American muscle cars are iconic, and current manufacturers like Ford, Dodge, and Chevrolet are trying to keep them alive while still capturing the spirit of Detroit steel and horsepower from decades ago. Thankfully, they are doing a pretty good job. Cars like the Charger may not have had the best initial revival, but have since evolved into proper performance cars delivering impressive numbers in terms of horsepower and in the case of the Mustang, g-forces. As great as they may be, are they all affordable? To put it simply, yes. But it also depends on what you’re looking for.
Do you need a V8? Does it have to even be American? Commonly, muscle cars are thought of as the smallest sedan or coupe made by a manufacturer equipped with the biggest engine that company makes. That concept opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities.
This is borderline affordable, the 2009 GTR. It’s a Nissan packed with AWD, a 3.8-liter twin turbocharged V6 engine and lots of computers for things like traction control. The 2009 model sits at a cool $50,000 but the car produces more than 450 horsepower. The reason it’s considered a Japanese muscle car is because Nissan took a big engine, stuffed it full of horsepower and put it into a sedan-sized car, thus keeping the muscle car spirit alive.
Long hailed as the home of muscle cars, we couldn’t go with just one American muscle car for this list. The 2014 Dodge Charger SRT8 is both affordable and powerful, with a big 6.4-liter V8 producing 470 horsepower and costing around $30,000. It’s good power for the value, cheaper than anything that’s out today offering similar numbers and certainly keeps the aggressive look of older Chargers. While it is extremely heavy, the horsepower number is nothing to sneeze at.
It’s frankly impossible to overlook the Mustang GT when considering the price for performance. The new Mustang GT is better than it ever was, while keeping its cost down. For $34,000 you can have a brand new Mustang GT that has a 5.0-liter V8 producing more than 400 naturally aspirated horsepower, a Mustang that’s got independent rear suspension and still seats four people. Albeit probably not comfortably, but for its price it just can’t be beaten.
Muscle cars from Germany are a force to be reckoned with, and Mercedes does it better than most other manufacturers. Here we have the 2013 Mercedes C63 AMG. This car is equipped with a big 6.3-liter V8 engine that produces up to 510 horsepower, somehow keeps its weight down to just over 3,600 pounds and only costs around $33,000. Granted it’s a used Mercedes, however, that’s a lot of muscle for the price. This car is proper German muscle, with a massive V8 somehow fitting in one of Mercedes’ smallest classes.
Possibly the best example of the muscle car concept extending to other countries is the 2006 BMW M5. What BMW have done with this car is taken a sedan, the 5 series, and equipped it with ten cylinders, a 5.0-liter V10 engine that makes 500 horsepower. Not only is it powerful with a massive engine, it’s also very affordable. KBB prices it at around $16,000. That doesn’t include the inevitable mountain of maintenance and repairs but that’s something every BMW owner faces at one time or another.
Since its conception, the muscle car has undergone significant changes in construction, balance, weight, performance, and safety. One thing that remains constant with the muscle car is the raw aggression. It’s palpable from the violent vibrations of the engine to the roar of the tail pipe.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.