A good muscle car isn’t just going to have a sleek, two-door exterior with a low clearance, moderate weight and a leaping acceleration; a good muscle car needs a roaring V8 engine to give it the lightning quick speed that defines its performance and the riveting, deafening feel that makes it an American muscle.
Here, we’ll evaluate some of America’s fastest muscle cars, looking at models across both manufacturer and generation.
1987 Buick GNX
Let’s start with a legend: One of the most celebrated Buick muscle cars, the 1987 Buick GNX ended its own series with 276 horsepower and 360 lbs-ft of torque, letting drivers reach 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds — a still impressive feat. Grand Nationals are outliers in the history of American muscle cars because they used V6 engines rather than V8. You won’t find many of these left, but if you can get your hands on it, you’ll never leave the steering wheel.
Ford Mustang GT
Who could breath “muscle car” without talking about the Mustang? More importantly, why would you want to? Mustangs were among the earliest muscle cars and come in both coupe and convertible. The latest Mustang offers its owners a 460 horsepower, 5.0L V8 engine with 420 lbs-ft of torque to take you from 0 to 60 in a cool 4.3 seconds. Though some debate whether it’s still appropriate to consider it a muscle car, there’s no doubts about the Mustang GT’s iconic stature in American car history and the loyalty of its followers. It’s one of the originals that have survived over the years because of its ability to adapt with the whims of consumers and maintain a tactile legacy in every one of its drivers, who then pass it onto their offspring.
Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
Don’t forget about the Shelby GT500 — its powerful 5.2L V8 engine and bucking 662 horsepower won’t settle for second place. In fact, the GT500 is more powerful and faster than the GT, even though it only rejoined Ford just 10 years ago.
Like the Camaro, it has an independent rear suspension; unlike the Camaro, it has the classic Mustang handling which makes you long for curvy country roads.
Chevrolet Camaro SS
Also coming in coupe and convertible, the Camaro has a 51-year history, four generations, and an almost retirement coloring its latest edition. There are a lot of features and mechanics making the Camaro SS one of the top performing muscle cars on the market right now, beginning with a 455-horsepower engine, paired with 455 lbs-ft of torque, followed by a 6.2L v8 engine that brings the Camaro from 0 to 60 in an even 4.0 seconds, and culminating in a magnetic suspension which keeps your ride smooth and steady, no matter how bumpy the road is.
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Packing a bigger punch than the SS, the Camaro ZL1 features a 6.2L V8 that’ll get you from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds with a sustained push bolstered by 650 horsepower and 650 lbs-ft of torque. Though the fastest of the Camaros, it doesn’t sacrifice speed for handling. It has magnetic ride control, so it glides across road surfaces with ease and impressing onlookers with its performance.
Chevrolet Camaro Z28
While not as quick with its 0 to 60 as its cousin the SS (it lags by just 0.4 seconds), the Z28 deserves a shoutout based on its 505 horsepower alone. Its similarly unique suspension allows it lick curves, though you might be hard-pressed to find one in your price range.
Dodge Challenger SRT 392
If you’re looking for a muscle car that can roar, take caution: the Challenger can roar, and then some. With a 6.4L HEMI v8 engine producing 485 horsepower and 470 lbs-ft of torque, the Challenger SRT 392 is sure to turn heads and evoke envy. Its larger size strikes some as unorthodox, but you’ll want the extra room in the back so your friends can also experience the comforting vibration and the smoothness with which it takes to the road.
Dodge Charger SRT / SRT Hellcat
If you haven’t been satisfied with engine size, here’s your chance: The Charger SRT has a 6.4L Hemi V8 engine that gives it 485 horsepower; the SRT Hellcat, however, swaps the engine for a 6.2L V8 to give us an incredible 707 horsepower, meaning you can go from 0 to 60 in just 3.4 seconds, making the Hellcat the fastest muscle car on this list. But if you weren’t sold on speed alone, test out its cornering abilities; with its adaptive suspension and four driving modes, drivers are able to hug the road with a steady, responsive handling. Best of all, rather than an outlier, the Hellcat is exemplitive of the Charger series in its ability to read the road.