Some drivers look for practicality, economy or comfort when they shop for a new car. Those that consider themselves more enthusiastic drivers, however, know that nothing beats the exhilaration delivered by a finely tuned piece of automotive joy. Each year, automakers release new muscle cars powered by hefty V8 engines to appeal to these automotive enthusiasts. With abundant horsepower and incredible acceleration, five models in particular stand out in 2015.
1. Jaguar F-Type R Coupe
With its classic Jaguar styling and aggressive, growling exhaust, the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe will instantly turn heads wherever you go. Those heads will have to turn quickly to catch a glimpse of you, though, as the F-Type’s powerful 550-horsepower V8 engine will send you speeding out of their view almost as soon as they hear you. The F-Type pairs its engine with an all-wheel drive powertrain and an 8-speed automatic transmission. The engine will take you from 0 to 60 mph in a brief 3.5 seconds, and you’ll top out at 188 mph.
Drivers can choose between a convertible and a coupe, with three trim levels available for each; the R Coupe is the top of the line for the coupe body style. The interior is decorated with carbon fiber accents and red leather, contrasted stitching and an optional flat-bottomed steering wheel that give the cabin a sporty feel. The infotainment system is minimal, but each seat has its own dedicated climate-control system.
The F-Type features anti-lock disc brakes, stability and traction control. Side airbags are standard, and the convertible models feature rollover protection bars. Rear parking sensors are standard on all models, and other driver assistance features, such as blind spot monitoring, are available as well. Handling is quick and responsive thanks to the electric power steering. The suspension is firm, but has a bit of trouble with rougher roads. The base F-Type R Coupe starts at $99,000.
2. Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
The 2015 Dodge Challenger serves up retro styling for nostalgic muscle car owners, but its power and features are thoroughly modern. All models of the Challenger offer plenty of power to thrill gearheads, but the premium SRT Hellcat offers a massive 6.2-L V8 engine that delivers 707 horsepower. Drivers can choose between a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic transmission, and all Challengers feature a rear-wheel-drive powertrain. The SRT Hellcat boasts a top speed of 199 mph, and it can go from 0 to 60 mph in mere 3.6 seconds.
The Challenger’s design is rugged and powerful, with many features drawn from the classic Challenger designs from the 1970s. There’s only one body style available, a 5-seat coupe; the blistering SRT Hellcat is the highest trim level available for the basic Challenger. The interior features leather seats, shiny metallic accents and ample legroom for the rear seats. The Challenger also benefits from Chrysler’s well-regarded infotainment system.
Anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control come standard on all Challengers, along with front side airbags, side curtain airbags and front head restraints. Rear visibility is poor in the Challenger, but a rear-facing camera and parking sensors help alleviate this concern. Collision detection, blind spot monitoring and other active safety features are also available. Handling is responsive, but the Challenger’s bulk does make cornering a bit tight. The suspension on lower trim levels can be a bit soft, but higher trim levels have firmer suspensions. The base Challenger SRT Hellcat starts at $58,295.
3. Ford Mustang GT
The 2015 Ford Mustang lures drivers with its modern, powerful styling and its aggressive performance, but it brings them home with its unbeatable price: the base price starts at $32,300. Luckily, Mustang doesn’t compromise because its price tag; the GT’s V8 engine delivers 435 horsepower to its rear-wheel-drive powertrain. Drivers can choose between a six-speed manual transmission and a six-speed automatic transmission. The Mustang GT can go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, and it has a governor-limited top speed of 164 mph.
The GT is offered in one body style, a coupe, and three trim levels: GT, GT Premium and GT 50 Years Limited Edition. The interior is upholstered with high-quality cloth, and drivers will appreciate the dual-cowl dashboard reminiscent of the Mustang’s past. New to the 2015 model is a telescoping, tilting steering wheel that makes driving the Mustang comfortable. Ford’s Sync voice-control system makes operating the GT’s infotainment system a breeze. However, the MyFord Touch interface does take some learning before drivers can operate it comfortably.
Anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, a rearview camera and side airbags are standard in the Ford Mustang GT. Upgraded Brembo brakes are an optional feature, as are blind spot and cross traffic monitoring systems. The Mustang’s independent rear suspension gives the car a smooth feel regardless of road condition, and the steering is precise and responsive.
4. Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
With its modern styling, powerful engine and racing accents, the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 is a throwback to the spirit of the original 1967 Z/28. The Camaro’s powerful 7.0L V8 engine offers 505 horsepower, and it pairs the engine with a six-speed manual transmission to power the rear-wheel-drive powertrain. The Camaro Z/28 has a top speed of 172 mph, and it can go from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
The Camaro Z/28 is offered as a coupe, and there are no additional trim levels. The interior features abundant Z/28 badging and many throwback styling touches, but heavy use of hard plastic materials detracts from the feeling of the interior. Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system is also included, but the touchscreen interface has been criticized for its sluggish performance.
Standard safety features include Brembo brakes, traction control, stability control, and full-length side airbags. GM’s OnStar system with crash detection and other safety features, is another piece of standard equipment. As the Z/28 is intended as a street-legal track racer, it doesn’t feature many driver assistance packages. The suspension is finely tuned, and the tires grip the road like glue. Steering is quick and responsive, and the Z/28’s incredible downforce makes cornering a pleasure. The Camaro Z/28 starts at $72,308.
5. Mercedes-Benz SL63/65 AMG
Few convertibles can compare to the performance of the SL-Class, and when the weather turns, the vehicle converts to a sleek sports car with the push of a button. The SL63 offers a burly V8 engine that produces 577 horsepower. The vehicle’s 7-speed automatic transmission delivers power to its rear-wheel-drive powertrain. It can go from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.0 seconds, and its top speed is 186 mph.
All of the SL-Class vehicles are offered as a hardtop push-button convertible, and there are four trim levels to choose from. Performance-oriented drivers will be drawn to the SL63 AMG and the SL65 AMG trims; the SL63 offers the V8 engine, and the SL65 offers a V12 engine for those who demand the best. Like many vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, the SL63 is luxuriously outfitted, with heated leather seats, independent infotainment systems for the driver and passenger, and much more. The cabin is laid out efficiently, packing a full suite of options into a relatively small package.
Standard safety equipment on the SL63 includes anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, and roll bars that deploy when the collision detection system sends a warning. The SL63 is also packed with driver assistance technology, including adaptive cruise control, driver monitoring systems, rearview cameras and more. Grip, handling and suspension are all smooth on this vehicle, as befits one of the flagship models of a luxury brand. The base SL63 starts at $148,975.
Although these cars aren’t always the most practical on the road, they offer the power and performance that true automotive enthusiasts dream about. What’s your top pick from 2015’s muscle car lineup?