The American auto industry is among the greatest in the world. The American auto industry has been growing exponentially thanks to companies like Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. Over the years, American automakers have built many iconic performance cars that gearheads from all over the world know and love, including the Chevrolet Corvette, Pontiac GTO, Ford GT40, and many others.
However, while the GT40s and Corvettes get all the fame and recognition, countless other American performance cars continue to fly under the radar of most gearheads, even when they are just as good or even better than the well-known models. Let’s explore ten underrated American sports cars that deserve more recognition.
10 Cadillac CTS-V
European automakers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz have always dominated the compact luxury sedan market. However, Cadillac wanted to change that in the early 2000s, so it developed the CTS. The CTS had many of the cool features found in top European luxury sedans, but some gearheads felt it lacked power. This is why Cadillac built the CTS-V.
Powered by a 5.7-liter V8 with 400 horsepower, the first CTS-V (dark red car) that debuted for 2004 packed plenty of punch. By 2018 (white car), it sported a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 producing 640 ponies and was insanely fast. It’s no surprise that the CTS-V is considered to be one of the best American sleeper cars ever.
9 Buick GNX
Every muscle car fan hates the ’80s, as it gave us some of the worst muscle cars in history. However, there’s one ’80s muscle car that gearheads can smile about – the GNX. The GNX is not your average Buick, as it was built to show that muscle cars could still be powerful without breaking laws.
Buick knew it had to meet strict emission restrictions when building the GNX and, therefore, couldn’t use a V8 engine. As such, the company collaborated with McLaren to build a 3.8-liter turbocharged V6 with nearly 300 hp on tap. The result was a tire-melting beast that no one wanted to face on the drag strip.
8th Ford Taurus SHO
If there’s one thing Ford is proud of, it’s the fact that it’s the only American automaker older than a decade that has never gone bankrupt. However, Ford came close to bankruptcy in the ’80s, but it was saved by the unlikeliest of models – the Taurus. The Taurus sold multiple units since it was affordable, practical, and reliable.
However, it wasn’t fast, so Ford introduced the high-performance Taurus SHO in 1989. The Taurus SHO remained in production until 2019. The 2019 Taurus SHO packs a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 cranking out 365 hp, giving it great performance.
7 2004 Pontiac GTO
When the letters “GTO” are mentioned, the first thing that comes to most gearheads’ minds is the legendary ’60s muscle car. However, many gearheads don’t know or choose to ignore the fifth and final GTO generation, which was produced in the 2000s. There’s a good reason for this – the fifth-generation GTO was a rebadged Holden Monaro.
While the 2004 GTO has many haters, it’s actually a very decent car if you ignore the “GTO” in its model name. It comes with a 5.7-liter V8 producing 350 hp, giving it a 0-60 of just over 5 seconds.
6 Saleen S7 Twin Turbo
The production car speed record was held by European cars for most of the 20th century. Tired of the Europeans dominating, little-known American manufacturer Saleen decided to build the ultimate supercar to break the record – the Saleen S7.
The S7 was great, but it became even better in 2005 when Saleen added a pair of turbochargers to the engine, increasing its output to 750 hp. With a top speed of 248 mph, the S7 Twin Turbo was one of the fastest 2000s cars.
5 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Jeep has always been one of the top dogs in the SUV space. One of Jeep’s most successful SUV models has to be the Grand Cherokee, which has been in production since 1993. Gearheads love the Grand Cherokee’s size, robust unibody construction, and off-road capabilities.
As sister brand Dodge was dropping large V8s into its vehicles, Jeep didn’t want to be left behind. But since Jeep didn’t have a coupe or sports car to use, so for 2006 they decided to drop a massive, 6.1-liter Hemi V8 with 420 hp into the Grand Cherokee, resulting in the SRT8. That Grand Cherokee SRT8 will go from 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds, which is crazy for an SUV. The later generations (pictured) are even more powerful and quicker.
4 Panoz Esperante GTR-1
The Esperante GTR-1 is a fantastic race car built by a small Georgia-based automaker known as Panoz. The Esperante GTR-1 was developed to compete in some of the top motorsports competitions in the ’90s, including the FIA GT Championship and United States Road Racing Championship.
The GTR-1 had to face off against the likes of the Porsche 911 GT1 and Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR, which is why Panoz equipped it with a Roush-Racing-tuned 6.0-liter Ford V8 producing 600 hp.
3 Dodge Neon SRT4
When the Dodge Neon debuted in the mid-90s, there was nothing particularly interesting about it. It was just like any other slow, plain-looking four-door sedan making the morning commute on the highway.
To attract more gearheads to the Neon, Dodge asked Chrysler’s tuning division to upgrade the car, resulting in the 2003 Neon SRT4. Under the Neon SRT4’s hood was a 2.4-liter turbo four-cylinder pumping out 215 ponies, giving it a top speed of 153 mph.
2 Dodge Magnum SRT8
In the mid-2000s, Dodge decided to revive the Magnum nameplate after a two-decade hiatus. However, Dodge didn’t want the new Magnum to be a two-door coupe like its predecessor. Instead, they decided to make it a station wagon based on the Chrysler 300 platform.
The most powerful version of the Magnum was known as the SRT8. Powered by a 425-hp Hemi V8, the Magnum SRT8 was among the fastest station wagons of the day.
1 Chevrolet Cobalt SS
Whenever you see the iconic ‘SS’ badge on a Chevy, that’s a surefire sign that it’s going to be fast. That’s exactly what the Cobalt SS was, even though it had a boring design.
The Cobalt SS is the true definition of an American sleeper car. That’s because the later version came powered by a peppy 2.0-liter turbo, direct-injection four-cylinder engine producing 260 horses.
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