Chevrolet knew the Camaro platform could handle much more than 426 HP thanks to its fantastic cornering speeds and world-class handling. So it was only natural that as soon as the new generation hit the streets in 2010, Chevy engineers started developing a performance version. The first of those was the great Camaro ZL-1 Chevrolet first released in 2012 and sold throughout 2015.
The ZL-1 was a special 427 V8-powered drag beast from 1969, and its 2012 counterpart followed the same formula. Chevrolet took the biggest and most powerful engine GM had, which was a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 and stuffed it into the Camaro. The result was a 580-HP street terror with the highly advanced Magnetic Ride suspension, performance Goodyear tires, Brembo brakes, and more. However, the 2012 Camaro ZL-1 wasn’t a one-trick pony like its 1969 predecessor. Rather, it was a pure sports car that could put a Porsche 911 to shame while outhandling and outrunning much more expensive and exotic cars.
What is the true definition of a muscle car? Is it a two-door coupe with a big V8 engine and rear-wheel drive? Perhaps, yet Dodge had a different vision. For decades, muscle cars were rear-wheel drive only vehicles. However, in 2016, Dodge introduced a special model from its Challenger lineup named the GT AWD.
It’s a Challenger with recognizable coupe styling, retro charm, and an aggressive stance. But underneath the cool-looking body, there’s a V6 and intelligent all-wheel-drive system. There are no more smoky burnouts and rear wheels on fire. Instead, there’s a ton of traction even in the toughest conditions. At the moment, the Dodge Challenger AWD is the only all-wheel-drive production muscle car that has been built. Ford and Chevrolet don’t have anything similar for the Mustang or Camaro. Unfortunately, Dodge only offers the GT AWD with the V6 engine. Although the V6 is relatively powerful with 305 HP, many Dodge fans still want it to be available with a Hemi V8.
So, what exactly is the Mustang GT Performance Pack 2? It’s a 5.0-liter Coyote V8 producing 460 HP and 420 lb-ft of torque combined with a six-speed manual transmission in the best tradition of classic muscle cars. With 0 to 60 mph times in the low four-second range, the Performance Pack 2 is fast by the standards of today. But the impressive numbers are just half of the story. The essence of the Performance Pack is in its handling, braking, low weight, and driving dynamics.
For $6,500 above the price of a regular GT, you can get chassis and aerodynamic improvements, and stiffer springs. Also, you’ll get beefier anti-roll bars, performance tires, bigger brakes, and racing seats. With this package, the standard Mustang GT goes from a great sports car to a fantastic driver’s machine. Some magazine editors think Ford should’ve named this Performance Pack 2 the Boss 302 since it captures the same idea and is for the same type of customers.
Debuting in 2016, the newest American muscle four-door car is the compact but immensely powerful Cadillac ATS-V. With this model, Cadillac attacked the Mercedes C Class and BMW 3 Series with a modern executive sedan. The Cadillac ATS-V comes with recognizable styling and brutal power.
Under the hood is the twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 engine with 464 HP and 445 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to launch the ATS-V from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds with top speeds of an astonishing 189 mph. Even though the ATS-V doesn’t have a V8, it’s still a proper muscle car and available in a two-door form as well.
Ever since the first retro Mustangs appeared in showrooms across America, Ford fans have asked for the return of the Boss 302. For those who don’t know, the Boss 302 first debuted in 1969 as a racing car homologation special for Trans-Am races. Ford revived the Boss 302 43 years later with the new 5.0-liter Coyote V8 that delivered 444 HP and 380 lb-ft of torque.
This was an almost pure racing car with no backseat. Ford added a factory-installed roll cage and a host of other external and internal modifications. As you can expect, the performance was better than a regular Mustang GT. In fact, the 2012 Boss 302 could accelerate to 60 mph in 3.97 seconds and top 155 mph. Until there’s a new version of the Boss 302, the 2012 model is widely considered one of the best modern muscle cars ever. Prices will go up, so get one today if you have a shot.
Camaro fans were terribly disappointed when Chevrolet decided to retire the nameplate after 2003. It looked like the Mustang had finally won the muscle car battle since the Firebird was also gone. The Mustang was the only domestic pony/muscle car still on the market at the moment. However, Chevrolet was just waiting for the right moment to return the Camaro to the market in a totally new design in a restyled and reengineered form. That moment came in late 2009 when a new fifth-generation Camaro entered the eager market.
The base engine was a V6, but right from the start, fifth-generation Camaro buyers had the option of an SS model with a 6.2-liter V8 engine and 426 HP. That made the 2010 Camaro SS one of the fastest domestic cars at the moment. With an advanced chassis and brutal performance, the Camaro SS was far better than the Mustang GT of the same vintage. Those dynamics helped Chevrolet beat Ford in the sales war.
If for any reason the 707 HP from the Hellcat package is not enough and you want the ultimate modern muscle car today with the most powerful street Hemi engine ever, the Demon package may be the best option for you. With standard fuel, it will deliver an insane 808 HP, but if you use the high octane stuff, it will pump out almost 840 HP. The rest of the Demon package is equally insane from its special transmission, suspension, and brakes to the widebody stance and exterior details.
Its acceleration from 0 to 60 is less than three seconds, and under full power, the Demon will accelerate with 1.8 G force. That’s faster than jumping off a cliff. This car is capable of covering a quarter-mile sprint in less than 10 seconds straight from the dealership. If reports are true and Chrysler is considering discontinuing the Hemi engine lineup, this is the best way to go.
The Chrysler 300C is an exciting car. It is one of if not the last true American, boxy-looking sedans with V8 power and a chrome grille. Also, it’s a successful model that has been on the market for almost 15 years. During that time, Chrysler has produced numerous variants. Most of them come with the modern 5.7-liter Hemi and other versions.
However, one is especially interesting for this list, and that is the mighty SRT-8. Under the hood is a 6.1-liter Hemi that pumps out a whopping 425 HP. The Chrysler 300 C SRT8 delivers fantastic performance that connects drivers with those Hemi models of the glorious past on into today.
The legendary Z/28 version returned for the 2014 model year in an interesting and extremely capable package. Once again, the Z/28 was a track day car and a road racing-oriented Camaro. It came with brakes, suspension, and steering dedicated to precision and driving dynamics. Under the hood was a 7.0-liter V8 from the Corvette Z06. It delivered 505 HP and provided more than enough power and grunt.
The rest of the car was all highly engineered for precision. Chevrolet gave it stiffer shocks and thicker anti-roll bars as well as special wheels and brakes. The new Camaro body shed 300 pounds, which helped the Z/28 achieve better numbers at the racetrack. While the Camaro ZL-1 was faster in a straight line with its supercharged engine, the Z/28 was a better all-around performer, making it the perfect track day vehicle of today.
Despite the fact most muscle cars are faster than European sports coupes with advanced technology and innovative systems, some people of today want an American muscle coupe with a roaring V8 and a lot of attitude. For those folks, Dodge has the Challenger, a cool retro muscle car with modern technology. On top of that, Dodge added the legendary Hemi V8 with 6.1 liters and 485 HP.
Your budget may not allow you to buy a crazy Challenger Hellcat with 707 HP and rear tires as wide as the highway. However, you can still get the Scat Pack version, which is more than enough. Its 0 to 60 mph times are in the 4.5-second range, which is decent, and its top speed is close to 170 mph.
The base Camaro SS is one of the best muscle cars around. With its 6.2-liter, 450 HP V8 engine, loads of torque, and perfectly-balanced chassis, the 1LE is even better. The engine is the same as you would get in a Corvette, which means it produces 460 HP. The suspension is even more focused and slightly revised to give the driver a better driving feel and sharper response.
Imagine driving this perfectly-tuned machine on a long road trip with every mile bringing you more driving pleasure. Also, the aero package is slightly improved, making the 1LE the best car if you want an all-around sports machine. It’s a capable road car that is comfortable enough to drive each day as well as for long trips. The Camaro SS 1LE is sharp enough to be a track car that will provide tons of fun on the racetrack too. Besides the SS V8 1LE, for $10,000 less, you can get the V6 1LE. Although it is less powerful and slower, it’s still a capable sports car.
For years, Cadillac was without a proper performance series necessary to compete with BMW or Mercedes. But finally, the V-Series was born. It was all that Cadillac lovers dreamed of with its powerful engines. Also, it had world-class handling, an updated suspension setup, and exclusive production numbers. Even competitors took notice when Cadillac rolled up with their new V-Series model. Arguably the most successful was the second-generation CTS-V model produced between 2008 and 2014. Under the hood was a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 delivering 556 HP.
That made the CTS-V the most powerful performance sedan on the market. The suspension and the rest of the drivetrain were advanced and up to the task. Soon the CTS-V was considered the full package and one of the best driver’s cars available. Cadillac produced three body styles, so you could get the CTS-V as a sedan, a coupe, and interestingly, as a wagon, too. With a 556 HP LS9 V8 engine and a 0 to 60 mph time of just 3.8 seconds, the second-generation CTS-V was one of the fastest four-door vehicles on the planet. You could say it’s a true muscle car sedan.
Pontiac thought a rear-wheel-drive sedan would help them fight their European competitors. The G8 was a good idea with a redesign, and with a small-block V8 engine it was an effective performance sedan too. The base engine was a solid 3.5-liter V6 producing 256 HP. But the real deal was the G8 GXP with a 6.2-liter V8 producing 415 HP. Also, the G8 came with high levels of standard equipment as well as a long list of optional extras. Unfortunately, the G8 also came too late. Most drivers weren’t ready to accept a G8 performance sedan that could beat the overpriced European models.
After years of anemic, front-wheel-drive economy cars and minivans of the ’90s, Pontiac had lost its performance image. Only a handful of buyers remembered what it was known for and capable of achieving. So when they finally presented a car capable of reclaiming the title of the performance brand, they had run out of time. In two years, Pontiac sold just over 30,000 G8s.
The swan song of those SVT supercharged Mustangs is this 2013 Shelby GT500. This glorious muscle car had a 5.8-liter supercharged V8 pumping out 662 HP and 631 lb-ft of torque. At the time, this was the most powerful American-made V8 and a proper beast of an engine. When Ford installed it in RWD, the live axle platform was infamous as a tire smoke generator.
But besides its burnout and show potential, it was also a serious performance machine. In fact, a 0 to 60 mph sprint took only 3.5 seconds, so the $50,000 Mustang could embarrass a $250,000 Ferrari at any stoplight drag race. Buyers loved this overpowered Mustang, so despite being discontinued, it’s still the king of the hill among Mustang fans.
The first year for the modern GTO was 2004 when the car met universal praise from car buyers and the automotive press. The design wasn’t exactly new or aggressive, but the GTO had a muscle car style and street presence. Under the hood was an LS1 5.7-liter V8 with 350 HP giving it enough performance to be one of the hottest American cars for the 2004 model year. The 2005 model year saw the introduction of the 400 HP 6.2-liter engine and even better performance numbers with 0 to 60 mph time of just 4.6 seconds. However, sales started to decline to 11,000, and for 2006, the final model year, Ford only sold 14,000 the GTOs.
So what was the problem with the 2004 to 2006 GTO? The car was just fine, but it failed to excite car customers like the original GTO did. Simply, the design was restrained and not particularly aggressive. Although the car was fast and performance was convincing, as an overall package the new GTO wasn’t as appealing to new customers. This was the main reason for its early demise and relative market failure. However, most people still feel this car is one of the best modern muscle cars ever.
Despite the fact the Grand Marquis was never intended to be a performance car, Mercury decided to turn it into one by installing a highly tuned 4.6-liter V8 with 302 hp, revised suspension, gearbox, and brakes. All those changes turned this sleepy and comfy sedan into a sharp muscle car.
The black paint gave the Marauder menacing looks and an aggressive stance, clearly differentiating it from more sedate cousins. The performance was pretty good for big and heavy sedans with 0 to 60 mph times around 7 seconds. But the biggest asset was its appearance and just the sight of a big black sedan in your rearview mirror made most people move over.
Derived from an ordinary Ford F-150 truck, the Raptor has an almost supercar performance and unmatched ability to go practically anywhere. It comes with a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 producing 450 HP and 510 lb-ft of displacement. Also, they gave it a 10-speed automatic transmission and it has a sub-five-second acceleration time.
Remember, this is a full-size pickup truck with room for five people and a regular truck bed behind the driver. Despite being able to jump dunes and run through the desert, this truck and its immense capabilities make it a stoplight terror as well.
The regular production Mustang GT is a capable and rewarding car, so Ford scored a hit when it introduced the current generation in 2015. The Performance Pack 2 and Shelby versions had great all-around performance. However, Ford decided to widen its appeal, and not by adding more power, but by adding more style and a touch of Hollywood legend.
The third Bullitt special edition is the 2019 model Ford based on the GT. This means the Bullitt Mustang has the same 5.0-liter V8 with 460 HP but only came as a six-speed manual. Also, the Bullitt has a unique paint job, wheels, and interior trim to copy the legendary 1968 Bullitt Mustang Steve McQueen drove in the cult classic Bullitt.
Do you need a small school bus for when your kids are late for school and you need to get them there in a hurry? How about an SUV that goes from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds? That’s the Dodge Durango SRT with 475 HP and the ability to carry seven passengers and their gear, too. With a 6.4-liter Hemi, the Durango SRT is a pure Dodge muscle car in an SUV package.
In contrast to the other vehicles on this list, which are mostly useless as real SUVs, this Dodge is a capable car. Not only it is among the biggest with three-row seating, but it can also carry and tow the biggest loads, too. That makes the SRT practical and usable in real life. Best of all is its price, which starts at just $64,000, not a bad price for a unique muscle car of today.
Just when drivers thought Chevy had abandoned adding more power to the C7 Corvette and was concentrating on holding the already powerful car, Corvette creators surprised them with the insane 2019 Corvette ZR1. This version of the C7 Corvette has just been released.
It features an improved Z06 chassis, suspension, and drivetrain, as well as an absolute beast of an engine. The 6.2-liter heavily supercharged LT4 engine pumps out 755 HP and 527 lb-ft of torque. It sends all that power to the rear wheels through an automatic or manual gearbox, making the Corvette ZR1 a beast for the streets.