Thoroughly American and timeless, muscle and pony cars have seen a hot resurgence over the past several years. These cars have come a long way sine their original inceptions back in the 1960s and ’70s, but today’s auto makers are outfitting modern muscle and pony cars to be faster and stronger than ever before.
There are obviously a slew choices on the market for those who are shopping for one of these living legends, with enough variants and special edition models to make your head spin. Not only that, but tuners and special outfitting companies like Saleen and Hennessey have even jumped into the game, releasing suped-up models that can lay down performance numbers that can blow past many of the worlds quickest sports cars.
But of the big American automakers, which can flex the most muscle? That’s the questions we’re tackling, and we’re digging into the numbers to find out. We take a look at three separate pony cars — the Ford Mustang, the Chevrolet Camaro, and the Dodge Challenger — to see which car, at its top trim level, brings the most power, speed, and affordability to the table. For the sake of comparison, we’ll look at the fastest and most powerful model currently available.
Again, we’re comparing base models, with all statistics and data taken directly from the manufacturers. Read on to see the comparison, as we tackle each car one at a time.
The Mustang Shelby GT500
The first car we’re taking a look at is the embodiment of timelessness, the Ford Mustang, particularly the GT500. While Ford has seen its classic pony car go through rapid transitions over the years from one form to another, fans and car buffs alike still flock to the dealerships every time an updated model hits the streets. So what does the Mustang GT 500 offer?
2014 brought us the sleek and powerful GT500 we’ve come to expect. First things first, prices for the Mustang Shelby GT 500 start at $55,110, which registers as affordable in some households (and is cheap relative to the power it provides). Under the hood, this Mustang houses a 5.8-liter supercharged V8 engine, capable of generating 662 horsepower and 631 pound-feet of torque. According to Motor Trend’s testing data, the 2013 model can make the run from 0-60 in 4.1 seconds, and break through a quarter mile in 12.4 seconds. It also breaks through the 200 miles per hour mark in term of top speed.
Ford has yet to introduce the replacement for the GT500, which hasn’t been updated to reflect the new, 2015 generation of Mustang. However, one thing’s for sure — given the new competition, the next model should prove to be even better still.
The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
With a quick look at the Mustang GT500 under our belt, our attention now turns to the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. Like the Mustang, the Challenger comes in many different flavors, from the base model SXT, all the way up to the world’s fastest and most powerful muscle car (at least so far), the Challenger Hellcat.
The SRT Hellcat is equipped with the most powerful production V8 motor of all time: a supercharged 6.2-liter Hellcat engine. The Hellcat delivers a punishing 707 horsepower and 645 pound-feet of torque, vastly outperforming the Mustang. Despite that enormous amount of power, the Hellcat can still get relatively decent fuel economy, up to 22 miles per gallon on the highway. As far as pricing goes, the Hellcat starts at $59,995. That price is more than the Mustang, just barely offering Ford the edge in that category thus far. In terms of performance, the Hellcat definitely takes the cake with a 0-60 time in the low 3-second range, and a quarter-mile time of just over 10.8 seconds. Also, for overall top speed, the Hellcat tops out at 199 miles per hour.
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Last, but not least, the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The Camaro made its triumphant reintroduction to the market several years back, after production ended between 2002 and 2010. But now it’s back and better than ever. With a facelift and a number of other cosmetic updates, the Camaro has successfully landed right back in the middle of the muscle car fight.
This Camaro variant is loaded up with a 580-horsepower, supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine, that also delivers 556 pound-feet of torque. The ZL1 can also scream down the track, rocketing from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds and reaching a quarter mile in 12 seconds. As far as top overall speed goes, the ZL1 can reach 184 miles per hour at its peak performance. So, what will it set you back? The SS model has a starting price of $55,505, placing it in the middle of the three models in this comparison.
So where does that leave us? Which muscle car takes the crown?
In terms of performance and speed, the winner looks to be the Challenger Hellcat. In both the 0-60 and quarter-mile time, the Hellcat far outpaces its two competitors. In overall top speed, however, the Mustang GT500 comes out on top. For raw power, the Hellcat again takes the cake with its 707 horsepower and 645 pound-feet of torque. Finally, when it comes to affordability, the Mustang GT500 comes out on top with a starting price of $55,110, barely beating the Camaro ZL1, and coming in nearly $5,000 less than the Challenger Hellcat.
All things considered? It’s hard to top the Challenger Hellcat as a complete body of work.
So there you have it, the top three muscle cars, compared head to head. Of course, there are many other factors that play into choosing the right car, and it will simply come down to personal preference. All three of these cars are, without a doubt, tremendous feats of engineering and design and are sure to deliver an amazing driving experience. But when it comes to choosing the right muscle car for you, going with your gut — and also taking a look at the numbers, as we did above — is a good idea.