A trifecta of American muscle cars with plenty of muscle.
What makes a modern muscle car? These days, it takes a lot more than a big, honking engine under the hood.
Today, enthusiasts can drive brawny cars that are both snarly and exhilarating, yet refined enough to serve as daily transportation.
What is a muscle car?
Purists will say a classic muscle car looks and drives like the all-American V8 sedans of the 1960s. They mean cars like the Dodge Charger, the Ford Mustang GT350, and the Chevy Camaro.
Descendants of these original muscle cars do prowl the roads today. They’re still full of muscle — and have updated features for extra comfort.
Here’s a stableful of the best muscle cars we offer — and other powerful sedans — based on CarMax sales between November 1, 2017, and April 30, 2018.
Modern Muscle Cars
- Chevrolet Camaro LS
- Dodge Charger SXT
- Dodge Challenger SXT
- Ford Mustang Ecoboost
- Ford Mustang
- Chevrolet Camaro LT
Wild-Card Muscle Cars
Modern Muscle Cars
These cars offer serious, push-you-back-in-your-seat, muscle-car power.
The R/T trim is shorthand for road or track use, which you could conceivably manage in this high-performance model. Lift the hood on a 2014 Dodge Charger R/T and you’ll find a 370-hp Hemi® V8 glaring back at you, all torquey and mean-sounding. Look inside this four-door sedan, as we did in our Dodge Charger vs. Dodge Avenger article, and you’ll find it packed with features like leather seats, a sunroof, and a heated steering wheel.
The GT Mustang is a mighty machine, and it’s been in production longer than the other two cars on this short list. That’s saying something about its popularity with drivers. First introduced for 1965, the modern version now has many times the horsepower of the original. The 2016 Ford Mustang GT’s 5.0L, 435-hp V8 hurries you to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds (says Car and Driver).That’s about as fast as you can shift through the manual gearbox’s six gears.
The SS stands for Super Sport, and it’s the beefiest trim available for Camaro fans. A 2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS puts a whopping 455 hp under your right foot and gives you 20-inch-plus alloy wheels and an available six-speed transmission. In our Ford Mustang vs. Chevrolet Camaro article, we shared more about the Camaro and its decades-long competition with the Ford Mustang.
These cars just miss the criteria for flat-out muscle cars, but they look great and have impressive power and handling characteristics.
The LS-trim Camaro is plenty powerful for most drivers. The big, 3.6L V6 under the hood of a 2015 Chevrolet Camaro LS makes a very-respectable 323 hp (and at 278 ft-lbs of torque, gives lots of grunt off the line). And a six-speed manual transmission is available, to help max out your driving thrills.
The 2015 Dodge Charger SXT comes with heated and cooled front seats, in addition to a V6 that puts out 292 hp. This trim is also available with all-wheel drive! This Charger is a big, slab-sided, four-door sedan with an imposing exterior. But inside it’s all comfy, with a heated steering wheel, front leather seats, and thoughtful driver aids like automatic cruise control and lane departure warning.
Trims like the 2014 Dodge Challenger SXT are sharp and aggressive-looking, and squeeze 305 hp from their 3.6L, six-cylinder engines. They ride on tall, 20-inch-plus alloy wheels, and give you some sharp features the original 1970s Challenger never had, including traction control and Bluetooth® compatibility.
Like a turbo with your Mustang? Check out the 2017 Ford Mustang EcoBoost. This trim comes with a four-cylinder, turbocharged engine that’s good for 310 hp. Yes, it’s a four-cylinder. But it’s a turbo! And this model delivers an impressive estimated 21 city/30 hwy mpg.1 For even more driving fun, this trim also comes as a convertible.
It doesn’t carry the GT badge, but the Mustang is certainly no snoozer. When you’re behind the wheel of a 2016 Ford Mustang, you’ve got 300 hp at your disposal, plus a six-speed stick and features like Bluetooth and a rearview camera.
The Camaro’s latest exterior facelift hit the streets with a splash on the 2016 models and these trims look leaner and meaner than ever. The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro LT is available as a hardtop or drop-top, and features include a 2.0L turbocharged engine that makes 275 hp, heated and cooled front seats, and Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ compatibility.
Wild-Card Muscle Cars
We’re bracing for a little blowback from muscle-car purists here. Rest assured, we had criteria for these three wild-card muscle cars.
Here’s a big Benz that checks all our boxes. The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG is a low-slung, two-door coupe with a leather-and-suede interior, a panoramic sunroof, and a rearview camera. You also can’t miss the powertrain on this trim: a big, 6.3L V8 that cranks out 451 hp and 443 ft-lbs of torque.
The 2012 Lexus IS F gives you a 5.0L V8 that pushes big power to the rear wheels. The F trim is the high-performance trim for this four-door, and there’s no turbocharging on this model — you’ve got 416 very muscular, naturally-aspirated hp here. What’s modern about this muscle car? Heated front seats, Bluetooth® compatibility, and a Mark Levinson® sound system.
This recent offering from Jaguar is powerful, it’s rear-wheel-driven, and it sounds great. It’s got a rep as a luxury car, but it also meets our criteria for a modern muscle car. The 2014 Jaguar F-Type makes 340 hp from a 3.0L six-cylinder engine, and it’s supercharged!
How’d we choose this “wild card” list?
For these wild cards, in addition to consulting sales data, we checked our inventory for cars that met these conditions:
- At least 350 horsepower
- At least 350 ft-lbs of torque
- Fewer than 10 lbs of curb weight per 1 hp
- Fewer than 10 lbs of curb weight per 1 ft-lb of torque
- Less than 4,500 lbs curb weight
- Model year 2014 or newer
See? There’s method to our madness. These are modern muscle cars — for drivers who want a used muscle car that more than keeps up with everything else on the roads today.
Since we have a hard time hitting the brakes when it comes to muscle cars, here’s another six-pack of muscle-bound options available at CarMax:
Ready to shop? These best used car guides and articles can help you on your search:
1Fuel economy figures are based on EPA estimates when vehicles sold as new. Fuel economy may vary for reasons like driving conditions and vehicle history. Unless specified, figures are for vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission. See fueleconomy.gov for details.
Unless otherwise noted, information relating to these featured vehicles comes from third-party sources, including manufacturer information. Product and company names may be trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.