A Love Letter To The American Performance Car

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

If you ask Jack Baruth, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is probably the finest sports car on sale today. And with the addition of a new 8-speed automatic (a feature that will be more popular than many enthusiasts will care to admit), the C7 will add gains in performance and fuel economy. The 0-60 mph and 1/4 mile sprints shed a tenth of a second each: 60 mph comes up in 3.7 seconds, while the 1/4 mile is covered in 11.9 seconds. Highway fuel economy is up 1 mpg to 29 mpg. Yes, these are incremental improvements, but it’s also amazing that you can buy something with supercar performance and highway fuel economy within spitting distance of a mid-size V6 sedan.

Beyond the ‘Vette, the array of American performance cars on sale right now is staggering. If you like muscle cars, you can have your pick of a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger, where even the weakest variants offer 300+ horsepower V6 engines that are quick enough to run with the V8 Mustangs of ten years ago. At the upper end, you have big block pony cars that come with more power than most Italian exotics, available at prices well south of the six figure mark.

If you want something a bit more European, Ford will sell you not one, but two turbocharged hatchbacks that are widely regarded as the top of their class. There are a myriad of sedans in all kinds of flavors, from the pseudo-Euro Cadillac CTS and ATS to the unmistakably American Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger and the under-appreciated Buick Regal GS. And let’s not forget the formidable Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, which makes the AMG and M SUVs obsolete by virtue of its existence.

I was born an import guy, and have long worshiped at the altar of VTEC. JDM parts, drifting and Sport Compact Car were my holy sacraments. But the last year has been a sort of Damascene conversion for me. The most exciting cars have, in my opinion, been coming out of Detroit, and they’re no longer the one-trick ponies..err, pony cars that I remember from my youth, good for straight line performance, big torque and little else.

For someone of my means, it’s hard to think of something more compelling than the Fiesta ST, which can hit 60 mph in less than 7 seconds while returning as high as 40 mpg on the highway. If I were a wealthier man, than the C7 would be what I’d want – but I’d take the 7-speed manual. I’m not quite ready for two pedals yet.

Perhaps I lack the context and years on this planet to make this judgement call, but I can’t think of an era where the American performance car has been so well-rounded, dynamically capable and competitive against the global offerings of the performance car world. Let me know what you think.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

More by Derek Kreindler

Join the conversation
5 of 147 comments
  • DenverMike DenverMike on Aug 23, 2014

    As the saying went, "You just can't catch a 5.0" But around here, they target the Windsor 5.0's specs, without ever driving one. In a Fox Mustang and 5-speed, that is. Back then, there wasn't much that could match its performance. Especially not in its price range. Yes a 2014 Accord Sport manual could give an '80s 5.0 Mustang GT a run for it's money, but you have to leave the Mustangs rear gears stock. (and not the notchback) All stock vs stock. Never mind the '80s Accord was rock'n 89 HP back then.

  • Power6 Power6 on Aug 23, 2014

    Great thoughts Derek. My impression of the 80/90s, and I am a little older than you, was that the domestic performance cars were worlds better than the old "muscle car days" but always a little cruder than the import stuff. the fox Mustang is a legend but it was a little outdated and simple and maybe some of the kids didn't like that. Lots of choices for import performance. Once the STI and Evo hit it was like 300hp rally rocket or 260hp Mustang GT still based on fox body live axle hmm...tough choice. Now we have little from the Japanese, mostly mainstream stuff. Where is the Prelude VTEC, Celica, Supra? Gone and nobody cares. But the Mustang and Camaro...oh I really want one of those 1LEs with the Recaros bad...

    • See 2 previous
    • DenverMike DenverMike on Aug 24, 2014

      @el scotto You'd think Vanilla would've rocked the AMG or Testarossa. Or the Turbo 911 'vert. The Mustang's aftermarket is ridiculous though. Biggest of any car by far. But how can anyone leave their's stock? I'd leave them looking/sounding stock, but it was GAME ON for the drivetrain and suspension. Factory gearing was a joke. Shocks too. The stamped-steel control arms (on the rear) were flimsy. Bushings were spongy all around. And a sloppy shifter to name a few. Simple things made for a dramatic transformation. The stock Mustang could've been "world class" with simple upgrades at the factory. But Ford sold you the shell, like unfinished furniture. Or plain vans for you to customize and make your own.

  • Carfan94 Never, it doesn’t get cold eneough here in TN, to switch to winter tires. But it gets cold enough that running Summer tires year round is impractical. I’m happy with my All seasons
  • Analoggrotto Anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes around a mustang owner would know this will be in insta-hit.
  • Akear If this is true then they won't go out of business. Good for them!
  • FreedMike Interesting time capsule.
  • 6-speed Pomodoro I had summer and winter tires for a car years ago. What a pain in the butt. You've permanently got a stack of tires hogging space in the garage and you've got to swap them yourself twice a year, because you can't fit a spare set of tires in a sportscar to pay someone else to swap 'em.I'd rather just put DWS06's on everything. But I haven't had a sportscar in 8 years, so maybe that's a terrible idea.