The Hottest, Fattest, and Meanest of 2006
By Matthew Bonazzoli

Spring is in the air and it’s time to consider what you’re going to be driving when the warm weather hits. OK, I’m just kidding about spring but the sound of a good old American V8 engine will warm your heart.

In case you haven’t noticed, we are now in the midst of an all out American muscle car revival. So what’s rumbled out of Detroit lately? Without reaching into the exotic, quite a bit ~ We have brand new Chargers, Mustang GTs, and GM GTOs.

Let’s start with the most retro-looking car, the new Mustang GT coupe. If Steve McQueen were alive today he’d be chasing the bad guys in one of these beauties. With 300 horses and weighing in at about 3500 pounds, this is the one that gets the overall package just right. It may not be the fastest of all the ponies but is sure is pretty and sure is a blast to drive. I recommend the five speed manual for really getting into the Bullitt state-of-mind.

Speaking of Bullitt, next up is none other than the Dodge Charger. Back with a vengeance after a 28 year absence, albeit this time wrapped in four doors, the Dodge Charger Daytona R/T (when ordered correctly) comes with a 350 horse engine option and plenty of torque. Even at about 500 pounds heavier than the Mustang, this monster can really move. The interior could stand a bit of an upgrade, but hey, for something with this much power, we can be a little forgiving. The Charger gives you one transmission option ~ the auto-stick. Think of it as a manual with no clutch. I found it to be a comfortable way to drive especially in traffic. It’s a comfortable way to drive (especially in traffic) and, although not as boy-racer as an actual stick, it’s still more fun than a traditional automatic transmission.

Next up is the only new car entry to truly qualify as a General Motors muscle car. Available in coupe only, the new Pontiac GTO is a 400 horsepower cruiser from the only car division to have never given up on the idea of the muscle car. With the demise of the Firebirds and Camaros, Pontiac has brought in the Holden Monaro from Down Under to save its reputation as GM’s performance car division, Although by far the least aggressive looking car here, it’s still the fastest with its six speed manual gearbox. Another bonus of the stick ~ which yes, I love ~ is that on long highway drives the mileage from the GTO tops out at 28mpg, which is the best here. The interior of the GTO is, in my opinion, the best of the three. The quality of materials gave a look and feel that are much more appropriate to a high-end model and the seats were the most comfortable by far.

The Mustang GT is the easiest on the wallet and it’s my choice for the coolest overall, too. I guess the GTO is my second choice (to stand a chance at being #1 in my book it needs to start looking less like a 1998 Grand Am and more like a muscle car) and the Dodge, a great car but still a four-door, rates #3.

Of course, “cool” isn’t really something you can quantify ~ and by that I mean that the GTO is the quickest and the best all-around vehicle of the lot but until GM changes the body to look less like a 1998 Grand Am and more like a musclecar I’ll pass. The Dodge is a great car but it does have four doors so it rates third in my book.

Those on a used car budget can find plenty of older Mustang GTs, Camaro Z28s, and Pontiac Trans Ams to fulfill their need for speed. In fact, a Trans Am WS6 or Z28 SS from 1998 to 2002 is affordable and fast as hell. With the right driver, it would give any of these 2006 muscle cars a run for its money.