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Best Muscle Cars

Best Muscle Cars

The Top 10 Muscle Cars of Today

The term muscle car came about to describe cars from the late 1960s and early 1970s. These American muscle cars were automakers' sportiest midsize cars fitted with powerful V8 engines — think Pontiac GTO, Dodge Hemi Charger or big-block Chevy Chevelle. There were also pony cars, which were the same formula but slightly smaller in size, such as the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro.

Some 50 years later, there are plenty of high-horsepower new cars available that certainly meet the spirit, although maybe not the rule, of the classic muscle car definition. We gave the job of compiling a list to special correspondent Elana Scherr, who studied muscle car science in college and did four years of continued research at Hot Rod magazine. Also she has strong opinions about doing burnouts. Here's what she came up with


10. 2020 Tesla Model S Performance

2020 Tesla Model S - Action Front 3/4

2020 Tesla Model S.

Tesla? Really? On a muscle car list? Are you mad yet? OK, while some of you get to commenting about how wrong it is to have a Tesla on a muscle car list, and others complain about not having it as No. 1 on the muscle car list, let me just tell you why we picked it and put it where it is: So. Freaking. Fast.

Sure, there's no V8 engine — heck, there's no engine at all! — but the Model S' two electric motors combine for a horsepower output that is, well, hard to pin down. Tesla won't give anybody a straight answer. It's definitely at least 750 hp, and possibly more, which means the Model S is insanely powerful and quick. It also has trick options such as the Ludicrous speed mode, which you could equate to the various mods the old American muscle cars had such as slap stick shifters or Shaker hoods. Of course — and this is most important — the Model S rips from 0 to 60 mph in just 2.4 seconds. That's half what it takes a fast classic muscle machine to do.

Modern times. Modern muscle. Why isn't it higher on the list? Two reasons. It's $100,000 for the quickest Model S. While there's no rule saying muscle cars have to be cheap, they should be cheaper than this. But my main reason why it's No. 10 is because sound is part of a muscle experience, and the hushed electrified noises of the Tesla just don't do it.

Starting price (including destination fee): $101,190
Horsepower: 684 (Tesla claim as of Sept. 2019)

2020 Tesla Model S Review and Pricing

9. 2020 BMW M8

Did we just say price was a factor and then pick a car that costs $135,000? Yes, but it's the fault of the doors. The BMW M5 meets almost all our requirements for muscle car status. It's a 600-hp bruiser just like the M8 and it's $30,000 less. But the M8 looks more like a muscle car because it comes as a two-door. A muscle car doesn't have to be a coupe, but it helps. Plus, the all-wheel-drive M8 even has a rear-drive-only mode so you can kick the back end out and do those very important burnouts.

Starting price: $133,995
Horsepower: 600 hp

2020 BMW M8 Review and Pricing

8. 2020 Nissan GT-R

2020 Nissan GT-R - Front 3/4

2020 Nissan GT-R.

C'mon, its nickname is Godzilla. Of course it has to be on the muscle car list! If you're getting ready to argue, let me remind you that the GT-R is brutally, stupidly fast (it gives the Tesla a run for its 0-60 time and can do it all day long, which the Model S cannot). Another reason it's here is that the expensive and high-performing GT-R is unexpected in Nissan's mostly mild-mannered lineup. Look back at how generally stodgy brands such as Pontiac and Chrysler were in the early 1960s and then all of a sudden … bam! GTO. So Nissan having the GT-R is kind of the modern version of that. Also, its name is two-thirds of the way to the Pontiac GTO already.

Why back here at No. 8? Well, it costs more than a hundred grand, and it has a V6. Yes, it's a nearly 600-hp V6, but it's missing some cylinders. Sorry, them's the rules ... that I just made up.

Starting price: $115,335
Horsepower: 565 hp

2020 Nissan GT-R Review and Pricing

7. 2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG E 63 S and 2020 Audi S8

2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG E 63 S - Action Front 3/4

2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG E 63 S.

It's a tie of two cars that, at first glance, shouldn't even be here. Why is it a tie? Well, both the Mercedes and the Audi make gobs of power and are far faster than anything so big has any right to be. Why is something so big and luxurious even on the muscle car list? Time for another history trip.

In the muscle car era, the big engines that went into the midsize cars came out of full-size cars. Those Chrysler 300s and huge-cube Cadillacs were surprisingly powerful. The E 63 S and S8 have some of that big-car mojo. Also, there were wagon versions of some of the popular body styles back in the day, and you can get a wagon version of the Mercedes. A fast wagon, or even a fast full-size, is a surprise to the competition. They're sleepers, which everyone knows is the coolest relative of the muscle car.

Mercedes-Benz AMG E 63 S
Starting price: $108,345
Horsepower: 603 hp

2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG E 63 S Review and Pricing

Audi S8
Starting price: $130,495
Horsepower: 563 hp

2020 Audi S8 Review and Pricing

6. 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is powered by the same engine Dodge puts in the Challenger and Charger: a 707-hp supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8. Yes, the Trackhawk is an SUV. But with its low ride height, it's not exactly the most off-roady of the Jeep lineup. I'm going to sneak it onto this list under a new rule I'm making up right now, which is: Anything with a Hellcat engine is a muscle car, but nothing with four doors can be in the Top 3.

Starting price: $88,895
Horsepower: 707 hp

2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Review and Pricing

5. 2020 Lexus RC F

The Lexus RC F is the underdog in this kennel. It has the least horsepower on this list with a 5.0-liter V8 making "only" 472 horses. Good grief, what a world we live in where nearly 500 hp isn't brag-worthy! The RC F makes the list anyway because it looks so muscley with two doors, a long hood and rear-wheel drive. If you pay more, you can get a wing, which adds many muscle points. Just ask anyone with a Plymouth Superbird.

Starting price: $65,925
Horsepower: 472 hp

2020 Lexus RC F Review and Pricing

4. 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody - Action Front 3/4

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody.

Dang those pesky rear doors. The Dodge Charger has the distinction of being the only name on our list to have been an actual muscle car by the strictest definition. It's a model name famous from movies including Bullitt and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. Then there was a little TV show called the Dukes of Hazzard. Today's Dodge Charger has too many doors to crack the Top 3 (see my rule that I made up for the Trackhawk) but it's one of the best all-around vehicles on this list. Nobody can deny its muscle cred, especially with 707-hp Hellcat Hemi under the hood, but it also works as a family vehicle, with plenty of room for car seats and pets.

Starting price: $73,590
Horsepower: 707 hp

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Review and Pricing

3. 2020 Chevy Camaro ZL1

On to the pony cars! If only we could call a three-way tie for the rest of this list. Each of them is fantastic in a slightly different but equally muscular way. But nobody likes ties. So here you go: No. 3 is the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. It's the top-dog Chevrolet Camaro with a supercharged small-block V8 pushing 650 hp. It also has the sharpest handling of the three pony cars here. Holding it back are its dinky back seat and terrible visibility. A proper muscle car shouldn't feel cramped.

Starting price: $64,695
Horsepower: 650 hp

2020 Chevy Camaro ZL1 Review and Pricing

2. 2020 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye

With two doors and a couple of variants of Hellcat Hemi V8 available, you knew the Dodge Challenger would be on my list. The 797-hp Hellcat Redeye gets the pick, but the regular Hellcat still gets you 717 hp. The Challenger is the closest to a traditional muscle car on this list despite being based on a pony car design. It's large, comfortable, and happier in a straight line than a corkscrew. That said, all the modern muscle cars are astonishing performers on road courses as well as dragstrips, blurring the lines between muscle cars and sports cars. There's no room for one-trick ponies anymore.

Starting price: $73,790
Horsepower: 797 hp

2020 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Review and Pricing

1. 2020 Ford Shelby GT500

And here we are: No. 1. The car that put the pony in pony cars, the Ford Mustang. For maximum muscle, I'm going to go with the 760-hp Shelby GT500. The GT500 scorches past the quarter-mile mark in 11.3 seconds and can rip around a road course as quickly as an exotic European sports car. Or you can simply do burnouts until the GT500's rear tires are nothing more than smoking puddles of rubber. It also gets some of the worst fuel mileage we've seen in a modern car in ages, which is historically accurate if not exactly carbon-footprint friendly. We'll forgive it because the GT500 has got everything a muscle car needs: power, legacy, and the ability to make you look like beefcake even if you haven't ever seen the inside of a gym.

Starting price: $74,095
Horsepower: 760 hp

2020 Ford Shelby GT500 Review and Pricing