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Dear Kelley Blue Book: 2021 Track-Friendly Muscle Cars

The Challenge: Finding a Track-Friendly Muscle Car.

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Safety, technology, fuel economy and reliability are the usual attributes that many consumers place high on their new vehicle purchase priority list. But what if unadulterated driving fun for day-to-day commuting and an occasional spin at a racetrack are features you are looking for in your next new vehicle?

If these last two points resonate, then a modern track-friendly muscle car is what you are looking for. Our trio of classic muscle car contenders from the U.S.-based Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford brands offer old-fashioned V8-power, rear-wheel-drive, only two doors and deliver both grins at stoplights and smiles lapping a track.

The question we're asking is: Which one of these track-friendly American muscle cars is the one we'd recommend?

 

The Contenders

 

2021 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS

Beyond its high value proposition, the 2+2 passenger 2021 Chevrolet Camaro appeals with a choice of coupe or convertible body styles, good handling, and a surprisingly tech-forward interior. Prices (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price plus destination charges) start at $29,448 CDN for the base Camaro Coupe 1LS with a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 275-horsepower. The most track-friendly Camaro is the hardtop Coupe in 2SS trim. With the highly-recommended $8,495 CDN 1LE Track Performance Package added, the Camaro 2SS starts at $58,543 CDN. Under the Chevy muscle car’s hood is a 6.2-litre 8-cylinder generating 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission with automatic rev-matching on downshifts is standard. A 10-speed automatic is optional.

While the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) Camaro 2SS’s V8 takes care of straight-line performance, the optional 1LE Track Package makes it more than track-friendly. The package’s Magnetic Ride Control (which reads the road to precisely adjust the dampers for even steadier handling) blesses the muscular Chevy with ballet-like moves. Additionally, Track Mode stiffens the Camaro 2SS’s suspension, quickens the steering and throttle progression, and opens up the exhaust for optimal track performance. In the stopping department, large Brembo 6-piston front and 4-piston rear callipers deliver ultimate stopping power.

 

2021 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack 392 Widebody

Dodge’s 2021 Challenger range runs from the $37,665 CDN 303-horsepower SXT to the 717-horsepower $104,620 CDN SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody missile. The best track-friendly muscle car value in the lineup is the $61,870 CDN Scat Pack 392 Widebody with the optional ($1,000 CDN) Tremec 6-speed manual transmission (an 8-speed automatic is standard). Although the Challenger offers 3-across rear seating, for $1 CDN, you can have the Challenger’s back seat deleted to reduce weight.

Either as a 2- or 5-seater, the RWD Challenger Scat Pack 392 Widebody’s 6.4-litre 8-cylinder engine makes a generous 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. Standard Scat Pack performance-related technologies include Line Lock and Launch Control systems (which engages the front brakes to hold the Challenger stationary but leaves the rear wheels free for a burnout to heat up and clean the rear tires), an SRT-tuned chassis and high-performance adaptive damping suspension, plus larger Brembo front brake discs with 6-piston callipers that stop this rapid but heavy car quite well. The Widebody bits add 8.9 centimetres of overall width to accommodate wide Pirelli tires.

 

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1

The 2021 Ford Mustang is more than just a car. It’s a high point in North American automotive culture. That’s been true for many (though not all) Mustangs throughout the years. The RWD 2+2 passenger 2021 Mustang lineup starts with the peppery $30,745 CDN 310-horsepower EcoBoost Fastback. But if you are looking for a car that can handle the road and the track, the topline $63,000 CDN Mustang Mach 1 is the Ford pony car to consider. Available only in hardtop form (no convertible version is offered), the new Mustang Mach 1 uses the same 480-horsepower/420 pound-feet of torque 5.0-litre 8-cylinder as last year’s Bullitt. A 6-speed Tremec manual transmission (with rev-matching technology that performs smooth, throttle-blipping downshifts) is standard. A 10-speed automatic is optional.

While the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 comes with plenty of 1960s’ muscle car era styling cues (such as black satin stripes for the hood and sides, enlivened by red, orange or white highlights), this modern Mach 1 is a more track-focused ride than the Bullitt. Track-friendly Mach 1 hardware includes extra engine cooling, specific aerodynamic additions, an active exhaust system, Brembo brakes, Torsen limited-slip differential and Ford’s MagneRide adaptive suspension.

 

Our Choice

In a market dominated by news of the latest new truck, SUV or electric vehicle, this trio of American muscle coupes offers a unique driving experience. All three can easily deliver excellent on-the-street performance plus the ability to handle the occasional day at the track with all the amenities that a modern car offers over their creaky 1960s ancestors.

The 2021 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack 392 Widebody is unabashedly fast. The big Dodge coupe always seems ready to challenge the limits of its rear-tire adhesion at a determined press of the accelerator from a stop and leap at the chance to open up on the highway. It’s also the most practical daily driver, thanks to a roomy cabin—even in the back seat—and a generous trunk.

Ford’s reincarnated 2021 Mach 1 brings plenty of old-school muscle car vibes into the 21st century. Today’s Mach 1’s sophisticated suspension brings a best-of-both-world capability of supple balance between ride quality and handling prowess. But in the end, we have to choose the Chevy.

If you haven’t driven a Chevy Camaro in a while, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Gone are the days when this was just a straight-line sled. The launch of the 6th-generation platform took things up a big notch. The 2021 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS feels lighter on its feet. Most gratifying is the punch you get whenever you nail the gas pedal. And even with the track-friendly 1LE Track Performance Package included in the price, the Chevy rings in with the lowest purchase price.

If you’re in the market for a new vehicle and have a unique buying request, please contact KBB.ca at KBBSupport@coxautoinc.com

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