American muscle cars rule roads — and polls – USA TODAY
Road & Track magazine will give the Detroit 3 an early holiday present this week.
Cars from Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler make up half the field for R&T’s 2016 Performance Car of the Year contest, and three of the top four.
“The craft of building a really fine performance automobile has returned to the Motor City,”
Road & Track editor Larry Webster told me. “It’s like the engineers are sitting in meetings asking, ‘What’s the coolest thing we can do?’
“The domestic manufacturers are giving their engineers more freedom to than any other companies in the world and we’re the beneficiaries.”
Performance car of the year is as much about feel and fun as raw numbers. “The experience of driving and the character of the car trump everything else,” Webster said. “We’re not looking for the perfect car. We’re looking for the car that moves and excites us.”
R&T started with eight candidates for performance car of the year. In alphabetical order: Bentley Continental GT3-R, Cadillac ATS-V coupe, Chevrolet Corvette ZO6, Dodge Viper ACR, Ferrari 488 GTB, Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang, Mercedes-AMG GT S and Porsche Cayman GT4.
“There’s been a comeback by performance and sports cars, especially cars from the Detroit 3, since the Great Recession,” Autotrader senior analyst Michelle Krebs said. “They’re among the most researched vehicles online and the strongest sellers.”
In addition to being fast and fun, the D3 contenders are bargains compared to most of the European competition. The Shelby GT350 and Corvette ZO6’s base prices of $62,595 and $79.400, respectively, are a steal.
“One of the things the Detroit 3 do well is ratchet performance up to super car levels without super car cost,” said automotive writer and analyst Bill Visnic.
R&T’s test team drove the great eight through the hills of eastern Kentucky for two days, followed by two days on track at NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Ky.
The group quickly sorted itself into contenders and really fast also-rans. The top four were the Corvette ZO6, Dodge Viper ACR, Ferrari 488 GTB and Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang.
“I don’t know what happened in Detroit, but it’s clear the engineers there are enthusiasts like us,” Webster said. “They’ve been empowered to make these cars.”
To learn the winner, check out R&T online Monday, Nov. 9, or the magazine’s December issue, which should be on newsstands this week. Webster wouldn’t reveal the winner when we spoke but I’ve got a feeling it’ll be more good news for one of the D3.
I’m willing to bet the D3’s strong showing won’t be a one-year fluke. Cadillac’s astounding 640-hp CTS-V sedan didn’t even participate in the contest because it wasn’t available for testing by Road & Track
Expect it to be in the conversation when R&T names the 2017 Performance Car of the Year.
Road & Track Editor Larry Webster’s capsule description of each of the top four contenders for Performance Car of the year:
Chevrolet Corvette ZO6 — An exotic killer. It embarrasses every other sports car on the planet.
Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang — The car that finally delivers on the 50-year promise of the Mustang.
Dodge Viper ACR — A race car. It’s built for the crazies, and we love it for that.
Ferrari 488 GTB — In my personal opinion, the finest sports car ever built.