The race for more horsepower in both motorcycles and cars wages on.
- Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
- Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
- Chevrolet Corvette Z06
- Dodge SRT Viper
- Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
- Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG S
- BMW M5
- Cadillac CTS-V
- Cadillac ATS-V
- Kawasaki Ninja H2R
- Ducati 1299 Panigale R
- MV Augusta F4 RR
- BMW S1000 RR
- Yamaha/Star VMAX
The quest for vehicular supremacy has been going on since rubber hit pavement, and the horsepower wars are some of the most ferocious competition in motoring. Power communicates strength — and the ability to harness and control it means technological brilliance. Engine output has long been the most significant statistic for those who crave both speed and premier motoring status. But the race for horsepower dominance is no longer reserved for the expensive and rare. In the ’80s, the Porsche 959 supercar was one of the most potent and pricey on the automotive market. It cost $225K back then, possessed 570 horsepower and topped out at 195 mph. Today, an American-made muscle car, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, eclipses the 959 by 137 horses, reaches a top speed of 199 mph and costs a hair above $60K. You can park it in your driveway, and most of your neighbors won’t even know it’s not a base Challenger until you violate the noise ordinance.
And the Hellcat isn’t alone. Manufacturers have built hugely powerful cars, as well as motorcycles, for consumers for far less money than their more exotic, more rare counterparts. We’ve compiled the most potent cars and motorcycles that register a “reasonable” price tag (under $100K for cars and $50K for motorcycles), so you get most power for the lowest price. Which equates to happiness — right?
Three Mirrors and Plenty of Smoke
Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Out of the two crazy Hellcats Dodge has delivered, it’s our favorite since it comes with four doors, all of the insanity and even more speed. It is by all rights the fastest production sedan in the world and has unofficially been clocked to 60 in under three seconds, besting even the Ferrari F12berlinetta.
Charger SRT Hellcat SpecsEngine: 6.2-liter HEMI V8Horsepower: 707Torque: 650 lb-ft0-60: 3.4 seconds
Top Speed: 204 mph
Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
It’s the most potent muscle car ever produced for semi-mass consumption, and it’s historic for more than one reason. The iconic Challenger shape is still present after almost half a century, but it makes mincemeat out of any of its predecessors. To drive it is to experience unearthly levels of thrust along with one seriously comfortable cabin. If one car can be called a true beast, the Challenger most easily qualifies. It delivers supercar acceleration, and it’s incredibly comfortable to drive every day, were it not for the temptation to mash the pedal to the floor at every light.
Challenger SRT Hellcat SpecsEngine: 6.2-liter HEMI V8Horsepower: 707Torque: 650 lb-ft0-60: 3.6 seconds
Top Speed: 199 mph
Chevrolet Corvette Z06
If you thought the base Corvette Stingray was an incredible performance value, then the Z06 is the supercar value of the decade. Its performance will embarrass cars costing five times more. Opt for the eight-speed paddle shift automatic transmission that claims quicker shifts than Porsche’s dual-clutch PDK — and you might hit a sub-three-second 0-60. Tack on the Z07 Performance package, and the Z06 gets full carbon-ceramic brakes for more authoritative stops, fat and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires and adjustable aerodynamics for enhanced downforce. And, it comes standard with the ability to make Ferraris sweat petrol.
Corvette Z06 SpecsEngine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8Horsepower: 650Torque: 650 lb-ft0-60: 3 seconds
Top Speed: 185 mph
Dodge SRT Viper
The Viper lives on with its best iteration yet. It hasn’t lost its iconic shape — in fact it’s more true to the second-generation GTS than ever before — but it is infused with more refinement inside and better driving dynamics. For less than $100K, you get a rare American muscle/performance car, 200+ mph topped out and the kind of track chops that will make you want to improve your skills every chance you get. Now that it’s $15K cheaper than its initial price tag, the draw is even stronger.
SRT Viper SpecsEngine: 8.4-liter V10Horsepower: 645Torque: 600 lb-ft0-60: 3.2 seconds
Top Speed: 206 mph
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
You can wait for the next-generation Camaro, which should prove to be an excellent sports coupe, or you can have the fantastic ZL1 now. It’s as impressive on the track as it is in a straight line thanks to beefed-up, track-tuned suspension components and a supercharged V8 engine that will get it to 60 as fast as a BMW M3. Plus, it will manage sinewy tracks far better than any traditional pony car.
Camaro ZL1 SpecsEngine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8Horsepower: 580Torque: 556 lb-ft0-60: 4.1 seconds
Top Speed: 181 mph
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG S
Not only is the new C-Class’s body as attractive as its flagship S-Class sibling due to shared styling cues, it’s also more muscular and aggressive from the shortened length, and the AMG S version backs that look up with turbocharged power. The big twin-turbo engine launches it to 60 in well under four seconds, while the ergonomic and opulent interior with the diamond-quilted racing seats and rounded vents will make you think you spent $30K more than you did.
C63 AMG S SpecsEngine: 5.5-liter biturbo V8Horsepower: 577Torque: 590 lb-ft0-60: 3.5 seconds
Top Speed: 180 mph
The M5 is legendary, and it’s not letting up with this fifth-generation car. Having dispensed with the V10 engine, the new mill is more efficient and nets even more power from eight cylinders and two turbos. It’s one high-horsepower four-door that will move people and gear on work days and then crush the competition at the track on the weekends. The fact that you can still get it with a six-speed manual tranny is just more proof that drivers still rule at BMW.
M5 SpecsEngine: 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8Horsepower: 560Torque: 590 lb-ft0-60: 3.7 seconds
Top Speed: 180 mph
What Caddy has wrought with the new CTS-V is nothing short of a milestone. They finally got the recipe right with an excellent chassis, great steering and horsepower that brings it to the upper ranks of sports sedans. More refined in its exterior and interior than ever before, the CTS-V should prove to the world once and for all that Cadillac is more than just a performance sedan contender — it could very well be the new champion. This is largely thanks to the use of the Corvette Z06’s engine, which lets the Caddy best even the super ‘Vette’s top speed. How’s that for the business end of things?
CTS-V SpecsEngine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8Horsepower: 640Torque: 630 lb-ft0-60: 3.6 seconds
Top Speed: 200+ mph
Don’t call the ATS-V the CTS-V’s baby brother; there’s nothing infantile about it. Meant to go toe to toe with BMW’s iconic M3/M4, the ATS-V (coupe and sedan) packs even more power than the Bimmers and provides amenities and performance parts on par with the Germans. Not only is the ATS-V potent, it’s also nimble enough to eat up the track and hit every apex along the way. The ATS-V is available in manual or automatic and stops with big Brembo brakes set behind 18-inch, 10-spoke wheels. The ATS-V also benefits from an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, magnetorheological dampers that adjust to your driving needs, and the Performance Traction Management system. And the racing Recaro bucket seats will easily hold you in check during all of the fast-paced festivities.
ATS-V SpecsEngine: 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6Horsepower: 455Torque: 445 lb-ft0-60: 4.2 seconds
Top Speed: 185 mph
Madness to that Rear Wheel
Kawasaki Ninja H2R
It’s the most powerful motorcycle ever made, and it’s not for mere mortals or public roads. This one’s built for the track with a supercharged 998cc inline-four, and it has no mirrors, no headlight and a trellis frame for better stability under power. Just make sure this isn’t your first motorcycle (or your second or third).
Ninja H2R SpecsEngine: 998cc supercharged inline four-cylinderHorsepower: 300Torque: 103 lb-ft0-60: under two seconds
Top Speed: 200+ mph
Ducati 1299 Panigale R
For the street, it’s the most powerful motorcycle ever created, and it’s more than just a screaming motor. The Panigale R’s technology list includes a smart suspension system that receives input from multiple sensors and changes settings based on what the motorcycle is doing in real time. It can detect things like lean angle, brake pressure and acceleration and adjust suspension firmness and ABS to maximize performance. It can also allow the rider to perform seamless shifts without the clutch. Short of standing on the podium, there’s not much the new Panigale R can’t do. The 205 horsepower is just a bonus.
1299 Panigale R SpecsEngine: 1,285cc Superquadro V-TwinHorsepower: 205Torque: 106 lb-ft0-60: 3 seconds
Top Speed: 202 mph
MV Augusta F4 RR
A street razor on par with the BMW and the Ducati, the F4 RR backs up the power with precision and handling thanks to a lean-angle sensor, full ride-by-wire electronic suspension that adjusts throttle sensitivity, torque, engine braking, engine response and rev limits in three engine maps: normal, rain and sport. Because of the 201 horsepower, the published maximum speed of 185 has been exceeded, nearing 200 mph.
Augusta F4 RR SpecsEngine: 4-stroke inline 4-cylinderHorsepower: 201Torque: 82 lb-ft0-60: N/A
Top Speed: 185 mph
BMW S1000 RR
How do you improve on a new legend that bowed in 2010? You make it lighter and more powerful, and add technology that helps you go faster and more safely at the same time. The new S1000 RR drops nine pounds and gains six horsepower, reaching a potent 199. It also gets a new exhaust system that eliminates the underbody canister and a brand-new engine setup for more torque. Optional features include the addition of Dynamic Damping Control (DDC) electronic suspension that automatically adjusts based on riding conditions, Dynamic Traction Control and a remarkable feature known as HP Gear Shift Assist Pro, which performs clutch-less upshifts and downshifts so you can focus on apexes, carving, and all the stuff the S1000 RR was created to do so well.
S1000 RR SpecsEngine: 999cc four-stroke inline four-cylinderHorsepower: 199Torque: 83 lb-ft0-60: 2.6 seconds
Top Speed: 185 mph
The menacing VMAX is in a class of its own. It’s not a cruiser or a superbike, but it has the comfort of the former and the speed and power of the latter. Plus, it manages both the straights and the curves with equal ferocity thanks to its low and forward-mounted engine, aluminum chassis, suspension adjustability and an efficient but performance-oriented engine management system that allows 27 MPG for cruising, but an astounding level of speed and acceleration.
VMAX SpecsEngine: 1,679cc V4Horsepower: 197Torque: 123 lb-ft0-60: 2.5 seconds
Top Speed: NA