When most people think of the traditional muscle car, they picture an American-built rear-wheel drive 2-door coupe with a honking big V8 under the hood. Generally, you’d also expect a loud exhaust, few interior amenities, and almost laughable handling. In reality, muscle cars ran the gamut from small 2-door coupes all the way to fullsize 4-door cars, and some of them handled remarkably well for their era. Today’s muscle cars come from all around the world, and feature even more power, better handling, and much improved interiors. Read on to discover the 10 best muscle cars to buy, as chosen by the expert editors at Autobytel, sorted alphabetically.
10 Best Muscle Cars to Buy
Photo Credit: Audi
Audi S8 Plus
The Audi S8 Plus strays from the traditional muscle car path with its fullsize f4-door body, but the biggest strike against it is that unlike a traditional muscle car, the S8 plus features all-wheel drive. That means that it won’t be able to do the traditional smoky burnout that you’d expect from a car on our list of the 10 best muscle cars to buy, but it does help keep the turbocharged V8 engine’s 605 horsepower under control. Top speed is limited to 155 mph (or 190 mph when equipped with the Dynamic package) and 60 mph arrives in 3.7 seconds, real muscle car numbers that put some smaller, lighter cars to shame.
Photo Credit: BMW
The BMW M6 might be German, but it follows the traditional muscle car formula of placing a powerful V8 engine into a 2-door coupe. The 560 horsepower from the turbocharged mill are sent to the rear wheels and can get the M6 to 60 miles per hour in 4.1 seconds when paired with the automatic transmission (4.3 seconds with the manual) and on to a top speed that’s limited to 155 mph. If you need more room in your muscle car, there’s the 4-door M6 Gran Coupe, and the M6 Convertible if you want to go topless. Any configuration would be a good choice for our list of the 10 best muscle cars to buy.
Photo Credit: Cadillac
The Cadillac CTS-V strays from the traditional muscle car with its 4-door body, but it features aggressive (and somewhat menacing) styling, a rear-wheel drive layout, and a 640-horsepower supercharged V8, which make it an excellent candidate for our list of the 10 best muscle cars to buy. The CTS-V can reach 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds and has a top speed of 200 mph, but it isn’t only about straight-line speed; this Cadillac corners and stops like a 4-door Corvette Z06 (which, incidentally, is where the car’s motor started out). Despite its performance, the CTS-V is also surprisingly comfortable and practical enough to use on a daily basis.
Photo Credit: General Motors
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 might not have the most power on our list of the 10 best muscle cars to buy, but it does have a relatively light curb weight (for a muscle car) that helps it match or beat most other cars on our list in a straight line. The supercharged V8 engine puts out 650 horsepower, which is enough to get the ZL1 to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 198 mph. The ZL1 also has remarkably capable handling, and isn’t out of place on a race track (especially one with some nice, long straights).
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
With its 707-horsepower supercharged V8 and rear-wheel drive layout, the fullsize 2-door Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is an obvious addition to our list of the 10 best muscle cars to buy. The sprint to 60 miles per hour takes around 3.5 seconds with an automatic (or a few ticks slower with the manual) and top speed is 199 mph. Handling isn’t particularly impressive, but this is a muscle car, and all that power sure is fun. A more aggressive version called the Demon is on the way, with wider tires for more grip (and a wider body to cover them), and possibly even more horsepower.
Photo Credit: Jaguar Land Rover
The Jaguar XJR might break the muscle car mold by virtue of being a fullsize 4-door sedan, but otherwise, it’s got all of the muscle car characteristics covered, including the most important, which is of course its 550-horsepower supercharged V8 engine. All that power is sent to the rear wheels, resulting in a sprint to 60 miles per hour that takes 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 174 mph. The XJR is a large car, yet it handles like something much smaller. While it might not be the best car on our list of the 10 best muscle cars to buy, the British take on a muscle car sure is compelling.
Photo Credit: Lexus
Lexus RC F
A Lexus on a list of the 10 best muscle cars to buy? Once you take a closer look at the Lexus GS F coupe and notice its 467-horsepower normally-aspirated V8, its subtly aggressive body and its rear-wheel drive configuration, it should all become a little bit clearer. The run to 60 miles per hour takes around 4.5 seconds, and top speed is electronically limited to 168 mph. It might be the slowest car on our list, but as the only naturally aspirated vehicle, it also makes one of the best noises, without any whooshing or whining to distract from the engine’s note.
Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-AMG S65 Coupe
With its turbocharged V12 engine, the Mercedes-AMG S65 Coupe is a bit exotic for a muscle car, but with 621 horsepower (and an amazing 738 lb-ft of torque), it sure performs like one. The run to 60 miles per hour take four seconds flat, and top speed is electronically limited to 186 mph. Sure, the lower-spec (and significantly cheaper) S63 with its turbo V8 and all-wheel drive system handles better and is faster to 60, but the extra power of the V12 and the S65’s rear-wheel drive layout means that it’s by far the better muscle car, and may be the most luxurious vehicle to ever qualify as one.
Shelby Super Snake
The Shelby Super Snake is the easiest way to get an uber-powerful Mustang after the demise of Ford’s GT500 in 2014 (at least until that model’s rumored return in 2018). Models are available with power levels from 670 to over 750 horsepower, which should be enough to get the Super Snake to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds (with the automatic, slightly slower with a manual). Shelby doesn’t specify a top speed, but it’s higher than anything you’ll reach on a public road or even a track (unless you plan on entering the Texas Mile). Speaking of tracks, Shelby has also tweaked the handling, making the Super Snake at home wherever you drive it.
Photo Credit: Tesla
Tesla Model S
At first glance, the Tesla Model S doesn’t seem anything like a traditional muscle car, with its fully electric powertrain, all-wheel drive and 4-door layout. But like a traditional muscle car, it’s a rocket in a straight line, hitting 60 miles per hour in 2.7 seconds before going on to a top speed of 155 mph. Also like a muscle car is handling that can’t quite keep all the power under control (though it is much better than anything produced in the muscle car era, and better than just about any other electric vehicle). The only thing missing is the sweet sound of a good old internal combustion engine.