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The Most Powerful American Truck, Sedan, SUV, Convertible and More

We are in a new age of horsepower, where engine output now far exceeds the Muscle Cars of the ’60s, even in luxury sedans, compacts, pickup trucks, and EVs.

It’s important to remember that prior to 1972, engine were measured in a highly-optimized configuration, with no accessories, open exhaust, and optimal carburetor and ignition tuning. After 1972 right through today, the ratings are based on the SAE Net standard where the engine is tested in a condition as close as possible to that when its installed in the car. There’s no real conversion, but any use a rule of thumb of 20% loss between Gross and Net ratings (so a ’60s motor rated at 400 hp Gross would measure somewhere around 320 hp using the Net standard).

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Four Door Sedan
The family-friendly version of the Dodge Hellcat twins is powered by the 707 hp Hemi engine, the most powerful sold in any American production car. And there’s one big plus: the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat has a big ol’ back seat and a spacious 16.5 cu ft of trunk space. Its four doors belies its performance, as its capable of a run to 60 in 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 204 mph. Its only real competition is a non-starter – the 415 hp Chevrolet SS.

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Four Door Luxury Sedan

Where the Dodge Charger is more about pure in-your-face horsepower, the 640 hp Cadillac CTS-V is about combining raw aggression with finesse, after all the CTS-V is targeted directly at the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz AMG E63. And unlike when in the past American car companies have made claims about their cars being the equals of those coming from Europe’s finest manufacturers, finally the claim made for CTS-V is defensible.

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Muscle Car
At 707 horsepower the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is unquestionably the world’s most powerful street-legal muscle car. Ever.  Camaro (455 hp) and Mustang (435 hp) don’t even come close. Even the much-anticipated Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 comes in at “just” 662 hp.

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Convertible

The most powerful production Corvette is also the most powerful convertible ever sold by an American manufacturer. The 650 hp supercharged 6.2 L V8 engine is wasted without a solid platform to put down all that power. Anticipating as much, the lightweight hydroformed aluminum chassis of the Corvette Z06  was conceived from the outset as a convertible. Unlike so many other convertibles,  the Corvette Z06 convertible does not require additional support or bracing.

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Compact Car

The Ford Focus ST is the winner among compacts. While not American-made (all production for the Focus ST is in Germany) it does come from an American company. The little 2.0 L four cylinder direct-injected motor produces a significant 252 hp. Intended as a driver’s car, the Focus ST only comes with a manual gearbox, and there is torque-vectoring technology that mimics the function of a limited-slip differential. It also gets  31 miles per gallon on the highway.

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SUV & Crossover

When it comes to available horsepower in American SUVs and Crossovers, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is second to none. The stylish Jeep comes equipped with a 475 hp 6.4 L Hemi V8, an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and, of course, Jeep’s legendary all-wheel-drive capabilities.

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Electric Vehicle

Great Britain has long had the largest fleet of EVs in the world. They’re called “Milk Floats” and they’ve been used by dairies for decades to deliver milk. They’re slow, though – no more than about 15 mph. At the other end of the spectrum is the Tesla Model S P90D with Ludicrous mode. Bumping output to 762 hp, Tesla claims the super-electrified sedan will reach 60 mph in 2.8 seconds. So supercar-level performance in what could pass for a normal Lexus or Infiniti. Not so bad.

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Pickup Truck

I’ll let you in on a little secret. The Big 3 don’t really know that much about diesel engines but they’re learning. Ram is up front about it, using Cummins engines. GM’s Duramax diesel was designed by, and for a time, built by Isuzu. GM claims they redesigned the engine themselves in 2011, but the engine still looks a great deal like the Isuzu unit. Ford partnered with AVL of Austria to help conceptualize the 6.7 L PowerStroke, and with 440 hp, it’s the winner for American pickup truck with the most horsepower

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Supercar

OK, this one is a stretch, I know. The problem is that while we have a Corvette and a Viper, we really don’t have a  Bugatti, Koenigsegg, or Porsche 918 made here in this country. So we turn to Hennessey. Their Venom is based on the Lotus Elise, to the point where the car is titled and licensed as an Elise. Further, the engine is not of Hennessy’s manufacture, but rather an assemblage of aftermarket Chevy big block parts. Still, it’s what we’ve. The Hennessey Venom GT clocked 270.49 mph on the old Space Shuttle runway, which is certainly supercar category.

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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