It’s easy to get caught up in both the marketing gibberish and the exaggerated legends of certain cars. Vehicles raised to dizzying heights through overzealous reporting or a feature in a movie. How many times have you sat down at the Italian Job and then longed for an original Mini?
The same goes for American muscle cars. Many go on to star in films and television series themselves, such as Starsky and Hutch’s Ford Gran Torino. What most people don’t realize, however, is that the bright red Ford is just awful to drive.
That’s the problem with some iconic or coveted vehicles. We’re too fixated on power figures, how they look, or how they’re portrayed in a movie, to see them massively overrated. Yet when driven, myth and the air of fantasy unravel. No doubt it will ruffle feathers, here are the 10 most overrated American performance cars we’ll stay away from.
10 Dod Charger Hellcat SRT
If you are looking for maximum bang for your buck, you will undoubtedly be drawn to the Dodge Charger Hellcat. It’s a four-door family sedan with a large trunk and a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine. An engine that produces 717 hp can propel the Hellcat to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and sounds glorious.
The distracting factor is that it drives horribly. The steering sometimes feels unconnected, making it tiring to keep it in a straight line. It also only averages 12mpg, which is pathetic in the age of green thinking.
9 Chevrolet Corvette C4
The C4 Corvette was hailed as a sports car to rival the best European offerings. That may be true on a slippery road, but it doesn’t stand a chance on broken European asphalt. Originally powered by a 205hp L83 V8, the C4 Corvette was far from impressive to drive.
Packed with electronics that often failed, the C4 Corvette took a decade to develop into the car it needed to be. By that time, however, it had been left behind not only by better European machines, but also by the wave of more exciting Japanese engines.
8th Ford Mustang GT (1969)
Take status away from the 1969 Ford Mustang GT by being Steve McQueen’s dream vehicle in the Bullitt movie, and what you’re left with is a big-engined Mustang. It might have come with a handling package and stiffer suspension, but it still wasn’t a razor-sharp racer.
The 1969 GT was very heavy, under-braked, had poor overall ride quality and just didn’t drive very well. Attempting to chase the iconic car through sweeping corners would inevitably require great concentration and even more strength.
7 Dodge Viper V10
The Dodge Viper is the engine equivalent of a studded leather posing bag. When it was released in 1992 with a 400hp V10 engine, it could smash the 60-mile mark in 4.2 seconds. Very impressive straight line figures. Terrible to drive thanks to its lumpy engine and awkward controls, not to mention the total lack of driving aids.
An uncivilized machine that only reminds us how not to build a monster muscle car, the Viper V10 did its best work stationary. A fantastic looking car, best seen as a glossy poster.
6 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And in this case, Jeep’s idea was to build a super-fast SUV to rival the mighty Porsche Cayenne Turbo. The Grand Cherokee SRT8 lacked the glamor, grace or on-road prowess of its German rival, but it did pack some firepower.
A 6.1-liter Hemi V8 with 420 hp. The main problem with all that power is that as the SRT8 rushes through corners, it will pitch, dive and roll around like a luxury cruise ship in a typhoon.
5 Plymouth Hemi Barracuda
It may have become one of the most desirable classic muscle cars in the world, but the Hemi Barracuda isn’t what it’s supposed to be. Driving hard a Barracuda feels quite unusual, like the chassis is far too compliant. It’s also not as fast as its numbers suggest.
In series form, it was only able to slip just under the 14-second quarter-mile mark. A fiercely spirited machine, the Hemi ‘Cuda has become an iconic muscle car that, when encountered in metal, is a major disappointment.
4 AC Cobra
The origins of the AC Cobra are legendary. A British designed chassis and body fitted with a snarling American V8. What most stories surrounding the car fail to emphasize is that it didn’t need all that extra firepower.
An ongoing project, the AC Cobra, was completed to be truly drivable. The introduction of larger engines degraded it, while the constant need to refine its handling became a chore. A great car to see at a car show, driving a Cobra is a soul crushing experience.
3 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 (1974)
Take away the muscle of a muscle car and you’re left with a four-wheeled paperweight. Sales of the sporty Camaro had skyrocketed in 1974, making it one of the most popular sports cars on the market. The Z28 Camaro, which offered both performance and economy, offered neither.
Its 5.7-litre engine would drink petrol at an alarming rate of 9mpg while producing real-world power output of just 150hp. Bury the gas pedal, sit back, and wait as the Z28 slowly chugs to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds.
2 Ford F150 SVT Lightning
With the bold title of once being the world’s fastest pickup, the F150 SVT Lightning undoubtedly appealed to many people. Equipped with a 5.4-liter supercharged V8, it would hit 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. The problem was that all that power went to the rear wheels, where there was no weight.
So dropping the hammer results in 380hp of tire smoking waste. The F150 Lightning is an excellent vehicle for burnouts and pretty much useless as a true performance vehicle. It also hates going around any form of bending.
1 Pontiac GTO (2004)
We all love a bargain for high-performance cars, and at first glance, the reborn fifth-generation GTO fits the bill. What it isn’t, however, is an all-American hero. Assembled by Holden in Australia, it’s just a rebranded Monaro.
Equipped with a 5.7-liter V8 with 350 hp, the 6-speed GTO should accelerate to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds. It didn’t. Numerous independent tests found it to be a second slower. Later, more powerful cars would make up for this deficit. More grand tourer than muscle car, the early examples are fun but underwhelming.