There’s nothing quite like the feel of driving a muscle car. Most cars are built for multiple purposes, which is handy but can mean getting less than ideal behavior from your vehicle. But a muscle car puts one priority above all else: performance. Combining aggressive engines with sleek design, a muscle car is exactly what the name implies. It’s a car built to showcase the peak of what an automobile can do, just as an athlete’s body showcases the peak of human fitness from years of dedication.
But often when gearheads get to talking about muscle cars, the conversation focuses on the racing models, the million dollar limited-edition status symbols and the dream cars. It’s fun to talk about the cars that win races, but most of us aren’t going to drive home in one. What about the muscle cars that are on the market, and priced within reach? Which ones are the best buys and how do they perform?
That’s what we set out to discover, and here are our top two picks.
1. Dodge Charger. The Charger is an icon of the muscle car ideal, one of the longest running and most popular models throughout automobile history. Anyone visiting a car show will see no shortage of souped up, refurbished old classic Chargers, but Dodge continues to hone and improve the newest models today. Many enthusiasts of the line held their collective breath when Dodge took the favorite in a new direction; giving it four doors and the interior of a luxury sedan. But what the Charger gained in comfort it managed not to lose in power. Today’s Charger is available out of the gate in a 292 hp V6, which can be pushed up to 300 hp with factory upgrades. Stepping up to the Charger SRT gets you a 370 hp V8 while the SRT 8 dominates with a 470 hp V8. The Charger is the car that continues to take NASCAR by storm, and the market models are among the best buys in the genre.
2. Ford Mustang. Since 1964 the Mustang has been a continued leader in the American muscle car scene. The ‘stang is known not only to gearheads but us a common household name because it puts truly powerful engines and classic style in reach of the average driver. The latest models of Mustang have made the car a more practical street car; building more livability into more of a status symbol. The standard Mustang comes with a 305 hp V6, delivering good serious power albeit with less fuel economy than the Charger. For those who won’t go less than a V8, there is the GT with 420 hp, line maxes out with a 444 hp on the Boss 302.
Of course, favorite muscle cars are a hotly contended topic among car enthusiasts and there are many other factors to consider besides just raw power. For our money, the Dodge Charger is the market leader but there are many rivals to choose from. What’s your favorite present-day muscle car?