Tasked with identifying a group of European muscle cars, we first sought the traditional definition of the term. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines muscle cars as "Any of a group of American-made two-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving.” Translating this to cars of European origin, we were faced with determining which models qualified more as muscle cars, as opposed to sports cars. We finally settled on models more generally thought of as Grand Touring or GT cars, because when you boil it down, a GT car is basically a very nicely finished muscle car. To further narrow this list of European muscle cars, we took the top-performing variant of each European GT car we considered worthy of a spot—and so here you go.
13 of the Hottest European Muscle Cars
Aston Martin Vanquish
First and foremost, muscle cars are about power and the resultant speed one can attain through liberal applications of said power. According to the people at Aston Martin, the contemporary Vanquish houses the most potent V12 engine the company has ever built. Thus, the gracefully brutal-looking Aston Martin Vanquish casually decimates inertia with a 568-horsepower 6.0-liter normally aspirated V12, capable of generating some 465 ft-lbs of torque. An eight-speed automatic routes engine output to the rear wheels. This is enough to propel the shapely 3,834-pound coupe to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds from rest, and onward to attain a top speed of 201 mph.
Audi’s handsome and richly appointed S5 offers some 333 horsepower and 325 ft-lbs of torque from a supercharged 3.0-liter V6. A six-speed manual transmission is the standard offering, along with all-wheel drive. As an option, Audi will deliver the S5 with a seven-speed automated manual dual-clutch gearbox. To sharpen the S5’s handling capabilities, we highly recommend ordering the optional sport differential, which is capable of individually apportioning torque between the rear wheels. We’re discussing the S5 rather than the RS 5 because Audi isn’t offering the infinitely more capable coupe in the States for the 2016 model year.
As the most potent iteration of the smallest BMW coupe, the 2016 BMW M235i earns its spot on this list of European muscle cars. An admirable performer in a refined and well-executed package, the 2016 BMW M235i makes 320 horsepower and 330 ft-lbs of torque from a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. An eight-speed automatic transmission is fitted as standard equipment to feed the rear wheels, while a six-speed manual is offered as a no-cost option because—well, that’s just how the Bavarians be rollin’ y’all. The sharp little coupe’s 0-60 time is an estimated 4.5 seconds.
In the rather recent past, a BMW M3 would’ve occupied this space. These days, the M3 is a sedan and the coupe version of the highly regarded BMW is known as the 2016 BMW M4. A paragon among European muscle cars, the BMW M4 boasts a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine good for 425 horsepower and 406 ft-lbs of torque. This awe-inspiring powerplant features a 7,600-rpm redline. Transmission choices are between a traditional six-speed manual, and a seven-speed automated manual dual clutch gearbox. BMW says the M4 is good for a 0-60 of 3.9 seconds with the automated manual and launch control.
The BMW M6 delivers the power and speed of the Aston Martin Vanquish from a smaller and more efficient engine, thanks to BMW engineering’s prowess in turbocharging. We’re looking at 560 horsepower and 500 ft-lbs of torque from a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8. Go with the Competition Package and engine output is bumped to 575 horsepower. Feeding the rear wheels is a seven-speed automated manual dual-clutch gearbox. BMW will also deliver your M6 with a traditional six-speed manual at no extra cost should you prefer. The M6 coupe is said to accelerate to 60 in just under four seconds.
Bentley Continental GT Speed
The highest performing version of the extremely formidable Bentley Continental GT, the 2016 Bentley Continental GT Speed delivers an absolutely stupefying 626 horsepower and 607 ft-lbs of torque to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. This prodigious performance emanates from a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W-12 cylinder engine. This is sufficient to propel the 5,000-pound coupe to 60 mph in four seconds, and on to a top speed of 206 miles per hour. As European muscle cars go, the Bentley Continental GT Speed sets a very high bar.
Photo Credit: Jaguar
Jaguar F-Type R Coupe
With the recent demise of the beloved Jaguar XK Coupe, the 2016 Jaguar F-TYPE R is the most muscular coupe in the Jaguar lineup. For this most potent of the Jaguar two-doors, a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 with 550 horsepower and 502 ft-lbs of torque sends power to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. This makes the F-Type R the first all-wheel drive two-seat Jaguar coupe ever offered. According to the people at Jaguar responsible for quoting these things, one can reasonably expect the F-Type R coupe to blow through 60 mph in just under four seconds.
Maserati Granturismo MC
The ultra-curvaceous Maserati Granturismo MC is the most capable version of Maserati’s contemporary coupe. As we mentioned in the intro, European Grand Touring cars are by and large their version of our muscle cars. Well, check it, the Maserati has Grand Touring in its name. Power comes from a 4.7-liter V8 good for 454 horsepower and 384 ft-lbs of torque. This is fed to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The run from 0-60 is quoted at 4.7 seconds. Top speed is quoted at 185 mph.
Given the style, luxury, and sophistication of the passenger cars Mercedes-Benz typically sends to the USA, thinking of the brand as offering anything approaching a muscle car might be something of a stretch for some. Meanwhile, the fact of the matter is that some of the most muscular European muscle cars wear the three-pointed star. The 2016 Mercedes-AMG C63 churns 451 horsepower and 443 ft-lbs of torque out of a handcrafted 6.2-liter V8 to feed the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission reinforced to handle the stresses this monster of an engine can generate. The C63 will hit 60 in an estimated 4.4 seconds from a dead stop.
Mercedes-AMG S65 Coupe
The most beautiful of all of the current Mercedes models, the Mercedes-AMG S65 Coupe is also one of the fastest cars you can buy. Hailed by more than a few highly critical reviewers as perhaps the best GT car money can buy, the S65 Coupe boasts a turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 good for 621 horsepower and 738 ft-lbs of torque. Audaciously fed to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission, this powertrain can propel the graceful coupe to 60 mph in right around five seconds. Were its top speed not limited, the S65 Coupe could easily exceed 200 mph.
While its styling pales in comparison to the SL-Class Mercedes models preceding it, the current iteration of the SL—when outfitted by AMG with the handbuilt twin-turbocharged V12—is easily the fastest version of the SL currently offered. The 6.0-liter V12 is good for 621 horsepower and 738 ft-lbs of torque. Just as in the S65 Coupe, this power is fed to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission. Because of this, the powertrain can propel the hardtop convertible Mercedes two-seater to 60 mph in just under four seconds (3.9, to be precise). Were its top speed not limited, the S65 Coupe could easily exceed 200 mph.
Mercedes-AMG GT S
When it comes to European muscle cars, Mercedes-Benz clearly rules the continent. Of the 15 cars on this list, five are offered by Mercedes-Benz. Perhaps hewing more closely to the American muscle car model than any other offering here, the Mercedes-AMG GT S drops an exceptionally powerful V8 engine in a lightweight body. Oh, by the way, just for grins, the AMG engineering team fitted the 4.0-liter V8 with a pair of turbochargers to extract some 503 horsepower as well as 479 ft-lbs of torque from it. A seven-speed automated manual transmission manages power transfer to the rear wheels. This Mercedes will accelerate from 0-60 in 3.7 seconds.
Mercedes-Benz E550 Coupe
The only contemporary coupe in the Mercedes-Benz lineup to escape the ministrations of the diabolical speed-meisters at AMG, the lovely 2016 Mercedes-Benz E550 Coupe is still an exceptional Grand Touring car. Thus it lands a favored spot on our list of European muscle cars just the same. We do admit to salivating at the thought of what AMG could do, were its engineering team ever given a crack at the E-Class Coupe. You see, even without them, the E550 version of the two-door pillarless Mercedes boasts 402 horsepower and 443 ft-lbs of torque from a 4.7-liter twin-turbocharged V8. This is routed to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission. The E550 coupe will dispatch a run to 60 from rest in five seconds flat.