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(iSeeCars) — Although the first true American muscle car was introduced in 1949 with the Oldsmobile Rocket 88, it wasn’t until the 1960s that muscle cars enjoyed their heyday. It was during this time that Americans embraced their love for powerful vehicles, and the major American automakers introduced high-performance vehicles into their lineups to meet the growing demand. 

While there aren’t as many Detroit-bred muscle cars in production today, there are still several American muscle cars to choose from. There are even luxury vehicles that have the qualities of a muscle car for drivers who want something more sophisticated. Or, if you want to own a classic, there are many vintage muscle cars to choose from. With many muscle cars across many different trim levels, we’re breaking down the best muscle cars for power-hungry drivers. 

What is a Muscle Car?

Muscle cars don’t have a standard definition, but for the purpose of this article, we’re categorizing traditional muscle cars as American coupes and sedans with powerful v8 engines. They typically come standard with rear-wheel drive rather than front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive versions are also available. (You can learn about the differences of RWD vs. FWD here.) With their fast acceleration and straight-line speed, muscle cars are considered the best vehicles for drag racing, and these performance cars are also relatively affordable when compared to the foreign sports cars. Along with the standard American muscle cars, we’re also including an analysis of foreign and American luxury vehicles that we feel embody the essence of a muscle car. 

Best Muscle Cars 

Each American muscle car is iconic in its own right, but some perform better than others. We determined the Best Muscle Cars based on iSeeCars Best Cars Analysis. The winners are cars that are the longest-lasting, hold their value the best, and have the highest average safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The vehicle’s torque and horsepower are also taken into account.  

1.  Dodge Charger

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.8

  • Reliability Score: 8.1
  • Retained Value Score: 8.4
  • Safety Score: 10.0

Average New Car Price: $39,931

Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $42,070

The top-ranked muscle car is none other than the Dodge Charger. With a powerful V8 engine in its R/T, Scat Pack, and SRT Hellcat models, this spacious sedan is as comfortable as it is powerful. The Dodge Charger R/T boasts a 5.7-liter V8 engine with 370 horsepower, while the more powerful Scat Pack has a 6.4-liter V8 that offers 485 horsepower. However, the most powerful of all are the famed Dodge Charger Hellcat and the new for 2021 Hellcat Redeye trim. Both have a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that produces 717 horsepower for the Hellcat and 797 horsepower for the Hellcat Redeye. Both can achieve zero to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds and the Hellcat Redeye can run the quarter-mile in 10.6 seconds.

2. Ford Mustang

iSeeCars Quality Score: 7.7

  • Reliability Score: 8.5
  • Retained Value Score: 6.9
  • Safety Score: Not Available

Average New Car Price: $49,128

Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $36,338

A second famed American car, the Ford Mustang ranks second. Though generally classified as a sports car, its high-performance versions earn the muscle car designation. First is the Ford Mustang GT, which has a five-liter V8 engine that provides 460 horsepower and is available with a six-speed manual transmission or a 10-speed automatic. The Mach 1 replaces the discontinued-for-2021 Bullit trim and has the GT’s V8 engine but increases the horsepower to 480. The highest-performance variant is the Shelby GT500 with a supercharged 760 horsepower V8 engine with 625 pound feet of torque to make it the most powerful car that Ford has ever produced. 

3. Chevrolet Camaro

iSeeCars Quality Score: 7.5

  • Reliability Score: 8.0
  • Retained Value Score: 7.0
  • Safety Score: 10.0

Average New Car Price: $51,646

Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $40,151

In third place is the Chevrolet Camaro, which earns muscle car distinction with its LT1, SS, and ZL1 trims. With a starting price of $34,000, the beloved Chevy Camaro LT1 is the lowest-price V8 muscle car on the market and comes with a 455-horsepower engine and a performance suspension. The SS comes with the same engine, but adds more technology and safety features. The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is the most powerful and expensive trim and comes with a 650-horsepower supercharged V8 engine. Along with the Mustang, the Camaro is generally considered a pony car rather than a muscle car due to its size, but we are categorizing it as a muscle car based on its engine performance. 

4. Dodge Challenger

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.0

  • Reliability Score: 8.2
  • Retained Value Score: 7.9
  • Safety Score: 10.0

Average New Car Price: $42,688

Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $43,798

Rounding out the list is the Dodge Challenger, which like the Charger, combines power and comfort with its spacious cabin and robust engine choices. The Challenger is available with a V8 engine on its R/T and SRT-Hellcat trims. The R/T is the lowest-priced trim to feature a V8 engine and provides 375 horsepower from a Hemi V8. Moving up the trim line is the R/T Scat Pack, which is upgraded to 485-horsepower and has more convenience features and a better infotainment system. The Scat Pack is also available with the Widebody package that adds 3.5 inches of width and includes a high-performance suspension and brake system on 20-inch wheels. Next is the SRT Hellcat with a 717 horsepower Hemi V8 engine and features including a supercharger, upgraded brakes, and a high-performance SRT-tuned suspension system. The second-most powerful trim is the Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye with 797 horsepower from a supercharged Hemi V8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Topping the lineup is the new for 2020 SRT Super Stock, which has a 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 with 807 horsepower and 707 pound-feet of torque. With a quarter-mile time of 10.5 seconds, the Super Stock is a force to be reckoned with on the drag strip. 

Best Luxury Muscle Cars 

The classic definition of muscle cars applies to mainstream American brands, but there are also powerful luxury cars that fit the muscle car performance criteria.

1. Tesla Model S 

iSeeCars Quality Score: 8.9

  • Reliability Score: 9.4
  • Retained Value Score: 8.3
  • Safety Score: Not Available

Average New Car Price: $167,229

Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $89,895

The Tesla Model S might not have the styling to resemble a muscle car, but it performs like one. The base Model S can go from zero to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds, while the high-performance Plaid variant can go from zero to 60 mph in 1.99 seconds. The Plaid variant has a quarter-mile time of 9.23 seconds, and reaches a top speed of 200 mph. 

2. BMW M5

iSeeCars Quality Score: 7.9

  • Reliability Score: 8.4
  • Retained Value Score: 7.4
  • Safety Score: Not Available

Average New Car Price: $126,945

Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $101,824

The BMW M5, which is the performance variant of the 5 Series, features a 600 horsepower V8 engine and is known as one of the best luxury performance cars on the market. It has a premium interior and includes luxury features like a heated steering wheel, but it doesn’t come cheap at a new car price that’s well into six figures.

3. Lexus RC F

iSeeCars Quality Score: 7.8

  • Reliability Score: 7.5
  • Retained Value Score: 8.1
  • Safety Score: Not Available

Average New Car Price: $85,951

Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $78,115

The Lexus RC F ranks third and has a 472-horsepower naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 engine and can achieve zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds. New for 2020, it added 5 more horsepower and 6 additional lb-ft of torque.

4. Mercedes-Benz AMG GT

iSeeCars Quality Score: Not Available

  • Reliability Score: Not Available
  • Retained Value Score: 6.6
  • Safety Score: Not Available

Average New Car Price: $166,363

Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $174,463

The Mercedes-Benz AMG GT strikes the perfect balance between a sports car and a muscle car. All AMG GT coupe and roadster body styles come standard with a 523 horsepower twin-turbo V8 and its top trim offers 720 horsepower. It includes safety features such as standard forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.

5. Cadillac CTS-V

iSeeCars Quality Score: Not Available

  • Reliability Score: Not Available
  • Retained Value Score: 7.9
  • Safety Score: 8.0

Ranked fifth is the Cadillac CTS-V, which is powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine that provides a staggering 640 horsepower. Reaching a top speed of 200 mph, it goes from zero to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds. Although it was discontinued after the 2019 model year and doesn’t have a quality score, it deserves a spot on the list because it brilliantly combines American luxury and muscle while having the performance of a supercar.  

Bottom Line

If you’re power-hungry and have always dreamed of owning a modern-day hot rod, the muscle cars listed above are sure to fulfill your high-torque cravings. 

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If you’re interested in a new or used muscle car, be sure to check out iSeeCars’ award-winning car search engine. It uses advanced algorithms to help shoppers find the best car deals and provides key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN check report and Best Cars rankings. Filter by horsepower, drive type, and other parameters to find your next vehicle.This article, Best Muscle Cars, originally appeared on