American Muscle takes on German Precision
By: Joel Patel \ Associate Editor \ July 7, 2014
The 1960s may have been the glory days for American muscle cars, but due to advances in technology, reliability and designing, some can argue that the new breed of American muscle cars are the best. Either way, American muscle cars have had stiff competition within and outside of the U.S.
American muscle cars from yesteryear were only concerned with the quarter mile – a sprint that usually took place between a set of lights when the cops weren’t looking. Times have changed; muscle cars can now take corners at mind-bending speeds and manage to stay on the road. While the U.S. has been harnessing the ability to master the corner, Germany has created some amazing muscle cars of its own. German cars from the likes of Mercedes AMG, BMW and Audi are built suspiciously similar to the muscle cars found in the U.S. Large displacement engines in the front, power to the rear and relatively affordable prices make this showdown of precision German muscle against the utter raw horsepower of American muscle a fight to the end.
To combat the German automakers, the U.S. will call upon Ford, Chevrolet and SRT. These companies (everyone except for SRT) have been making muscle cars since the 1960s. Since these companies pretty much wrote the book on what a muscle car is, there’s no better option. As stated before, muscle cars have changed drastically since their humble beginning. What better way than to compare them in their new natural habitat? We will compare muscle cars from both countries on the track – in the form of the infamous Nürburgring – better known as ‘The Ring’, a quarter mile race on Woodward Avenue, – and full out top speed run on the Autobahn. Since there are a plethora of vehicles to choose from, one will be chosen from the aforementioned companies to compete against the other in the three locations.
Let’s start this battle off with a bang at the dreaded Nürburgring, the place where automakers test their vehicles to the extreme. At nearly 13 miles in length and with over 70 treacherous corners, the Nürburgring is the perfect track to pit high performace cars against each other.
For this track battle, the U.S. calls the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 up to the plate. Packing a monstrous 7.0-liter LS7 V-8 engine the Z/28 boasts 500 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, but it’s got more than just bark. To control the power Chevrolet has fit a six-speed close-ratio manual transmission and a limited-slip differential. The Z/28’s got plenty of go fast options, but the track isn’t just about grunt and neither is the Camaro.
To obtain high levels of downforce, the Z/28 comes equipped with a full body kit – every piece on the vehicle aids in putting the power down to the rear wheels. Once the power gets going, the six-piston monobloc calipers tear into the massive 15.5-inch carbon-ceramic rotors up front. The rear brakes utilize a four-piston setup mated to 15.4-inch carbon-ceramic rotors.
Chevrolet went the extra mile with the Z/28 and has added parts that can make the vehicle destroy opponents on the track. But is it enough to tackle the German’s offering? Hail the mighty 2011 BMW M3 GTS.
BMW’s engineers didn’t rebuild the M3, but instead heightened its capabilities. They did this by putting the E92 M3 on a diet, boring out the engine and placing racing specific material – like a roll bar – into the vehicle. After all of this the vehicle possesses 444 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque.
Just like the Z/28, the M3 GTS comes equipped with a ton of go fast goodies. A titanium, low-backpressure Boysen exhaust, seven-speed M-DCT paddle shifted gearbox fiberglass bucket racing seats, roll cage, polycarbonate side rear windows and six-point seatbelts have all found their way into the M3 GTS.
It’s a very interesting battle between Germany’s precision sniper versus America’s blunderbuss. Both of these vehicles having lapped the Nürburgring, however its the vehicle with the fastest time that wins. The M3 GTS lapped the “Green Hell” in approximately seven minutes and 48 seconds (7:48), which puts it in the same range as the Chevrolet Corvette C6 Z06 and Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano. A great time for the M3 GTS around one of the hardest race tracks in the world. How did the Z/28 fair on the track?
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Astonishingly, the Z/28 completed a lap of the 13-mile track in seven minutes and 37 seconds (7:37:40). The time set forth by the Z/28 is faster than the Lexus LFA, Porsche 911 Carrera S, Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. Therefore, it’s a flat out win for the U.S. in the track battle against Germany. What makes this win even more monumental is the price. The M3 GTS – which wasn’t sold in the U.S. – cost $145,000, while the Z/28 cost $75,000. Victory for the U.S.
Now, on to the Autobahn to test straight-line speed.
The Autobahn is one of the few places in the world where you can max out your vehicle, legally. It was a no brainer then, to test one of America’s fastest muscle cars against Germany’s at this location. With a large stretch of unrestricted speeds, this duel demands a vehicle with a mahoosive amount of horsepower.
If horsepower and engine displacement are on the top of the list for this Autobahn battle, then one American vehicle sticks out like a sore thumb. The 2014 SRT Viper is that sore thumb. To help the Viper stick out even more, SRT equipped the venomous snake with one of the world’s largest naturally aspirated engines – an 8.4-liter V-10.
With a massive engine like that, one would assume the figures would also be monumental. Well, they are. The driver’s right foot controls 640 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque, which can propel the car from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. The Viper’s drag coefficient of 0.369 is not the best, but still allows the vehicle to reach a top speed above 200 mph. Like an old school sports car, the Viper bites individuals that don’t give it the respect it deserves.
Germany has a lot of vehicles within the same price range as the Viper, but few possess the same raw power as the American brute. However, Audi’s 2014 R8 V-10 Plus is a formidable foe. Wrapped in a gorgeous body, Audi’s flagship model not only has the looks, but also has the muscle to keep up with the Viper.
What makes the R8 V-10 Plus a formidable foe for the Viper? Maybe it’s the Lamborghini derived 5.2-liter V-10 that pumps out 525hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. While that’s more than enough to get you into trouble, it’s not as good as the Viper’s engine. Perhaps it’s the Audi’s lean body? Weighing in at roughly 3700 lbs, the Audi is no heavyweight, but it weighs 400 lbs more than the Viper. So why exactly has the R8 V-10 Plus been chosen to race the Viper?
There’s something magical about a car when everything works in harmony. The hustle of the engine, quickness of the shifts, crisp handling and precise brakes all make the R8 V-10 Plus simply spectacular. While it may not excel at one specific thing, it does everything well. But we’re worried about straight-line speed, specifically the fastest possible speed either of these cars could hit. So who would win if both drivers decided to go nuts on the Autobahn?
Equipped with a lightning fast dual clutch transmission, the R8 V-10 Plus sprints to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds, to 100 mph in 7.2 seconds and completes the quarter mile in 11.3 seconds at 125.8 mph. The German rocket will continue to accelerate onto a top speed of 198 mph. Impressive figures from a supercar.
Before achieving its top speed, the American barbarian runs to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, to 100 mph 6.9 seconds and completes the quarter mile in 11.3 seconds. Which are very close times to the R8 V-10 Plus however shortly after completing the quarter mile, the Viper hits its stride and gains speed until a mind boggling 206 mph.
The Viper is undoubtedly a supercar, but unlike its German adversaries, it will bite back. But that’s what makes it so special. In a world where technology has eclipsed muscle, the Viper places analog and brawn (just like muscle cars of yesteryear) first. A true muscle car to the end, the Viper takes the all out top speed race for $78,000 less than the R8 V-10 Plus (starts at $179,645 with Audi S Tronic dual-clutch transmission).
The last race had to be on American soil and what better place than Woodward Avenue. Woodward Avenue has witnessed the birth of the automobile in America, as well as the peak of American muscle cars – the 1950’s and 1960’s. Henry Ford built the Model T just four blocks west of Woodward. Chrysler was founded three blocks east of Woodward and General Motors introduced its Pontiac line in 1926 in Pontiac.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s “Woodwarding” became the rage. Cruisers in muscle cars would drive down Woodward Avenue and take in the historic sites of the city. The Woodward Dream Cruise is staged from Ferndale to Pontiac, attracts more than 1.5 million people from around the world and boasts 30,000 classic cars in attendance. There’s no more nostalgic place to pit two muscle cars in a quarter mile race.
The 2014 Ford Shelby GT500 is a proper animal. There’s no other car that embodies the American muscle spirit as the GT500. Ford didn’t rewrite the muscle car recipe with the GT500; they just added modern gizmos to make the vehicle easier to live with. For the price, no other vehicle in the world gives the same amount of addictive horsepower for $55,000.
The GT500 is equipped with one of the most powerful supercharged 5.8-liter V-8’s in the world. Cranking out 662 horsepower and 631 ft-lbs of torque, few cars can match its ferocity. While the engine may be stellar, the GT500’s handling characteristics are hampered by its solid rear axle suspension. However, in a quarter mile drag race, the Germans will be hard pressed to find an adequate rival.
The most powerful production car made in America (the GT500) bursts to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and completes the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds at 125.7 mph. Besides the engine, Ford has worked meticulously on the GT500’s body to minimize drag and maximize downforce. A 14 percent reduction in drag and 66 percent increase in front-end downforce (from the previous GT500) allow the behemoth Mustang to reach a top speed of 200 mph. The GT500 is a fitting tribute to the late Carroll Shelby.
Mercedes-AMG is known for taking Mercedes-Benz vehicles to a higher level of performance. The company had humble beginnings in 1990 with Daimler-Benz AG and built their first jointly developed vehicle in 1993 – the C36 AMG. Since then, AMG has built some of the craziest vehicles on the planet, while maintaining the precision German sports cars are known for.