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Sports Car Comparison: Value Velocity

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Marie-Laurence Paquin
Two American models own the market for maximum performance bang-for-the-buck
For many shoppers, the choice in a performance car is a simple function of the most possible performance and power for the least amount of money.

When it comes to delivering conquering speed on the (relative) cheap, two specific American models come to mind. These relatively affordable, extreme-performance models leave pricier models in the dust when it comes to power output and all-out velocity. When it comes to cheap speed well below six-digit pricing, these choices from Ford and Chevrolet have the market cornered.

Model: Ford Shelby GT500
Starting Price: $61,699

Ford Shelby GT500
Photo: Ford

Overview: The highest-performing factory Mustang model to date wears the late Carroll Shelby’s name proudly, while offering shoppers an unparalleled level of power and torque for the money.

Take $62,000 to your favourite BMW, Porsche or Audi dealership, and you’ll get a middle-of-the-line model with about 300 horsepower. Take it to Ford, and you’ll get a simply sinister 5.8L V8 engine with a supercharger the size of a toaster oven. Result? 662 horsepower and 0-100 km/h in under 4 seconds, and the most powerful V8 engine on the road under your hood – one that’s good for a top speed past the 200 mile-per–hour mark!

All GT500 models come with a 6-speed manual transmission, track-ready chassis and brake upgrades, and exhaustive attention to aerodynamic performance for maximum high-speed stability.

The latest in infotainment and connectivity technologies are fitted, as are a slew of Track Apps designed to optimize the Shelby GT500 for action in a motorsports setting. Drivers can recalibrate the steering and suspension feel in real time, as well as activate a Launch Control function for drag-race starts right from the steering wheel.

Pros: Bragging rights, style, and all-out aggression are tops with this latest Shelby ‘Stang. Among the most powerful production cars in the world, performance is truly world-class. The GT500 is also surprisingly good on fuel during highway cruising, as well as laid-back and relaxing enough to drive every day. Stopping power and handling match the power output, which leaves anything near this price in the dust.

Cons: With 662 horsepower on tap, a large amount of the GT500’s performance is wasted on public roads with speed limits. Additionally, heavy-footed drivers will experience lofty fuel bills and a high likelihood of license revocation.

Noteworthy: GT500 can achieve over 100 km/h in first gear after four seconds or less. From there, five gears remain. As such, owners opting to participate in motorsports will experience the best return on their investment in the GT500’s performance services. Xenon headlights and sequential LED taillamps add exclusivity, and the GT500 has no front grille, since engineers say that’s better for cooling. The exhaust note sends nearby children, frightened, to hide under a blanket in their closets.

Model: Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Starting Price: $58,500

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Photo: Chevrolet

Overview: Named after an experimental engine from years gone by, the new ZL1 designation is worn by Chevrolet’s highest-performing Camaro yet. The bulged hood, carbon fibre accents and super-sticky tires are no empty threat on the visual front, as the front half of this rip-snorting muscle car is stuffed with a 6.2L LSA V8 engine. To that, engineers bolted a supercharger, and managed to turn in 580 horsepower. Brembo brakes, integral transmission and differential cooling, and magnetically adjustable suspension are all on board, too.

Drivers can have the ZL1 in either coupe or convertible configurations, and with automatic or manual transmissions. The ZL1 rolls on 20” wheels and features sport-alloy pedals, special seats, and quad-pipe exhausts for added exclusivity. Xenon lighting and a multi-mode traction control system add confidence to any driving situation. This range-topping Camaro is completed with extensive aerodynamic and cooling optimizations for stability and durability.

Pros: Easy to drive, comfortable, and boasting a set of front seats friendly even for larger drivers, the Camaro ZL1 is a wickedly fast, track-ready muscle coupe that can be comfortably driven every day. Looks gather crowds, and the exhaust note drops jaws. There’ sdecent fuel mileage during gentle driving, too.

Cons: A low-budget interior and very limited rearward visibility don’t do the ZL1 any favours.

The Magnetic Ride Control shock absorbers work with the carefully calibrated suspension to deliver a no-compromise balance between performance and comfort. Many times per second, the shock absorbers can electronically “read” the road, and self-adjusting their damping in accordance with the road conditions. Drivers can select “Tour” or “Sport” modes for the suspension, fine-tuning system operation for the job at hand. This remarkable technology makes the ZL1 remarkably comfortable on city roads, and remarkably agile on a track setting.
Marie-Laurence Paquin
Marie-Laurence Paquin
Automotive expert