No one ever recorded a hit song about a car with a small engine. “Hot Rod Lincoln,” “409” and “Maybelline” glorified big V-8s, not 4-cyl. fuel-sippers.

OK, those tunes go way back. And even in those times, hordes didn’t rush out and buy a muscle car just because a song about it made the top-40 charts. But those were the days for V-8s.

For reasons that include environmental consciousness, fuel economy and technological advancements, many consumers now opt for smaller engines.     

Yet, that market shift doesn’t mean auto makers have lost interest in making great V-8s. They continue to passionately engineer and improve them, as evidenced by the 2013 Ward’s 10 Best Engines competition.

Three notable V-8s were in the running, and one made the top-10 list: the muscle-bound 5.8L that nearly lifts the Ford Shelby GT500 off the ground. It revs up to 662 hp and delivers 631 lb.-ft. (856 Nm) of torque at 4,000 rpm, with 395 lb.-ft. (513 Nm) of that just off idle.

Some judges wondered if the GT500’s supercharged engine might overwhelm anyone other than a professional driver. “Can there be too much power?” asks WardsAuto Editorial Director David Zoia.

Ultimately, WardsAuto judging concluded the world’s most powerful production V-8 also ranks as world-class in more than just output.

Two other performance V-8s also drew high praise, although they didn’t make the final cut: the 6.2L supercharged beast in the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and the 5.0L power-tripper in the Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca, aptly named for a California racetrack.

A great engine is a great engine, large or small. Some detractors think high-output V-8s belong in Jurassic Park. Not so. They’re alive and well. But they have become specialized, appealing to a niche market of driving enthusiasts. Cue the music though; they’re still worth singing about.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com