Favorite Five Menacing Muscle Cars of 2011

1. Ford Mustang Boss 302

It may not be the most powerful Mustang, but the Boss 302 is the best and most organic, fluid, engaging and well-sorted muscle car around. Well-short of the supercharged Shelby GT500’s 550HP and jackhammer torque, the Boss 302 features cranckshaft, valve, piston, connecting rod and other engine internal upgrades to achieve a 32HP power hike from the Mustang GT’s brilliant new naturally-aspirated Coyote 5-liter V8. With 444HP at 7400rpm and 380 lb/ft at 4500rpm, the Boss 302 is a ferociously powerful muscle car adept at smoking tires and can hit 97km/h in a mere 4.2-seconds, but it is also a rewarding and nuanced sports car.

With re-worked intake manifold and clever exhaust piping progressively gives rise to a fruity, throaty and addictively muscular soundtrack, the Boss 302’s audios are nostalgically charming, as too is its chassis set-up. Designed to give more expensive BMW M and Mercedes AMG cars a run for their money, the Boss 302 is a blue collar hero that is as much at home on the track as on the road. Unpretentiously good fun, the Boss 302 features the same old-school live-axle rear suspension as the Mustang GT but adds fatter sway bars, a lower ride height and manually adjustable dampers for a more focused track experience and fluid handling, which perfectly mated to its engine’s ability to combine both copious low-end torque with fast-revving and linear high-end power.

Engine: 5-liter V8-cylinders; Power 444HP@7400rpm; Torque: 380lb/ft@4500rpm; 0-97km/h: 4.2-seconds; Top speed: 250km/h (electronically limited); Gearbox: 6-speed manual, RWD; Length: 4778mm; Width: 1877mm; Height: 1400mm; Wheelbase: 2720mm; Track, F/R: 1572 / 1588mm; Weight: 1647kg

2. Dodge Challenger SRT8 392

Though using a contemporary independent rear suspension design, the mesmerizingly menacing Dodge Challenger SRT8 is among modern muscle cars the most traditional and true to the genre. With huge dimensions, predatory recessed lights and grille, long bonnet, high waistline and low glasshouse, the Challenger SRT8 exudes a sense of badass menace and projects is muscle car origins. Recently uprated from a 426HP 6.1-liter to a vast 470HP (at 6000rpm) 6.4-liter version of Chrysler group’s prodigious Hemi V8, the SRT8 392 delivers an intoxicatingly rumbling soundtrack and delivers a tire-vaporizing 470lb/ft torque at 4200rpm. At home on vast open roads, the Challenger SRT8 is truly monstrous, and after a swift 4.5-second bolt to 97km/h, can reach a 293km/h maximum.

Engine: 6.4-liter V8-cylinders; Power 470HP@6000rpm; Torque: 470lb/ft@4200rpm; 0-100km/h: 4.5-seconds; Top speed: 293km/h: Gearbox: 6-speed manual, RWD; Length: 5022mm; Width: 1923mm; Height: 1450mm; Wheelbase: 2946mm; Track, F/R: 1600 / 1603mm Weight: 1891kg

3. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Awaited with bated breath since the launch of the retro-futuristic fifth generation in 2009, the supercharged ZL1 version finally arrives early this year and is to be even more powerful than expected. Reviving the legendary yet discrete ZL1 option code used for the most powerful first generation Camaro, the new ZL1 uses a supercharged version of the Camaro SS’ 6.2-liter V8 to devastating effect, and with 580HP at 6100rpm and 556lb/ft at 3800rpm, is even more powerful than the monstrous Cadillac CTS-V and close to the Corvette ZR1 supercar’s prodigious power – both of which use versions of the same engine. Though heavier than the Camaro SS, the ZL1’s power ensures devastating performance including a 3.9-second 0-97km/h dash and a theoretical top speed in excess of 300km/h but electronically restricted to 250km/h. Styling changed are subtle, but include a bigger bumper with wider air dam and air splitter, and bonnet-top louvers.

Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8-cylinders; Power 580HP@6100rpm; Torque: 556lb/ft@3800rpm; 0-97km/h: 3.9 -seconds; Top speed: 296km/h; Gearbox: 6-speed manual, RWD; Length: 4836mm; Width: 1918mm; Height: 1377mm; Wheelbase: 2852mm; Track, F&R: 1618mm; Weight: 1869kg

4. Holden HSV GT-S

One of Australia’s great exports to the world, the GT-S is Holden Special Vehicles’ high performance take on the Holden Commodore large rear drive saloon. A cross between non-prestige brand super saloon and traditional muscle car, the HSV GT-S is a performance bargain and hoot to drive. Exported to the Middle East under the guise of the Chevrolet Lumina CSV CR8 and UK as the Vauxhall VXR8, previous incarnations of the hot Commodore were also sold as the Pontiac G8 in the US. Powered by a gurgling and growling 6.2-liter V8, the GT-S is brutally powerful, with 425HP at 6000rpm and 405lb/ft at 4600rpm providing a 4.9-second 0-97km/h time. A large and comfortable car, the GT-S is nonetheless a great handling classic rear-driver adept at lurid power slides and tire smoking. Revised recently, the GT-S now features GM’s sublime magnetic adjustable dampers and more aggressively sharper styling and an improved cabin.

Engine: 6.2-liter V8-cylinders; Power 425HP@6000rpm; Torque: 405lb/ft@4600rpm; 0-97km/h: 4.9-seconds; Top Speed: 250km/h (electronically limited); Gearbox: 6-speed manual, RWD; Length: 4988mm; Width: 1899mm; Height: 1457mm; Wheelbase: 2915mm; Track, F/R: 1616 / 1590; Weight: 1777kg

5. Ford FPV GT-P

Unlike its bitter and long-standing Holden Commodore and HSV derivative rivals, the Ford Falcon and its Ford Performance Vehicle versions are only offered in the wider Australian market in right hand drive. A brilliant and handsome old-school rear-drive mid-size super saloon, it is a wonder why Ford don’t’ export the FPV GT-P and its refreshingly different twin-turbo in-line F6 Falcon-based stable-mate. A culmination of years of rivalry on Australia’s renowned Bathurst touring car championship, the latest FPV GT-P is little altered from its predecessor in terms of design and style, but replaces Ford’s aging 5.4-liter engine for a supercharged version of the brilliant ne 5-liter Coyote engine which first featured on the Mustang GT. A brutally powerful engine, the GT-P’s blown Coyote produces 450HP at 5750rpm and 420lb/ft at a wide 2200-5500rpm range, and knocks the 0-60km/h sprint in 5-seconds or less.

Engine: 5-liter supercharged V8-cylinders; Power 450HP@5750rpm; Torque: 420lb/ft@2200-5500rpm; Gearbox: 6-speed manual, RWD

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