The 10 Best NON-American Muscle Cars
Muscle cars originated in the United States back in the 1960s. Shoehorning a big, powerful engine, usually, a V-8, in the smallest possible body is the classic go-fast formula, and Americans have been very good at it. By enhancing the performance of regular vehicles, to the point where most would run 13 and even 12-second quarter-mile times. The idea of affordable performance, especially one involving a big V-8, is an appealing one and American cars continue to deliver on that front, to this day.
In time, foreign automakers took a page out of the American Muscle car manufacturers’ book and started offering their own V-8-powered models, based on regular cars. British, Australian, and even some German manufacturers adopted the formula of shoehorning a powerful V-8 into an engine bay that isn’t necessarily meant to house such an engine. Where there is a will, there is a way and while there are many good examples of non-American Muscle cars, these 10 are some of the most notable offerings that boast serious V-8 power in a relatively compact package.
10 Jensen Interceptor & Jensen FF
front 3/4 view of Jensen Interceptor R driving
British car companies have their fair share of V-8-powered models. Furthermore, the majority of those rely on American V-8 engines to make serious power. One of the most notable examples is the Jensen Interceptor. The full-size, grand tourer was produced between 1966 and 1976 with a total of 6,408 units produced. The Interceptor came in three body styles, including hatchback, convertible, and coupe.
Between 1966 and 1971, there was also a four-wheel-drive version called the Jensen FF, but only 320 of those were made. There were three engine options, all of which were derived from Chrysler. There was a base, 360 cu in (5.9-liter) Small Block LA V-8, a 383 cu in (6.3-liter) V-8, which was the only option for the FF, and a 440 cu-in (7.2-liter) V-8. Gearbox options also came from Chrysler in the form of a three-speed Torqueflite A727 automatic, and a four-speed manual.
9 Mercedes C63 AMG
Side profile shot of a 2012 Mercedes C63 AMG
The 2024 Mercedes AMG C63 E-Performance is a divisive subject. While the range-topping C-Class was almost exclusively offered with a big V-8, the latest model comes with a complex, hybrid powertrain, revolving around a turbocharged, inline-four engine. This is a sharp deviation from AMG’s previous iterations of the C63, which were relatively simplistic and brutish, earning them the moniker “German Muscle”.
While the previous model’s twin-turbo V-8 is something to behold, it was the M156-powered C63 that came in 2007 that is noteworthy. The W/S/C204-series C-Class (depending on the body type), is one of the last Mercedes AMG models to feature a naturally-aspirated, 6.2-liter V-8. It comes with a seven-speed, 7G-Tronic automatic, and can even be had as a station wagon. The 204-series C63 AMG boasts a thundering symphony of V-8 noises, matched only by its appetite for rear tires.
8 Holden/Vauxhall Monaro
front 3/4 view of a grey 1972 Holden Monaro GTS Coupe parked with other classic cars
The Australians have, on numerous occasions, showing us that they know how to build Muscle cars. Holden Monaro is one of the best examples of that, and it first came out in 1968. GM owns Holden, which is why almost all engine options came from GM. Holden was retired in 2021, after GM decided it will no longer make right-hand drive cars.
Throughout its three generations, the Monaro always remained a two-door, two-plus-two-seater. In its last generation, it was also sold as the Vauxhall Monaro and in North America, as the Pontiac GTO. Regardless of which market it was sold in, it always came with a 5.7-liter LS1 and later, a 6.0-liter LS2 engine. With a Tremec T56, six-speed manual, 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) was possible in as little as 4.5 seconds.
7 Aston Martin V-8/Vantage
No Aston Martin can ever be called an affordable car and that’s one of the main aspects that made Muscle cars popular. With that said, many of Aston Martin’s more recent models can be had or dirt-cheap. Whether you should go for one is another question entirely, but the formula of putting a big engine in a relatively small package is reminiscent of the Golden days of Muscle cars.
The V-8 and Vantage designations have graced Aston Martin models since 1969. In recent years, the Vantage is being offered with an AMG-derived V-8, but the British company still has its own V-12 unit to boast. Nevertheless, whether you choose to go for one of the early variants produced between 1969 and 1992, or newer, the British carmaker, associated with James Bond, has what it takes to be a Gentleman’s Muscle car.
6 Lexus RC-F
A static shot of the current Lexus RC F range
Toyota and Lexus have their fair share of V-8 models, but as it stands, the Lexus RC-F seems to be at the top of the range. Yes, there is the Lexus LC500, but that’s more of a luxury, grand tourer. The RC-F sits just under the LC500 and is based on a regular, compact executive coupe. There are key changes from the base car, of course, one of which hides under the hood. Instead of the usual turbo-four or naturally-aspirated V-6 units, you now get a 5.0-liter, naturally-aspirated V-8.
The same engine is found in the LC500, IS500, and GS-F. With 472 horsepower and 395 pound-feet (535 Nm), the RC-F can sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.3 seconds. There are two differentials to choose from – a mechanical, limited-slip differential and an electronic one with torque vectoring.
5 HSV GTS & Vauxhall VXR8
front 3/4 view of a red 2017 HSV GTS
Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) and Vauxhall VXR8 both utilized the GM Zeta platform. It’s the same platform that underpins the first neo-retro Camaro, Chevrolet Caprice, SS, and Pontiac G8. GM’s array of small block V-8s was offered even for the non-performance variants, but it was the hot versions that spiced things up with supercharged LS9 and LSA units.
This meant up to 595 horsepower and 546 pound-feet (740 Nm) going only to the rear axle. Even more exciting is the fact that, aside from the six-speed automatic, you could get a manual with the same number of gears. Tame the fury and 60 mph (97 km/h) would go by in as little as 4.0 seconds. The closest Americans got to this is the LS3-powered Chevy SS, but that one never got a supercharger from the factory.
4 Porsche 928
Porsche may be producing one of the most significant sports cars ever, in the form of the 911, but you will never associate them with Muscle cars. In the late 1970s, the German brand considered replacing the rear-engine 911 with a more conventional, front-engine design. This led to the Porsche 928, which was produced from 1977 to 1995.
Despite its lengthy production run and numerous improvements, the 928 never became the 911’s replacement. It was a more GT-oriented car and came with a variety of V-8 engines, ranging from 4.5 to 5.6 liters. U.S. versions, in particular were heavily underpowered, barely putting out over 200 horsepower. European versions, however, boasted up to 350 horsepower in the GTS model. Sadly, most examples came with three or four-speed automatics while very few had the five-speed, dog-leg manual.
3 Jaguar XK
2011 Jaguar XKR 175 Coupe listed at Cars and Bids
Humble origins are a feature of the original Muscle cars. While Jaguar’s high-performance models are not to everyone’s pocket, the Ford era of Jaguar produced some seductive, V-8-powered GT coupes, under the XK designation. Between 1996 and 2015, the model came in two generations, both of which offered Ford-derived V-8 engines, ranging from 4.0 to 5.0 liters.
The significant choice was the naturally-aspirated or supercharged engine. Power ranged from 275 to 542 horsepower, depending on the model year and whether you have a supercharged engine or not. The 5.0-liter unit is often believed to be a version of the Mustang’s Coyote V-8, but it’s actually a Ford Cologne design. The range-topping XK-RS gets to 60 mph (97 km/h) in as little as 4.2 seconds, although it sacrifices much of what makes the regular XK a great GT.
2 BMW M3 E92
A front 3/4 outdoor shot of a BMW M3 GTS
BMW has its fair share of exciting V-8-powered models, but by far, one of the more groundbreaking ones is the E92 M3. This is when BMW got a bit bolder and decided to experiment, both in terms of design and powertrains. The Bavarian automaker is best known for its potent inline-six engines. This is especially true when it comes to the M3 model. Yes, the E30 M3 had an inline-four, but that was a shortened inline-six from the E26 M1.
The E92 M3 will always have a special place among M-cars due to its high-revving S65 engine. The 4.0-liter V-8 is a shortened version of the E60 M5’s S85 V-10, which is based on a Formula One engine. With 414 horsepower (444 for the GTS) and 325 pound-feet (440 Nm), the 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) goes by in 4.4 to 4.6 seconds, depending on whether you have the seven-speed DCT or six-speed manual.
1 Mercedes 500E & E60 AMG “Hammer”
Front shot of the Mercedes-Benz 500E
The W124 Mercedes is one of the most significant Benzes of our time. Many praise it for being over-engineered and long-lasting, but it also paved the way for all modern AMG sedans… with help from Porsche. It was Porsche that shoehorned an M119, 5.0-liter V-8 where it was never meant to be. The result is one of the most epic German sedans ever made.
That 322 horsepower and 354 pound-feet (480 Nm), together with a four-speed automatic, sending power to the rear, allowed for a 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) sprint in around 6.0 seconds. Then came the E60 AMG “Hammer” – the Affalterbach tuner increased displacement from 5.0 to 6.0 liters, resulting in 381 horsepower and 428 pound-feet (580 Nm). The mean “Merc” has, since, become a desired modern classic and we have Porsche to thank for this German Muscle car.