Six of America’s Baddest Muscle Machines
Quintessential rides for declaring your independence in 2017by Mark McNabb, on
Cue the band, Mr. Copland; today is Independence Day! It’s the day American celebrates her declaration of independence from Britain amid the bloody Revolutionary War, which lasted from 1775 to 1783. Now some 234 years after the battle’s end, America can celebrate something else, too – the laundry list of high-horsepower vehicles that out-class nearly everything on the world’s roads. These cars, trucks, and SUVs represent the best-of-the-best, the most lust-worthy iron ever to transport humans.
These vehicles hail from American brand rich with history. We’ve included only late-model vehicles that represent the peak of their segment, and each will easily outgun nearly anything from outside our borders. Brands like Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge are not only a cornerstone in the automotive industry, they are icons to the American way of life and our never-ending pursuit of happiness. So stand by for 4,295 horsepower of American Freedom!
Continue reading for TopSpeed’s list.
The 1LE package got its start in the Camaro’s third generation back in 1989 as a homologation handling upgrade derived from the IROC racing series
To be any more American, you’d have to eat an Apple Pie while riding a Bald Eagle above Mt. Rushmore. The sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro is an American-made pony car that’s got more horses than all of General Washington’s men. Well, almost. The Camaro has been a mainstay for Chevy since 1967 and has undergone six generation changes over the decades. Starting in 2012, the Camaro has come with the ZL1 package, which added a supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8, better suspension, meatier tires, and a meaner attitude thanks to aggressive bodywork. The 1LE package got its start in the Camaro’s third generation back in 1989 as a homologation handling upgrade derived from the IROC racing series. But now for 2018, Chevy has combined the two. The result is the outrageous Camaro that outruns supercars around a racetrack. In fact, the 2018 Camaro ZL1 1LE recently posted an official lap time of 7:16.04 around the 12.9-mile Nürburgring. That’s faster than the 2010 Porsche 911 GT2 RS, 2013 Nissan GT-R, and 2015 Ferrari 488 GTB.
The Camaro ZL1 1LE’s secret weapon is its adjustable DSSV Spool Valve dampers – the type of shock absorbers found on modern Formula One cars and supercars worth exponentially more money. In addition, the ZL1 1LE has advanced aerodynamic upgrades and ultra-wide tires made by Goodyear specifically for the Zl1 1LE. How wide are they? The fronts are 305-series and the backs are 325-series. Both are wrapped on lightweight, 19-inch wheels. As for power, the ZL1 1LE uses the same LT4 V-8 used in the standard ZL1. It’s the familiar 6.2-liter supercharged V-8. It makes 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque and come exclusively mated to the Tremec MH3 six-speed manual transmission, which sends power to the rear tires. Performance specs include a 0-to-60 mph run in 3.6 seconds, the quarter-mile in 11.7 seconds at 123.0 mph, braking from 60 mph in 91 feet, and a top speed just shy of 200 mph. Best of all, Chevy only charges $71,295 for this beast. Stick that in your $300,000 Ferrari’s tailpipe and smoke it!
Performance specs include a 0-to-60 mph run in 3.6 seconds, the quarter-mile in 11.7 seconds at 123.0 mph and a top speed just shy of 200 mph
|Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE|
|Engine||supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8|
|0 to 60 mph||3.4 seconds|
|Quarter mile||11.3 seconds @ 130 mph|
|Top Speed||200 mph|
Read our full review on the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE here.
The Ford Mustang has been a mainstay in American culture since the late 1960s
Like the Chevy Camaro, the Ford Mustang has been a mainstay in American culture since the late 1960s. Ford actually started the pony car segment with the Mustang in 1964, and over the years, power levels and handling abilities increased. However, it was Carol Shelby who took the Mustang from a mild to wild. His cars won races and inspired gearheads, solidifying the Mustang’s place on the racetrack and its credibility among street racers. And though Shelby is no longer with us, his name lives on with Ford’s newest hot-headed Mustang.
New for 2016, Ford launched the Shelby GT350 and track-focused GT350R. The two are very closely related, even down to the MagneRide suspension damper and 5.2-liter V-8 with its flat-plane crankshaft, 526 horsepower, and 429 pound-feet of torque. But like the 1LE version of the Camaro, the R version of the GT350 gets some unique hardware. This includes 19-inch wheel made from carbon fiber and wrapped in 305-series front and 315-series rear Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. The R also loses the rear bench seat for added lightness and gains some impressive aerodynamic upgrades to the body.
Performance wise, the Mustang Shelby GT350R hits 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and finishes the quarter-mile in 12.5 seconds at 117 mph. Top speed is estimated around 175 mph. Sadly, Ford hasn’t set a lap time around the famed Nürburgring, but we’d bed it would only be a few seconds behind the Camaro ZL1 1LE. Pricing for this Ford starts at $63,645.
The Mustang Shelby GT350R hits 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and finishes the quarter-mile in 12.5 seconds at 117 mph
|Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R|
|Engine||5.2-liter Ti-VCT V8|
|Horsepower||526 HP @ 7,500 RPM|
|Torque||429 LB-FT @ 4,750 RPM|
|0 to 60 mph||3.8 seconds|
|Quarter mile||12.5 seconds @ 119 mph|
|Top speed||175 mph|
Read our full review on the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350Rhere.
Dodge built a dedicated drag racer with 840 horsepower capable of hitting 60 mph in a blistering 2.3 seconds and the quarter-mile in only 9.65 seconds at 140 mph
America just keeps on winning and we’re hardly getting sick of it. Dodge teased us for months a head of the 2018 Challenger SRT Demon – and for good reason. Dodge needed everyone paying attention when it debuted the most powerful and quickest production car in American history. Headlines were made with the 707-horsepower Hellcat sisters in the Challenger and Charger, but Dodge knew it could do more. So it built a dedicated drag racer with 840 horsepower capable of hitting 60 mph in a blistering 2.3 seconds and the quarter-mile in only 9.65 seconds at 140 mph.
Dodge had plenty of hurtles to overcome in making a 4,280-pound car perform like a purpose-built dragster. First, the 6.2-liter Hellcat V-8 got a complete overhaul. A larger, 2.7-liter supercharger was added, along with stronger internal parts and an improved air intake system. Boost jumps from 11.6 psi to 14.5. The engine actually comes “stock” with 808 horsepower and 717 pound-feet of torque. Achieving the full 840 horsepower and 770 pound-feet of torque requires the race-spec ECU computer and 100+ octane fuel. Once prepped, the Challenger Demon will scream. Power is put down via bespoke 315-series Nitto drag slicks that are just barely DOT approved. The optional front tires are drag skinnies for reduced weight, while matching Nittos are used for normal on-road driving. For those ultra-fast starts, the Demon includes Drag Mode. This cuts fuel to individual cylinders, pulls timing, pre-fills the supercharger, and locks both the input and output shafts of the transmission in order to build boost. Launching off the line, the front dampers force the front end off the ground like a low rider, effectively transferring more weight onto the rear wheels for traction.
Once prepped, the Challenger Demon will scream
Demon owners will have to pay $84,995 to buy the car. Thankfully, Dodge has put measures in place to prevent dealership mark-ups, preventing the hefty price from becoming outrageous. Owners can then buy special insurance through Hagerty and attend a day of driver training at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.
|Engine||SUPERCHARGED 6.2-LITER HEMI DEMON V-8|
|Power||840 HP @ 6,300 RPM |
808 HP @ 6,300 RPM
|Torque||770 LB-FT @ 4,500 RPM 717 LB-FT @ 4,500 RPM|
|Transmission||TORQUEFLITE 8HP90 EIGHT-SPEED AUTOMATIC|
|0 to 60 mph||2.3 seconds|
|Quarter mile||9.65 seconds @ 140 mph|
Read our full review on the Dodge Challenger Demon here.
Unlike most Jeeps, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is built for on-road performance
Yet another Mopar makes the list, but this time it’s a Jeep. Unlike most Jeeps, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is built for on-road performance. In fact, its engine bay is stuffed with the 6.2-liter Hellcat Hemi V-8. Yep, this Jeep makes 707 horsepower. What’s more, the Trackhawk becomes the first Hellcat with all-wheel drive. The extra grip helps overcome the Grand Cherokee’s porky 5,350-pound curb weight to deliver an astonishingly quick 3.5-second sprint to 60 mph! Jeep says the Trackhawk will do the quarter-mile in 11.6 seconds at 116 mph before hitting a top speed of 180 mph. Stop and realize how close those numbers are to the 2018 Camaro ZL1 1LE… the Chevy hits 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and does the quarter in 11.7 seconds at 123.0 mph. You read that right – the Jeep is quicker to 60 mph than the Camaro! These are certainly fantastic times.
But unlike the Challenger SRT Demon, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk isn’t a one-trick pony. The Jeep is fully capable of hauling around five people, trudge through light mud and show, and tow a 7,200-pound trailer. Think about it like this: the Trackhawk can trailer the Camaro ZL1 1LE to the drag strip, unhook from the car hauler, then outrun the 650-horsepower Chevy to 60 mph by a tenth of a second. Unreal
Jeep hasn’t announced pricing at this point, but we’re expecting an MSRP around $75,000.
The Jeep is fully capable of hauling around five people, trudge through light mud and show, and tow a 7,200-pound trailer
|Engine||6.2-LITER SUPERCHARGED V-8|
|Power||707 HP @ 6,000 RPM|
|Torque||645 LB-FT @ 4,800 RPM|
|Max. Engine Speed||6,200 RPM|
|0 to 60 mph||3.5 seconds|
|Quarter mile||11.6 seconds @ 116 mph|
|Top Speed||180 mph|
Read our full review on the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk here.
The 2017 GT is a purpose-built production car to the nth degree
So far, everything on this list has been powerful and fast, but the Ford GT takes the cake for all-out performance. Built to honor the Ford’s Le Mans-wining GT of the late 1960s and acting as a homologation special in Ford’s return to Le Mans, the 2017 GT is a purpose-built production car to the nth degree. The two-seat coupe is constructed from carbon fiber and aluminum wrapped in other ultra-lightweight materials, resulting in a curb weight around 3,200 pounds.
The GT is completely modern, but doesn’t depart from its mid-engine, rear-drive layout. The powertrain is new, however, and is based on Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. This high-strung variant kicks out 647 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque thanks in part to direct fuel injection and twin turbochargers. The result is a 0-to-60 mph time under 3.0 seconds. The GT is also chocked full of active aerodynamics and suspension components. The rear wing deploys at highways speeds, unless the driver selects Track on the Drive Mode selector. In any case, the wing doubles as an air brake when slowing down. The suspension works in conjunction, too, providing both variable damping for different road and track conditions, as well as lowering the car 50 millimeters in Track and V-Max modes. Yes, the GT has a V-Max mode, which, quite obviously, optimizes all the moving parts for hitting that 216-mph top speed.
The GT is completely modern, but doesn’t depart from its mid-engine, rear-drive layout
The GT isn’t cheap either. Ford is charging $450,000 before you add your individual customizations, which you pick from a special ordering kit Ford mails you with samples of paint colors, carpet weave, and leather hides. And just because you have the cash doesn’t mean you can buy a GT. Ford invites you to buy one. Only 1,000 examples are being built over a four-year span.
|Engine||3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6|
|0 to 60 mph||3.0 seconds|
|Top Speed||216 mph|
Read our full review on the Ford GT here.
The Raptor uses drive modes to control the engine, transmission, transfer case, and locking rear differential
Rounding out this list of high-performance American machines is the Ford Raptor. Sure, it’s not built for lap times or quarter-mile runs, but the Raptor is certainly a high-performance vehicle. What other vehicle can bomb through the desert at 80 mph while soaking up ruts and jumps like a Baja 1000 Trophy Truck? None. Well, save for the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. But unlike the ZR2, the Raptor gets a unique frame and engine on top of its unique bodywork and suspension. The ZR2 makes do with its standard Colorado V-6 or four-cylinder turbodiesel.
As mentioned, the Raptor rides on a strengthened ladder frame compared to the standard F-150. This ensured the truck won’t buckle under extreme conditions – something several first-generation Raptors had issue with. The Raptor also takes advantage of the F-150’s new aluminum skin, pulling saving weight for reinvestment into the beefier frame. Power comes from a high-output, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. It’s similar to the Ford GT’s, but is better suited for truck use. The engine still makes crazy power, kicking out 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and a high-tech, part-time 4WD system. The Raptor uses drive modes to control the engine, transmission, transfer case, and locking rear differential. The modes include normal, sport, snow/weather, mud and sand, rock crawling, and Baja. Certain modes automatically engage the transfer case, but the driver can also manually choose between 4WD High and 4WD Low ranges. Pulling out on the 4WD knob engages the rear locker. Of course, Baja mode is the one everyone loves. It loosens the electronic nanny’s grip, allowing some sideways action, while juicing up throttle response and allowing for more slip from the 35-inch-tall BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires.
Soaking up the bumps are Fox Racing shocks that are three inches in diameter. The nine-stage bypass damping system offers various rates of damping over the shocks’ range of motion, making for a smooth ride at normal compression, but getting progressively firmer the closer the suspension gets to full compression and the hydraulic bump stops. Yet despite the fancy suspension (and like the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk) the F-150 Raptor SuperCrew can haul 1,200 pounds in its bed and tow an 8,000-pound trailer. Unladen, the truck will sprint to 60 mph in only 5.3 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 96 mph.
The truck will sprint to 60 mph in only 5.3 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 96 mph
The F-150 Raptor is a relative bargain, too. The SuperCab version carries a base price of $49,265, while the SuperCrew version MSRPs for $52,250. That’s not terrible for a pickup that still works as a truck, yet is happy to traverse any type of terrain, including the mall parking lot.
|Engine||3.5-liter EcoBoost® engine|
|0 to 60 mph||5.3 seconds|
|Quarter mile||14.1 seconds @ 96 mph|
Read our full review on the Ford F-150 Raptor here.
Honorable Mention: 2018 Dodge Durango SRT
The Durango SRT is an AWD monster.
Fiat Chrysler has quite the showing in this list, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Yet we’d be amiss to not include (or at least mention) the new-for-2018 Dodge Durango SRT. The Durango itself isn’t new, having been around in its current configuration for several years now. However, Dodge though it would be a fantastic idea to shoehorn a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 under the hood of this three-row, family crossover. We definitely agree with that decision. This 392 cubic-inch V-8 is the same naturally aspirated mill found in the Challenger and Charger Scat Packs and other outlandish trims. In this application, the OHV V-8 makes a prodigious 475 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 470 pound-feet of torque at 4,300 rpm. The engine mates to the familiar ZF eight-speed automatic and then a transfer case similar to that found in the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Yes, the Durango SRT is an AWD monster.
Best of all, this isn’t simply a Durango with an oversized engine. Dodge reworked the suspension for better handling, gave it bigger brakes for better stopping power, and redesigned the front grille and bumper to not only look cooler, but to be cooler. The new fascia aids in cooling the Hemi thanks to a ram-air style intake mounted above the driver-side fog light. Added to that is the Hellcat-style Performance Hood with an air intake and two heat extractors. The Durango SRT also boasts stiffer bushing and springs aided by adaptive dampers with eight drive modes. These include Street, Sport, Track, Snow, Tow, Valet, Eco, and Custom.
It will also haul six people while four of them watch TV on the optional Rear Seat DVD system
The Durango boasts some impressive performance stats, too. Dodge says it hits 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds and will power through the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds. It will also haul six people while four of them watch TV on the optional Rear Seat DVD system and tow up to 8,600 pounds. If that’s not awesome, we don’t know what is. Best of all, the Durango SRT will be relatively affordable. Official pricing hasn’t been announced, but the 5.7-liter-powered Durango R/T with AWD starts at $44,695. We expect the Durango SRT to start around $49,000. Check all the option boxes, and the Dodge will likely cost around $58,000. That is not a bad deal.
|Engine||6.4-liter Hemi V-8|
|Horsepower||475 HP @ 6,000 RPM|
|Torque||470 LB-FT @ 4,300 RPM|
|Transmission||TorqueFlight Eight-speed automatic|
|0-60 mph||4.4 seconds|
Read our full review on the Dodge Durango SRT here.
So, what do you think of our list? Would you add anything? Let us know in the comments below.