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 every major domestic automaker, from American Motors to General Motors 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 and strengthened engine internals to manage the increased power. 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 for 2022

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.  
Best Muscle Cars - iSeeCars
Rank Muscle Car iSeeCars Quality Score Horsepower Torque New Car Price (MSRP) 3-Year-Old Average Used Car Price
1 Dodge Charger 8.8 R/T: 370 

Scat Pack: 485

SRT Hellcat: 717

SRT Hellcat Redeye: 797

R/T: 395 

Scat Pack: 475

SRT Hellcat: 650

SRT Hellcat Redeye: 707

$31,350 - 72,350 $42,070
2 Ford Mustang 8.4 Ecoboost: 310GT: 460

Mach1:480

Shelby GT500: 760

Ecoboost: 350

Bullitt: 420

GT: 420

Mach1: 420

Shelby GT500: 625

$27,205 - $73,465 $44,636
3 Chevrolet Camaro 8.2 LT: 335LT1: 455

SS: 455

ZL1: 650

LT: 284

LT1: 455

SS: 455

ZL1: 650

$25,000 - $63,000 $35,329
4 Dodge Challenger 8.0 SXT: 303

GT: 303

R/T: 375

R/T Scat Pack: 485

SRT Hellcat: 717

SRT Hellcat Red Eye: 797

SRT Hellcat Superstock:807

SXT: 268

GT: 268

R/T: 410

R/T Scat Pack: 475

SRT Hellcat: 656

SRT Hellcat Red Eye: 707

SRT Hellcat Superstock:707

$29,680 - $81,980 $43,799
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.
Best Luxury Muscle Cars
Rank Muscle Car iSeeCars Quality Score Torque Horsepower Average New Car Price Average Used Car Price
1 Tesla Model S  8.9 778 841 $116,990 $61,985
2 BMW M5 7.9 553 600 $103,500- $142,000 $101,825
3 Lexus RC F 7.8 395 472 $84,522 $49,297
4 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 6.8 494 523 $140,565
5 Cadillac CTS-V - 630 640 $97,690 $61,332
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: Coming Soon

  • Reliability Score: Coming Soon
  • 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: Coming Soon

  • Reliability Score: Coming Soon
  • 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.  

Classic Muscle Cars

t’s impossible to celebrate modern-era muscle cars without paying homage to the classic cars with powerful engines that paved the way for the beloved hot rods of today. While not as nimble as a 1960s Ferrari, their V8 engines made them quicker in a straight line. Here’s a list of the most notable classic American muscle cars that were formidable racers in their heyday and are valuable collectibles today.

Plymouth Road Runner Superbird

Named after the beloved Road Runner from “Looney Tunes,” the Plymouth Road Runner Superbird was a limited-production, NASCAR-inspired racer based on the first high-powered, low-priced muscle car that helped widen the audience for high-performance vehicles. It featured a large rear wing to stabilize it at speeds above 200 mph.

Dodge Charger Daytona

Introduced in 1969, the Dodge Charger Daytona preceded the Superbird and was the first car to ever reach 200 mph on a Nascar track. The traditional recessed Charge grille was replaced by an aerodynamic nose with flip-up headlights. The 1969 Dodge Charger was so fast that it was later banned from the racing circuit.

Pontiac GTO

The Pontiac GTO is considered by many to be the first true American muscle car and was believed to be responsible for the popularity of the genre. The original 1964 GTO was powered by a 389-cubic-inch V8, which was larger than GM’s limit of 330 cubic inches for midsize cars. Later GTOs were famous for their powerful Ram Air engines.

Plymouth Barracuda

Originally produced as a pony car, the third-generation Plymouth Barracuda, known as the Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda when equipped with the brand’s most powerful V8, debuted in 1970 with a "shaker" hood scoop and dual-carburetor 426 Hemi engine that achieved 425 horsepower. 

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

The iconic Pontiac Firebird Trans Am debuted in 1969 as a performance package on the popular Firebird. Designed by famed designer John DeLorean, all versions were white with blue racing stripes. The Firebird went on to become a classic trim level and was Pontiac’s flagship performance vehicle.

AC Shelby Cobra

A  winner at Le Mans, the Shelby Cobra 427 was once considered the most powerful car in the world. Known as a sports car, it had a special model with a Ford 7-liter V8 that achieved 425 horsepower. 

Chevrolet Corvette C3 Stingray

The Corvette may be one of the most popular sports cars today, but it has shades of muscle in various past versions. The Corvette C3 Stingray arrived in 1968 during the heyday of the muscle car era and had a big block engine option offering a 7.0-liter V8. It also came with a four speed manual gearbox and perfmrnance brakes and suspension.

AMC AMX

Like the Cobra and Corvette, the AMX was a two-seat coupe with a powerful V8 engine and fastback styling. But unlike those small, sporty vehicles, the AMX was based on the larger AMC Javelin and made no "sports car" pretense. It was only produced for 3 years, from 1968 through 1970.

Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454

The Chevrolet Chevelle SS is among the most iconic classic muscle cars in history. Known for its big-block engine, the 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454 LS6 made 450 horsepower and was one of the most powerful vehicles of its time.

Buick GNX

The Buick GNX, which stood for Grand National Experimental, featured a turbocharger V6 and was the most powerful muscle car in 1987. It could race a quarter mile in 12.7 seconds, reaching speeds up to 113 mph. 

Chrysler 300C SRT-8

The Chrysler 300C was built on the same platform as the Dodge Charger. Its high-performance 300C SRT-8 had a 6.1L Hemi V8 that achieved 425hp.

Best Used Muscle Cars by Price

The best used muscle cars can be found across a variety of budgets. Here are the best used muscle cars that can be found at multiple price points.

Best Used Muscle Cars Under $15,000

If you are looking for a used muscle car under $15,000, here are the ones to choose from:

Used Muscle Cars Under $15,000
Muscle Car Average Used Car Price 
2012 Dodge Charger $14,022
2010 Ford Mustang $14,229
Best Used Muscle Cars Under $20,000

Here are the best used muscle cars under $20,000:

Used Muscle Cars Under $20,000
Muscle Car Average Used Car Price 
2014 Dodge Charger $16,877
2013 Ford Mustang $18,605
2012 Chevrolet Camaro $18,646
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.  

More from iSeeCars.com:

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.