Cars - for some folks they are nothing but a way to get around and for other cars are a lot more than just a way to the store. For the enthusiast cars are a hobby and a lot more. Car guys and gals will spend more money on their car each month souping it up or making it look different than they pay on a car payment and not bat an eye. In the world of cars there are all sorts of rides from the foreign type with giant wings and lots of stickers to good old American muscle. I like all sorts of cars as long as they are cool, look good, and perform but to some nothing beats American muscle.
For a few years it seemed that the muscle car was going to die off when the Camaro was ended, thankfully GM bought the car back. The only muscle car that has been on the scene since the muscle cars of the 60's is the Ford Mustang, and the Mustang is back with a vengeance this year. A bunch of other muscle cars are back as well with Dodge offering the Charger and the Challenger. It’s a good time to be a fan of muscle cars, that's for sure.
Each of the muscle cars on the market today be it the Camaro, the Mustang, the Charger, or the Challenger go about what they do in different ways and they all have a very retro edge to them. I can say that I like the looks of all of them. However, when it comes to performance they don’t all match up. You can't just look at the horsepower ratings and tell what car will be the fastest. The Mustang GT makes less power than most other muscle cars, but it's comparably lightweight and its handling make it a car to beat in many tests. Sit back, relax and check out my picks for the top muscle cars of the modern era. These are in no particular order, and by that I mean no hate mail telling me one car should be above the other! Enjoy!
1. 2012 Ford Mustang GT - I tell people I am not a Ford fan I am a Mustang fan. I have owned six different Mustangs in my life and enjoyed all of them. The cars of the 60's have a fond place in my heart, but there is no denying the pleasure that comes from having over 400hp under foot like the new 5.0 offers and knowing it will start every morning unlike some of those 60's muscle cars. This is the best muscle car on the market in my opinion when you look at performance for dollars. You can get a base Mustang GT for right at $30,000 making this car a raging bargain and putting it on the top of many best car lists this year for its category. If you opt for some of the higher end models like the 2012 Boss 302 or the GT500 you get even more performance. The Boss 302 is widely regarded already as the best Mustang ever built. The Boss 302 starts at right under $41,000.
2. 2012 Shelby GT500 - If you like Mustangs, you have to like the Shelby versions. Since the early days of the Mustang Shelby has been turning already cool cars into something altogether cooler. That tradition carries on today and the 2011 GT500 was even more special than the other models. The 2011 and 2012 car finally gave up that heavy iron block 5.4L supercharged V8 and went to a much lighter aluminum block making the car handle and perform better. The Shelby Mustang is not cheap, but considering the cars have over 500hp they are cheap for the segment. This is a great luxury muscle car that can cruise around town and then put it down at the drag strip like a bare bones racecar if you want. The GT500 has well over 500hp and starts at about $49,000.
3. 2011 Chevrolet Camaro - I almost bought a new Camaro rather than a Mustang. Ford lost me during the 94-04 range with the Mustang. The cars were underpowered and other than the 2003-1004 Cobra I never found the style just right for my eyes. I ended up going with a new 2010 Mustang mostly because my local Chevy dealer was marking their Camaros way up over sticker. I am not a fan of the interior design, but the new Camaro looks fantastic on the outside. It's also slightly faster than the Mustang in some magazine tests, though in the real world stock for stock the 2011 Mustang and the Camaro match is basically a driver's race. The 2SS Camaro is the enthusiast choice and starts in the mid $30,000 range putting it roughly $5,000 over the starting price of the Mustang GT. This car has a 6.2L 426hp V8 under the hood in 2SS form.
4. 2011 Dodge Challenger - I have never owned a Dodge product, and one of the few I would consider is the Challenger. This is one of my favorite cars to look at of all the new muscle cars. It looks great and has a cool interior that looks like the muscle cars of the 60's with nice updates. The big reason why this car isn’t one of my favorites all around though is that despite having a big V8 and more horsepower in some trims than the other cars on this list, the Challenger is porky. It has too much weight to carry around and that hurts performance all around. The car is undeniably sexy though and it needs either a major diet or more power to get more appealing in my eyes. You have to opt for at last the RT with this car to get into muscle car realm with the basic RT at $29,500 and the real beast of a muscle car being the SRT8 392 at $43,555. The big downside to me on this car is that you are paying the same money you could get something like a Boss 302 for that will perform better.
5. 2011 Dodge Charger - The only other Dodge car that I like is the Charger. This car is much further from its muscle car roots than the Challenger is. I hate that too, I loved the Charger as a kid with one of my favorite shows being The Dukes of Hazard and Bullitt with Steve McQueen having the epic car chase between the Mustang and the Charger. I think Dodge started thinking they were just recycling a nameplate and later decided they should add some retro touches to give the 60's feel that is popular in the muscle car world right now. The other downside is the price; the car starts at a modest $25,000. To get into true muscle car territory you have to choose a more expensive package making leaving the Charger less power and with less performance than the Mustang and costing more at the same time. You can get this car with all-wheel drive though, which is something the others lack.