Fast fives: Captivating modern muscle cars for £35,000 or less

Lewis Kingston

30 Sep 2021

Got an urge to tick the muscle car ownership box? If you’ve got some £35,000 to spend, here are five options worthy of your attention

Buying an older muscle car is all well and good but, for some, the realities of such a car can often disappoint; poor handling, unremarkable performance and the challenges of living with an older car might spoil things entirely, regardless of the noise it makes or how good it looks.

However, there are many modern alternatives – especially if you’re willing to be a little liberal with the definition of a muscle car – that offer up similarly evocative and enjoyable driving experiences without the cons typically associated with a classic or rapidly ageing muscle car.

5. Lexus RC F (2015-)

If you're shopping for a used muscle car, Lexus probably wouldn't strike you as a natural port of call. The brand, after all, is best known for making luxurious and refined cars. However, its oft-overlooked RC F is worth considering.

Its major selling point is its glorious and finely engineered naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8, which produces a stout 457bhp at a heady 7,100rpm. Okay, so it only puts out 384lb ft of torque – which pales in comparison to some force-fed alternatives – but, yes, it’s all channelled to the rear wheels.

The Lexus is no slouch, unsurprisingly, and will accelerate from 0-62mph in just 4.3 seconds. There is lots to like elsewhere, too, including powerful Brembo brakes, adaptive suspension and a real sense of class, quality and occasion.

Sure, the RC F might not be as sporting as some alternatives – but you might be willing to trade a competitor’s outright composure and finesse for the ease of use, reliability and more relaxed nature offered by the Lexus. Different strokes, after all, for different folks.

4. Nissan GT-R (2009-)

There’s no replacement for displacement, so they say, but that’s only if you ignore the existence of forced induction. Nissan’s mighty GT-R, as a case in point, initially served up 479bhp and 434lb ft from its twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V6 – eclipsing that offered by the aforementioned naturally aspirated 5.0-litre Lexus RC F.

Despite weighing in at 1740kg, but aided by its dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel drive, the GT-R’s tremendous output allows it to accelerate from 0-62mph in some 3.5 seconds.

Many will tell you, due to its reliance on technology, that the Nissan is a dull and uninteresting car to drive. However, the reality is that the GT-R is a gratifying and exciting bit of kit – and it feels far more mechanical than you might expect.

That, coupled with its tremendous power, endows it with a considerable muscle car-like vibe, hence its appearance here. Then there are the myriad tuning options, which can make the GT-R even more of a monster.

 It is a complicated machine, mind, and for £35,000 you will be getting an older example. Consequently, you need to carefully consider the financial and maintenance realities of owning such a beast.

3. Vauxhall VXR8 GTS (2013-2017)

The GT-R admittedly won’t hit the spot for those seeking a more traditional V8 muscle car experience. Or, perhaps, some buyers simply won’t find the two-door Nissan practical enough. A car’s often not much fun, ultimately, if aspects of it prevent you actually using and enjoying it on a regular basis.

Instead, you could opt for the lesser-spotted Vauxhall VXR8 GTS. It’s a big four-door saloon, with a plush interior, so it's more than accommodating enough. More to the point, it’s powered by a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 that pounds out 577bhp and 546lb ft of torque.

That’s enough to punch the mighty Vauxhall from 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds – and, in third gear, it’ll go from 50-70mph in just 2.1 seconds. The VXR8 GTS is packed with high-performance features, too, and the rear-wheel-drive saloon can be had with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.

You will need to budget for lots of tyres, particularly if you ever venture on track with the heavyweight VXR8 GTS, and you might also need to hire a tanker to follow you around: Vauxhall claimed an average of 18.5mpg for the manual version, when new, and that’s without opening the taps. 

2. Mercedes-Benz C Class C 63 AMG Coupe (2011-2015)

It would be neglectful to put together a list of modern muscle cars and not include at least one V8-powered Mercedes. Namely, in this case, the Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Coupe.

Even in standard form, the Mercedes’ 6.2-litre V8 puts out a substantial 451bhp and 443lb ft, which is channelled to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission. It’ll dispatch the 0-62mph dash in 4.5 seconds and, flat out, it’ll hit an electronically limited 155mph.

Many will appreciate the naturally aspirated AMG V8's high-rev character, too, with peak power coming in at 6,800rpm. It’s also hard to argue with the cachet of the three-pointed star and the AMG badge, which will understandably draw the attention of some buyers.

The Mercedes – which is badged as a 6.3-litre model but actually displaces 6,208cc – is more common than some of the alternatives here, making it easier to find, test and buy one. Saloon and estate variants were offered as well, which widens the appeal of the muscular Mercedes further.

1. Ford Mustang (2015-)

Dig through the classifieds for modern American muscle cars and you’ll encounter the likes of myriad high-output Dodge Challengers, including the fabled supercharged SRT Hellcats, and powerful Chevrolet Camaros.

You’ll also find plenty of sixth-generation Ford Mustangs – and, because they’re available in right-hand drive and readily supported in this country, the Mustang will jump to the top of many a shopping list.

There’s more to its appeal than just its right-hand-drive configuration, though; a used V8 Mustang has the looks, the presence, the power and the boisterous rear-wheel-drive character that many are looking for. It’s not devoid of creature comforts, either, which makes it easy to live with and enjoy.

An extensive array of aftermarket upgrades also means that it’s easy to improve the Mustang’s capabilities when you’ve acclimatised to it. Tired of just 444bhp and a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds? Well, bag yourself a supercharger kit and grab north of 650bhp without much fuss.

Just remember to set aside some cash for tyres, and perhaps a clutch and other driveline parts, should you start making the most of that prodigious output. 

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Lewis Kingston

30 Sep 2021