A muscle car without a V-8 engine sitting under the hood might seem like a contradiction in terms, but the reality is that V-6 coupes have been turning heads since the Buick Grand National debuted in the mid-1980s. Modern technology has managed to squeeze high output from six-cylinder motors and combine that with impressive fuel mileage, creating a new class of muscle machines that provide cheap thrills thanks to their entry-level MSRPs and reduced gas pump pocketbook impact.
Let’s take a look at five V-6 muscle cars that match the V-8 models of just a few years ago in terms of performance without sucking back fuel at quite the same accelerated rate.
The 2011 Dodge Challenger SE benefits from a significant entry-level engine upgrade for the current model year. Last year’s Dodge Challenger six-cylinder mill has been swapped out in favor of a new Pentastar 3.6-liter that puts out a formidable 305 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque. Fuel mileage for the powerful V-6 checks in at 18-mpg around town and 27-mpg on the highway.
Unlike other muscle coupes, the retro-themed Challenger SE comes exclusively with a five-speed automatic transmission – no manual option is available – but the Dodge still manages to turn in a 0-60 miles per hour time of just 7.4 seconds. The coupe also sports better suspension tuning for 2011, which improves its road holding ability and adds high speed stability.
The 2011 Ford Mustang V-6 coupe comes through for cost-conscious muscle shoppers thanks to its 305 horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 motor. Also capable of producing 280 lb-ft of torque, the Ford Mustang V-6 coupe comes with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. Manual models can hit 60 miles per hour from a standing start in just 5.8 seconds while still returning exceptional fuel mileage of 19-mpg in city driving and 31-mpg during highway cruising.
Ford has also made a number of additional performance options available with the V6 trim level, including the Pony package (which adds several styling cues lifted from the GT model), as well as the Performance package (which grafts on the V-8 edition’s upgraded brakes and suspension system).
The base 2011 Chevrolet Camaro LS offers substantial V-6 grunt to go with its neo-classic styling. The Chevrolet Camaro starts out with a 3.6-liter V-6 under the hood, a motor which is rated at 312 horses and 278 lb-ft of torque and which can launch the muscle coupe to 60 miles per hour in 6.1 seconds. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual (standard) and a six-speed autobox (optional), and fuel mileage for the very quick Camaro is rated at 17-mpg in stop and go driving and 28-mpg on the highway. For drivers who want to accentuate the coupe’s good looks, the optional RS package includes HID headlights, bigger 20-inch wheels and a few exterior trim tweaks that set the car apart from the entry-level LS.
The 2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec is the most track-ready edition of the Korean two-door muscle machine, providing an interesting counterpoint to Detroit’s traditional dominance of the segment. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec is motivated by a 3.8-liter V-6 that churns out 306 ponies and 266 lb-ft of twist, corralled and sent to the rear wheels by a six-speed manual transmission. Fuel mileage for this edition of the Genesis Coupe shows as 17-mpg city and 26-mpg highway.
In addition to the grunt offered by its 3.8-liter motor, the R-Spec Hyundai also comes with features such as a limited-slip rear differential, Brembo brakes and the tightest suspension to be offered for the Genesis Coupe. These features help to make the R-Spec a very well rounded performance package, and the vehicle can reach 60 miles per hour after just 5.5 ticks of the stopwatch.
The 2011 Nissan 370Z might be positioned as more of a sports car than a muscle competitor, but the details don’t lie: the coupe features a 3.7-liter V-6 as standard equipment, and this motor pumps out 332 horses and 270 lb-ft of torque. The Nissan 370Z can be had with either a six-speed manual transmission (which features automatic rev matching when the Sport package is ordered), or a seven-speed, paddle-shifted automatic transmission that also incorporates the rev match feature.
The Nissan two-seat performance car rockets to 60 miles per hour in a blistering 5.1 seconds, and it also provides fuel economy that is rated at 18-mpg in city driving and 26-mpg on the highway. These numbers certainly help the 370Z as it fends off the retinue of fresh competitors in the V-6 performance segment.