What’s the American muscle car’s future?
The demise of the Aussie muscle car has performance-car enthusiasts locally looking towards the United States with greater expectation. AMC’s newshound James Whitbourn takes stock of what ‘Detroit’ has planned for the market segment – and what might be he
General Motors Chevrolet C8 Corvette
2019 Chevrolet C8 Corvette is shaping up as Holden’s next V8 hero, the recent confirmation that the next-gen high-performance coupe will be built in right-hand drive fuelling speculation that it will be offered locally. However, it’s unlikely it will wear a Lion badge.
The C8 will realise its maker’s long-term ambition to build a mid-engined Corvette and in ultimate form will have a power-to-weight that tops any machine in the 64-year history of the nameplate, thanks to an aluminium-intensive structure and carbonfibre exterior panels that will also make this the most exotic Corvette yet.
It’s expected the C8 will be offered at a series of price points and performance grades, starting with a circa 375kW version with a pushrod V8 slotted in the middle of the chassis. This version could conceivably be offered at less than $150K in Oz, making it a potential cut-price alternative to Euros such as the Audi R8 and Ferrari 488 GTB rather than an HSV or SS-V Redline replacement…
A petrol-electric hybrid badged E-Ray could bring all-wheel-drive via a front motor or motors supplementing the V8 driving the rear wheels, and there’s a possibility of a 500kW hypercar-hunter atop the range.
always been a bit miffed that Chevrolet’s born again fifth-gen Camaro never made it to Australia because, as a GM ‘Zeta’ machine – the platform developed in Australia for VE-VFII Commodore – it was as much ours as America’s, and was the closest thing you can get to a modern-day Monaro.
We’re missing out on the similarly retro-styled current, sixth-gen Camaro too, because it’s a lefthand drive. However, recent right-hook approval for its successor, due around 2021, means the Camaro could finally land here next decade.
The influence of Australian Mike Simcoe, GM’s vice president of global design, and the need to develop new platforms to suit global markets rather than just North America, further contribute to the likelihood of the Camaro coming here.
Holden is on the record as saying it will have a V8 in its next-gen line-up. We know it won’t be in the NG Commodore, which will top out with a naturally aspirated V6, which leaves the seventhgeneration Camaro and/or the C8 Corvette.
By the turn of the decade, the Camaro is likely to usher in fuel efficient turbo four-cylinder and hybrid variants, but if local Mustang sales count for anything – healthy and skewed towards the benteight – a V8-powered Camaro is coming … it just could be a while.
Motors’ luxury brand Cadillac had been on track for the Australian market in 2009 until the Global Financial Crisis quashed the program. But despite recent sightings of Cadillacs undergoing engineering validation in Australia (for overseas markets), a local arrival is now a long way off, with sources suggesting we’re unlikely to see the brand on our shores before 2020.
We would certainly like to see high-performance variants such as the compact ATS-V sedan and coupe and the mid-size CTS-V sedan. However, the age-old ‘not-in-RHD’ story means we’ll have to wait until the next generations arrive, if not longer.
The reason for the delay is that the brand won’t consider launching into global right-hand-drive markets until it has a full range of right-hookers, as opposed to just one or two model lines, which could push out timing until 2021 or ’22.
If the rumour mill is right, the Cadillac ATS could be reborn in 2020 as the CT3. Sure, that’s not an especially memorable nameplate, but as a compact premium sedan, coupe and wagon range built on a short-wheelbase version of GM’s Alpha 2 platform, and headlined by a BMW M4baiting CT3-V coupe, it has our attention. Expect a circa 350kW twin-turbo V6 and rear-drive.
The Falcon/Commodore-sized CTS series sedan is expected to follow a similar template. Renamed the CT5 for next generation and, like the ATS, built on Alpha 2 underpinnings (in longwheelbase form) the driveline for the top-shelf CT5-V is likely to be a good old-fashioned V8 with rear drive – just the sort of thing to please forlorn SS Commodore buyers.
of a restyled 2018 Mustang is set to commence at Ford’s Flat Rock, Michigan plant, but Aussies won’t see the updated coupe and convertible until 2018. However, the revised MY18 model (pictured above), with its extra V8 grunt, 10-speed automatic and additional safety technology represents a mere facelift – the big Mustang changes are set for 2020.
A petrol-electric hybrid version will join the ranks of the evolutionarily redesigned seventh-generation Mustang coupe and convertible, and while a hybrid and electric future is an accepted automotive inevitability, the Pony Car faithful might take a bit more convincing than most that this is the right way forward for the two-door, high-performance icon, which has been a prominent feature of the US muscle car landscape since 1964.
Ford announced its intention earlier this year to offer a broad hybrid line up by 2020, including a battery-assisted F-150 pickup, Transit commercial van and a Mustang, although it didn’t provide details of the eventual powertrains.
Our best sources since have suggested that although the Mustang will target reduced fuel consumption and emissions, it will be a hi-po hybrid rather than a mere miser, and the Hybrid could in fact take top billing as the quickest and most powerful variant.
The likely drivetrain is an Ecoboost turbo petrol engine allied with an electric motor… or two. It’s not certain which Ecoboost that will be, but indications are it will be a version of the current twin-turbo V6 available overseas rather than the 2.3-litre turbo four currently offered in the Mustang.
This engine, introduced in the Ford F-150 pick-up in 2015, produces 242kW and 508Nm in 2.7-litre form, and almost 300kW in 3.0- and 3.5-litre guises.
Adding even a modest 80kW via a pair of synchronous motors would give Ford a machine with greater grunt than the next-gen 5.0-litre V8, masses more low-down twist – the turbo engine and motors mustering max torque from very low speeds – and ultra-quick times.
It’s a brave new world for Mustang, but also one in which the Blue Oval’s beloved Pony Car could be more potent than ever.
Chrysler/Dodge Dodge Challenger and Charger
enough to make Mopar traditionalists wince, but the fact the nextgeneration of Yank muscle coupes the Dodge Challenger and Charger will be underpinned by the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s ‘Giorgio’ platform is, in fact, a good thing…
Yep, the cross-cultural platform sharing that underpins the future of these models, under parent company Fiat Chrysler, is something to get excited about. Why? Firstly, because the Alfa Giulia is a ripper of a rear-drive sedan built for enthusiasts. And second, because its superb, big-developmentbuck underpinnings are engineered for right-hand drive, unlike the current Charger/Challenger.
This means a tasty next-gen version of the Challenger coupe and its fourdoor brother, the evocatively named Charger, could be on the menu for Fiat Chrysler Australia, which has long been on the record as wanting to slot the US muscle models into its local line-up.
With the Ford Falcon long gone, local Holden Commodore production due to wrap in October and the Ford Mustang selling strongly, the desire at FCA for a renewed Dodge range in Oz, headlined by some affordable muscle, has become increasingly strong.
The current, left-hook-only Challenger is due to run until 2020, so if we see the next-gen Dodge downunder it won’t be until early next decade. But based on the myriad high-performance variants of the muscular, retro-styled current version (inspired by the 1970 Challenger R/T) offered since its US launch in 2008, the fifth-gen version will be worth the wait.
The tough-as nails two-door is currently available with a range of Hemi V8s from 5.7 to 6.4 litres and automatic or six-speed manual transmissions, culminating in the unhinged Challenger SRT Demon, which musters 626kW from a blown 6.2, wears race rubber and is capable of lifting the front tyres off the deck on the way from rest to 100km/h in 2.3 seconds.
If you reckon we’d like to see the next-gen Challenger in Oz, you’re right. But if it lobs, it won’t be called the Challenger, because Mitsubishi owns the name, applying it to an SUV since 1998.
The likely fix is to badge the Challenger the Charger, which, if the USMARKET Charger is also introduced in Australia, could create an appealing two- and four-door line-up from two distinct (but related) models, the former going head-to-head with Mustang (and, possibly, Chev Camaro) and the latter filling the void left by the demise of our locally-built, rear-drive sedans.
Chrysler 300, as the brand’s sole offering in Australia, is set, come Holden manufacturing closedown in October, to be handed the mantle of the best-selling V8, rear-drive four-door muscle sedan. However the ultimate, 350kW 6.4-litre 300 SRT’s moment in the sun could be relatively brief.
The future of the third-gen 300, which is expected to debut in 2019 at the earliest, is uncertain, with some sources suggesting the model could be dropped altogether.
More likely, though, a new 300 will be built on a version of the Chrysler Pacifica people-mover platform, which would open up the option of front- and all-wheel-drive versions … while removing the possibility of a rear-driver.
Adoption of the transverse-engined Pacifica underpinnings would obviously also preclude a V8 version, though a high-performance all-wheeldrive version is not outside the realms of possibility.
However, unless our sources are way off the mark, it seems we’ll have to pin our Pentastar muscle-car hopes on Dodge rather than Chrysler…