses to create its horsepower and torque.

An engine’s fuel economy is a bit like the number of calories that an athlete needs to consume. The bigger their muscles are, or in the case of an engine, the more cylinders it has, the more calories or fuel will need to be consumed.

Engine Types and What the V in Engines Mean

Engines in small machines like chainsaws and lawnmowers typically have just one cylinder, because cutting firewood and grass doesn’t require as much horsepower as moving a heavy car or truck.

Most compact vehicle engines have at least four cylinders, such as the Toyota C-HR and RAV4. Many crossover and SUV models, like the Toyota Highlander or 4Runner, have six cylinders. The Camry also has six cylinders. Pickup trucks on the other hand, like the Toyota Tundra, typically have eight. Generally speaking, more cylinders means more horsepower and torque.

2021 Toyota 4Runner 7 Seat SUV

By altering the number of cylinders, their size and their relationship to one another, automakers can create a wide range of engine types that suit a range of needs.

The cylinders inside an engine are all the same size, although cylinder sizes will vary from engine to engine. And some engines have cylinders arranged in a single row within, while others use two rows of opposing cylinders, connected to one another in a ‘V’-like shape. This is common, and typically used when more cylinders need to be fit into a compact space. When a six- or eight-cylinder engine uses this configuration, it’s called a V6 or V8, respectively.

  Toyota 4 cylinder V6 Engine


Engine Displacement 101 – and What This Means for You

The combined size of all cylinders within an engine is called its displacement. For example, in the all-new Corolla SE, the four cylinder engine has a combined volume of 2,000 cubic centimetres (or two litres)

Since engine displacement is expressed in ‘litres’, we’d call this a 2-litre four-cylinder engine —perfect for the shopper who wants top-notch fuel efficiency and good performance.

How many cylinders in a V6 or V8 Engine?

In a V6 engine that has six cylinders, it would have a combined size of 3.5 litres. With two more cylinders than a four-cylinder, this six-cylinder is more powerful and smoother and likely targets the shopper who is looking for balanced fuel economy and performance, but with more power to spare when needed.

An eight-cylinder engine, the V8, is common in pickup trucks, SUVs and sportscars, because these engines create a lot of horsepower and torque and are better suited to tow or haul. It usually has between four and six litres of displacement, depending on the size of the eight cylinders within. For instance, Toyota presently offers two eight-cylinder engines: one is a 4.6 litre and the other is a 5.7 litre.

With eight cylinders, these engines are powerful and cater to a shopper after lots of toughness and torque.

Toyota 6 cylinder V8 Engine

How to Decide Between a V6 vs. V8?

Deciding on the ideal engine is sort of like shopping for the ideal house.

Houses all have a certain number of rooms (cylinders), and a certain square footage (displacement). Even while keeping the basics of room size and square footage (or the number of cylinders and their combined displacement) constant, different arrangements and add-ons to the house (or engine) are possible.

So, in the same way a given 1,500 square-foot, 10-room house could be a bungalow, backsplit or ranch, a given 3.5 litre six-cylinder engine could be that of a hybrid, pickup truck or sports car.

Which engine is best for you?

That depends on how you’ll use your vehicle and what your priorities are.

When it comes to moving you and your family around with enough power to spare for occasional towing, hauling and passing, the V6 is likely the perfect fit. That’s why you’ll find a V6 in some of Toyota’s most popular family vehicles including the Sienna minivan, Highlander and 4Runner SUV.

2021 Toyota Tundra V8

If you need maximum capability and torque, perhaps for towing a heavy trailer or boat, frequently use your vehicle on very hilly terrain, or need your family pickup as a work vehicle for a growing business, a V8 engine, with its superior torque output, is likely best. You’ll find V8s in Toyota’s most capable machines, including the Tundra pickup and Sequoia SUV.

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