Muscle car war rages
A21st century muscle car war is raging across the Pacific as America’s heartland brands renew their commitment to everything from the Chevrolet Corvette to the born-again Ford Mustang.
Holden has just given the Chevrolet SS a makeover for the 2015 model year that includes the Commodore’s automatic parking system, a first for a mainstream four-door sedan in America.
Sales of the only export model on the Holden roster are only tiny, and likely to stay that way despite the SS headlining Chevrolet’s involvement in NASCAR racing. Even so, it’s important enough that a range of equipment from the latest Aussie-specification VF has been included for American deliveries, including a no-cost optional six-speed manual for the first time, the Magnetic Ride Control suspension developed by HSV, and six new body colours.
But it’s Chrysler that’s really making waves, thanks to a car that’s claimed to be the most powerful four-door sedan in the world.
It’s the supercharged Challenger SRT Hellcat, which packs a 330km/h top-end punch thanks to a heavily-modified engine that makes a whacking 520 kilo Watts of power – that’s 707 horsepower in old money – and 881 Newton-metres of torque.
Chrysler’s SRT division – it stands for Street and Racing Technology – has been given an expanding role in the company’s muscle car division and the Hellcat is its current headliner.
It turns the Challenger into a roadgoing racecar, thanks to everything from switchable suspension and super-quick shifts for the 8-speed automatic, to thicker anti-roll bars and tauter springs.
Chrysler says the end result is a car that will run a standing quarter mile in 11.2 seconds and has to be speed-limited to 199 miles-an-hour (320km/h) for a starting price of $US59,995.
But the Hellcat is not the only SRT hero, as Dodge has doubled Challenger sales since 2009 and has also kicked more go into the four-door Charger – which is also available with the Hellcat engine for 2015 – and even their Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The go-faster Challenger lineup starts with the V6-powered SXT, moves up to the 5.7-litre V8 R/T, then on to the 6.4-litre HEMI with a 0-100km/h time in the low four-second bracket, and finally the SRT 392 with 485 horsepower from $US45,995.
The Challenger Hellcat makes a strong case but Chevrolet also has an updated Camaro ZL1 muscle car – as well as the track-focused Z/28 – alongside its Corvette and Ford is continuing with the current Mustang GT500.
The latest ZL1 has 580 horsepower (420kW) with five-mode traction control, super-taut suspension and sports seats and the rest in the cabin of a car that, don’t forget, began life as a two-door version of Australia’s Commodore.
On the Mustang front, most of the emphasis is already on the all-new model coming for 2015. But Ford is continuing to keep things ticking with the outgoing car, even providing nail polish matched to the body colours of the car.