The sporty cars most popular in Northwest tend to be lithe and posh — meticulously crafted vehicles that deliver more strongly in subjective qualities than in objective power and speed.
But for those most concerned about the latter, it’s difficult to beat the trio of American muscle coupes: the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang. For less than $40,000 — the price of a four-cylinder BMW or Audi — you can get one of these three retro-styled coupes with a massive V8 engine. Base models are all less than $30,000.
If you haven’t had recent experience with these cars, you might also be pleasantly surprised by their level of refinement. As recently as 13 years ago, the Mustang was basically a crude, loud mess. Now, this car and its peers have modern interior appointments and decently smooth rides.
The Mustang and Camaro are the most radical departure from expectations, thanks to their newly available four-cylinder engines. These engines improve gas mileage and avoid the neighbor-waking ruckus of a V8, yet still deliver lively acceleration.
The latest Mustang and Camaro also boast excellent handling, while the Challenger distinguishes itself with a surprisingly spacious interior. (The Chevrolet has little rear-seat or trunk room, with the Ford only a bit better in that regard.)
These three cars are still more at home on an open road than around town. But if the style and image appeal to you, they may be more livable than you’d expect.