Since the two have coexisted, sports cars and muscle cars have kept to their respective corners. But those days may be over, as the past several years have produced a number of vehicles that have been more than willing to flirt with the other side.
Muscle cars are American by most people’s definition. Although there are examples of muscle cars from overseas, almost every model in history have been designed and built by companies like Dodge, General Motors, and Ford. Muscle cars are traditionally defined by their raw power, usually courtesy of a large V8 engine, and also by a two-door format and rear-wheel drive. Also, affordability. Muscle cars were made for the common blue-collar worker, giving the average American a chance to hit the streets with speed and style.
Sports cars, on the other hand, have much looser definitions. Sports cars are traditionally built low to the ground with the ultimate goal of attaining incredibly high speeds. They come in all shapes and forms, with engines that can range a turbo-four all the way up to V10s, V12s, or W16s in some cases (it’s hard to argue that the Bugatti Veyron is not a sports car).
Pony cars are an American-built vehicle class that is sporty and compact, and also affordable, which many people classify as a subset of the muscle car segment. The Ford Mustang is a perfect example of a pony car, and widely regarded as the first. Historically, the Camaro and Challenger could also be thrown in the same category. But what really separates them from another coupe? While there are some loose ideas, there really are no concrete rules for what qualifies and what doesn’t. The main connecting factor between both is that they were aimed at the common man, the blue-collar worker.
Any differences aside, the major difference between sport and luxury cars and muscle cars mostly boils down to affordability. While a Mustang or Challenger is usually within grasp of the average consumer, a Mercedes-Benz or Jaguar likely isn’t. However, if we take affordability off the table, a whole slate of new cars that obviously have muscle car inspiration can enter the fold. Basically, that means that some cars traditionally thought to belong in other classes may qualify. Many of these vehicles can be classified as luxury cars from certain viewpoints, but the fact remains that they are blending muscle and sport car DNA to push performance further and further.
Without further ado, here are seven vehicles that are blending the line between muscle and sports cars.
1. Viper GTS
There’s no arguing that the Viper is one of the sleekest and sportiest cars on the road. But you can also see that muscle car DNA inside of it. If the aesthetics were a little less rounded, the muscular features would really begin to pop out. It’s also got the heart of a muscle car — in terms of power, anyway. The Viper GTS does go a little further than the muscle car-standard big block V8 engine, and instead is propelled by an 8.4-liter V10, producing up to 640 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque. The Viper does miss the mark on affordability, however, with prices starting in the six figures.
2. Maserati GranTurismo
You’re right: nothing about a European luxury car really says ‘muscle car.’ But the Maserati GranTurismo uses a formula that’s reminiscent of the powerhouses born in Detroit. Boasting a two-door coupe chassis like many muscle cars do, the GranTurismo may look out of place, but it feels right at home among the Challengers and Mustangs of the world. Boasting an engine that kicks out 405 horsepower, enabling a rush from 0-60 in 5.2 seconds, the GranTurismo can get the job done on the track as well. Again, the glaring exception here is with the price, as most blue-collar types won’t typically be found hitting the streets in a Maserati.
3. Aston Martin V12 Vantage S
Sharing similar features to the Viper GTS and Maserati GranTurismo, Aston Martin’s V12 Vantage S also appears to have shared a common ancestor with today’s muscle cars. The Vantage S may be Aston Martin’s most incredible feat to date. The car is immensely powerful — it produces 565 horsepower, 457 pound-feet of torque, and can go a blistering 205 miles per hour, all behind the strength of a 6.0-liter V12 engine. Like most muscle cars, it’s rear-wheel drive, and features a two-door body. One more amazing feat? It can jet from 0-60 in 3.7 seconds.
4. Jaguar XKR
If you were going to make the argument that foreign auto manufacturers actually do build muscle cars, you’d have to include Jaguar’s XKR on that list. Of course, the XKR has a starting price of more than $100,000, immediately disqualifying it from almost any muscle car criteria out there. But from an aesthetics and performance standpoint, it looks to fit right in. Under the hood, the XKR sports a 5.0-liter V8 engine, sure to be loved by muscle car enthusiasts. Also, it can sprint from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in just 4.6 seconds. One downside? It’s limited to a top speed of 155 miles per hour. Not that you need to go that fast in the first place, right?
5. Porsche 911 GT3
Many Porsche models may fit certain muscle car requirements, but the 911 GT3 likely fits them the best. Sleek, sexy, and mean, the 911 GT3 is as fast as they come, proven by a 3.3 second 0-60 time. It gets the job done on the power scale as well, making up to 475 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. Where it falls short of the muscle car test is in the specifics, as the GT3 has a six-cylinder engine rather than a V8, and it’s rear-mounted as well. Also, with a price of more than $130,000, this Porsche is out of range for almost everybody.
6. Jaguar F-TYPE
Jaguar’s not finished when it comes to this list, as the F-TYPE coupe also deserves a spot. Relatively speaking, the F-TYPE is affordable compared to other vehicles on this list, and is similar to top-end muscle cars like the Challenger Hellcat and Shelby Mustang GT500, with a price tag of $65,000. Under the hood, the F-TYPE features a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine that blasts out 502 pound-feet of torque and allows for a top speed of 186 miles per hour. It can also rocket from 0-60 in four seconds flat.
7. Mercedes SLS AMG GT
If there is a Mercedes model that comes close to the muscle car criteria, the AMG GT is it. It sure does seem to fit as far as design and aesthetics with the classic two-door coupe chassis, and the 6.3-liter V8 engine is sure to please muscle car enthusiasts. As far as performance, the AMG GT generates 583 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, allowing for a 0-60 time of 3.6 seconds. Once again, affordability is the biggest setback, as this Mercedes model has a high price tag of more than $220,000.