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

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle News -

Gen­eral Mo­tors Chevro­let C8 Corvette

The

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.

Chevro­let Ca­maro

We’ve

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.

Cadil­lac

Gen­eral

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.

Ford

Pro­duc­tion

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

IIt’s

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

IThe

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…

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