By the year 2000, American sports cars had been dragged through the mud enough.
No longer were these companies going to endure the stereotype that American cars couldnít handle a corner or keep up with the competition on a racetrack. America wasnít just going to build better sports cars; it was time to build some of the worldís best.
From sport compacts to pickups to supercars, America took the automotive fight to the world in the first decade of the new millennium. When the dust settled, some truly spectacular cars emerged. Here are the 10 best. Did we miss anything? Tell us in the comments below.
10. 2008-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Turbo
The Chevrolet Cobalt SS produced from 2008 until 2010 may be the most underrated performance car of the past 10 years. With a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the little Cobalt produced 260 hp and 260 lb-ft. of torque.
Equipped with a five-speed manual transmission and a well-tuned suspension, the Cobalt was incredibly quick around a racetrack, thanks in large part to grippy 225/40R18 summer tires. The Cobalt SS was so fast, in fact, that during independent testing, the SS was just as fast or faster than a Mitsubishi EVO and Subaru WRX STI around a road course.
9. 2000-2004 Ford F-150 Lightning
What list of American sports cars would be complete without a hot rod pickup truck? The concept of putting big power in a half-ton pickup was nothing new, but Ford decided to make the F-150 Lightning more than just a burnout machine.
The Lightning received proper sports tires, with 295/45R18ís in the rear along with a lower, beefed up suspension. Under the hood lay a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 that initially made 340 hp and 440 lb-ft. of torque, but would later be bumped to 380 hp and 450 lb-ft. Although the F-150 could handle better than pretty much any other truck on the road, it was straight-line speed that really set this truck apart.
8. 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO
Another underrated GM performance car was the Pontiac GTO. Available for just three short years, the GTO was a failure from a sales perspective. Many point to Pontiacís decision to use the fabled GTO name on this rebadged Australian sports car as its downfall, but the real reason had more to do with price.
Itís a shame the car didnít last longer, as it had all the right go-fast parts. Initially available with a 5.7-liter V8 making 350 hp and 365 lb-ft. of torque, in 2005, the engine was yanked for a more powerful 6.0-liter V8 making 400 hp and 400 lb-ft. of torque. Available with a six-speed manual or a four-speed automatic, the GTO was a perfect blend of a muscle car, a sports car and a grand tourer.
7. 2008-2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8
A fresh take on an old-school, big power muscle car, the Dodge Challenger SRT8 was large, flashy and fast. Powered by a 6.1-liter V8 making 425 hp and 420 lb-ft. of torque, the Challenger was more at home on the drag strip than a road course.
Although it would technically compete with the retro inspired Ford Mustang and upcoming Chevrolet Camaro, the Challenger was larger than both of those two and didnít feature the same all-around performance. The SRT8 made up for it with comfort, style and presence.
This was also just the beginning of the run for SRT Challengers that led to todayís cay with ludicrous amounts of horsepower.
6. 2008-2009 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500KR
The KR in the GT500KR name stands for King of the Road and when it came to horsepower, this Shelby wears the crown. Making 540 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque from a supercharged 5.4-liter V8, the GT500KR super muscle car had 40 hp and 30 lb-ft more than a regular Shelby Mustangs during that time.
Styled to look like the original 1968 GT500KR, the Mustang had the presence to back up its performance. And, unlike a lot of Mustangs, it had staggered tires with the rear wheels wearing 285 mm-wide rubber while the front wore 255 mm-wide tires...
5. 2004-2009 Cadillac CTS-V
4. 2000 Ford Mustang Cobra R
3. 2009 Dodge Viper ACR
2. 2001-2009 Chevrolet Corvette Z06/ZR1
and the winner is:
1. 2005-2006 Ford GT