2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack ・ Photo by Benjamin Hunting
Affordable muscle cars are the people's champions, machines that might not have the all-around performance pedigree of a dedicated sports car but which still pack significant power under the hood. The democratization of inexpensive muscle has reached a fever pitch over the course of the last decade or so, with anywhere between 300 and 500 horsepower accessible to gearheads at surprisingly reasonable prices both on the used and new market.
In recognition of this golden age of cheap performance we've put together a list of the 10 best affordable muscle cars money can buy, split between 5 brand new 2015 models and 5 recent used vehicles. Let's see how much tire smoke per dollar you can get on the modern market.
The 2015 Ford Mustang GT has been completely redesigned, but while it's gained a new independent rear suspension system and more modern styling it hasn’t lost its affordable muscle car reputation in the process. With a starting MSRP of $32,300, the Ford Mustang GT delivers 435 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque from a 5.0-liter V-8 engine that can be mated to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. The Mustang GT can launch itself to 60-mph from a standing start in just 4.4 seconds, and chows down the quarter mile in 12.8 seconds.
What affordable muscle car round-up would be complete without the ying to the Mustang GT's yang: the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS. Although due for a redesign of its own next year, the current Chevrolet Camaro SS still has plenty to tempt performance fans, including a 6.2-liter V-8 engine that’s good for 426 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Like its Ford rival, the Camaro SS features the choice between six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, and it's also very quick in a straight line: you'll see 60-mph arrive in a mere 4.8 seconds, and the quarter mile disappear in 12.9 seconds. Not bad for $34,500.
The 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T is a little old school compared to its modern muscle car compatriots, in the sense that this full-size coupe is more of a cruiser than a corner-carver. The refreshed Dodge Challenger R/T also offers the most 'true to nostalgia' styling on the market, with its generous proportions a faithful throwback to the early 70s Challengers it was inspired by. Under the hood, the $31,495 Challenger R/T features a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that churns out 375 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque when matched with its standard six-speed manual transmission (an eight-speed autobox is also available). The extra size and weight of the Dodge shows up in its performance numbers: 0-60-mph takes 5.8 seconds, while the quarter mile goes by in the low 13-second range.
Photo by Benjamin Hunting
The 2015 Hyundai Genesis Coupe R-Spec is an often-overlooked affordable muscle car that provides many of the same thrills as its domestic segment-mates. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe R-Spec (priced at $29,500) is motivated by a 3.8-liter V-6 that can be counted on to produce 348 horsepower and 298 lb-ft of torque, numbers that see it surging to 60-mph in 5.3 seconds when equipped with a six-speed manual transmission (with a quarter mile time registering at 13.4 seconds). There's an eight-speed automatic also available with the car for those who prefer not to shift themselves.
The 2015 Dodge Charger R/T might seem an unlikely muscle car, but given that it rides on the same platform as the two-door Challenger R/T (and shares the same engine), it only makes sense to include it with its affordable brethren. In addition to seating as many as five passengers in respectable comfort, the $32,99 Dodge Charger R/T (which has been refreshed for the current model year) punches above it weight with a 370 horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8. An eight-speed automatic is the only gearbox offered with the Charger R/T, and the sedan's 395 lb-ft of torque see it hitting 60-mph in 5.6 seconds while tearing down the quarter mile drag strip in 14 seconds.
Leading off the used section of our list of affordable muscle cars is the 2004 Mercury Marauder, a model that flies under the radar of most enthusiasts. That's really too bad, as this beefed up version of Mercury's bread-and-butter full-size sedan features a 32-valve edition of FoMoCo's 4.6-liter V-8 that generates 302 horsepower and 318 lb-ft of torque. This, plus its four-speed automatic transmission, translates into tire-smoking fun along with a 0-60 time of seven seconds. The quarter mile arrives in the mid-14 second range for the Mercury Marauder, which can be found for a very reasonable $10,000 to $15,000 today.
The 2003 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra is the model that really put the Mustang on the muscle car map in the 2000s. Also known as the 'Terminator,' the Ford Mustang SVT Cobra develops 390 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque from a supercharged 4.6-liter V-8 that takes well to aftermarket modifications for those brave enough to seek scary levels of output. A six-speed manual is all that's offered in the SVT Cobra's transmission department, enabling the coupe to reach 60-mph in 4.5 seconds and dust off the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds (for between $25,000 to $30,000 secondhand).
The 2006 Pontiac GTO represents the last model year of an affordable muscle car that should have sparked customer interest, but didn't. Blame it on the milquetoast styling, or the lower output of the 2004 debut edition, but few of these high performance coupes were sold. The good news is they've managed to keep a low profile on the used market as well, which means you can snag a Pontiac GTO featuring a 400 horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 engine in the neighborhood of $20,000. That's a phenomenal bargain for car with an available six-speed manual transmission (or a four-speed automatic), 400 lb-ft of torque, and a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds (with a quarter mile score of 13 seconds flat).
Photo by Pontiac
Another outlier from the world of affordable muscle cars is the 2008 Dodge Magnum SRT8, one of the baddest people movers around and a genuine drag strip threat. Expect to pay between $25,000 and $30,000 for a good example of the Dodge Magnum SRT8, which offers a 425 horsepower, 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 engine that's also capable of producing 420 lb-ft of twist. A five-speed automatic handles the gear shifting duties for the SRT8 wagon, and with your foot to the floor this bargain hauler leaps to 60-mph in 5.1 seconds while lighting up the quarter mile in 13.1 seconds.
Before it evolved into the world-beating super sedan that it is today, the Cadillac CTS-V had more modest roots: namely, a Corvette engine stuffed inside a lively four-door luxury sedan chassis. The 2007 Cadillac CTS-V was the last model year for a vehicle that showed the luxury brand had aspirations beyond cornering the retiree market, a strategy that was underscored by the car's 400 horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 (also good for 395 lb-ft of torque) and standard six-speed manual transmission. For between $20,000 and $25,000, 60-mph arrives from behind the wheel of a first-generation CTS-V in 4.9 seconds, and the quarter mile is obliterated in 13.1 seconds.