The golden era of muscle cars may be long behind us, but that hasn’t stopped some top American auto manufacturers from trying to relive the glory days of the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. With SUVs and crossovers dominating the marketplace, manufacturers have resorted to stuffing V8 engines into more of these vehicles, but their exteriors are a far cry from the classic long-nosed muscle car coupes. The vast majority of modern muscle cars are nameplates that have existed for decades or pay homage to cars that made major impacts in past automotive eras. Unfortunately, not all well-meaning attempts at nostalgia have resulted in cars that live up to these reputations and instead find themselves in an undesirable collection of overrated cars.
In the case of some modern muscle cars, with fuel efficiency a concern, they lack the premium performance drivers were expecting. As manufacturers are constantly refreshing their lineups, other cars failed to measure up to the competition in a certain year. Finally, the best muscle cars are also decent options for daily driving, but certain models are better suited for racetracks than roadways. The following 10 muscle cars received glowing reviews when launched, but after years of reflection, belong on a list of the most overrated muscle cars in the last decade.
10 2017 Cadillac CTS-V
The 4-door CTS-V often flies under the radar of modern muscle cars, with Cadillac revered more for its luxurious and comfortable sedans. However, supplied with incredible raw power, the first CTS-V in 2004 competed handily against any muscle car from Ford or Chevrolet. The 3rd generation of the car arrived in 2016 after a brief delay. Cadillac ditched manual transmission options in favor of an 8L90 8-speed automatic transmission, and while not one of the slowest muscle cars, it gave the car a slight disadvantage in power compared to rivals like the BMW M5.
The problem with recent Cadillac CTS-V models is not so much that they are bad cars but rather that they still seem a step behind their European competition. In addition, Cadillac’s CUE Infotainment system draws constant complaints for freezing up, and the 2017 CTS-V has a disappointing rating of 2.4/5 at Kelley Blue Book.
9 2012 Chevrolet Camaro SS Transformers Edition
Muscle cars based on movies are always a bit of a hit-or-miss proposition, with some going on to become iconic cult classics like the 1977 Pontiac Trans Am celebrating Smokey and the Bandit. Others are now viewed as some of the worst muscle cars, either forgotten because the movie did not stand the test of time or the car itself failed to meet expectations.
The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro SS offered a $3000 package for fans of the 2011 Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon. The Transformers Edition included largely cosmetic upgrades and otherwise did not offer much to distinguish itself from other Camaros of the time. Even worse, critics panned the 2011 film and 7 years later a highly rated movie starring Bumblebee premiered, making it a much better choice for a special edition Camaro.
8 2019 Chrysler 300C
The 300C has a long history, with higher performance alternatives to standard Chrysler cars existing as far back as 1957 packing V8 Hemi engines. The 300C would not return until 2004 following Daimler and Chrysler joining forces, and the new car took aim at the European market sharing many characteristics with the BMW E-Class W211.
Now in its 3rd generation, the 300C continues to offer acceptable muscle car performance with a 5.7 liter V8 engine outputting 363 hp. Muscle cars are generally safer than smaller sports cars, but the 2019 Chrysler 300 is one year to avoid with The Car Connection giving it a 3/10 safety rating and a 5.7/10 overall score. Feeling the 300C needed a refresh, a few years later Chrysler temporarily retired the model before bringing it back in 2023.
7 2021 Chevrolet Camaro
The Chevrolet Camaro will undoubtedly survive for generations to come as one of the most enduring American muscle cars, and it’s always surprising to find them grouped with the worst muscle cars. However, during its extensive history, there have been some models that seem to lag behind the competition.
The 2021 Camaro experienced some surprisingly low sales numbers in the United States, trailing other muscle cars like the Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang. Edmunds.com noted that the 2021 Camaro continued to suffer from visibility problems and a minuscule amount of rear seating and storage making it less desirable as a daily driver.
6 2015-2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt
Ford unveiled the first Ford Mustang Bullitt in 2001 to commemorate the famous car chase scene in Steve McQueen’s 1968 film of the same name. After briefly disappearing, it became one of the more widely produced muscle cars based on a movie sold between 2008 and 2019. While Steve McQueen fans love their Mustang Bullitt and the car packs plenty of muscle, in reality with so many in the population it’s not likely to retain its value in the future based on the movie alone. Perhaps that’s why Ford once again recently discontinued the model, but in any case, most buyers are better served by spending the extra money on a GT package.
5 2013 Dodge Challenger
The Dodge Challenger first arrived on the muscle car scene in 1969, with its trademark elongated front end and short rear deck. The Challenger struggled to survive the era of more fuel-efficient vehicles, disappearing twice in 1974 and 1984. The Challenger has finally revived again in 2006 and SRT8 versions packing HEMI V8 engines with over 420 hp were praised by enthusiasts. The 2013 Challenger is complimented for its speed and interior space, but it also has an uninspiring interior construction with plenty of plastic in the cockpit. Even worse, the 2013 model is one of the least reliable Dodge Challengers according to U.S. News and World Report, scoring just 2 out of 5.
4 2015-2017 Ford Mustang
The 6th generation of the Ford Mustang hit the streets in 2015, celebrating the famous muscle car’s 50th anniversary. Independent rear suspension was a notable addition but less welcoming to some fans was its collection of V6 and EcoBoost engines. While roaring V8 engines were still available in several of the Mustang’s trims, classic muscle car fanatics didn’t shed any tears when Ford did away with V6 in 2018. More problematic is the fact that the 2015 and 2016 are some of the most troublesome modern Mustangs for chronic mechanical issues with leaking windows and temperamental electronics and climate control systems.
3 Equus Bass 770
To say Equus is unique in the world of traditional automotive manufacturers is an understatement. All the vehicles the company produces are meticulously hand-made after a buyer selects from a list of options and parts on their website. The Equus Bass 770 looks like a perfect combination of some of the most beloved classic muscle cars, with clear inspiration from 1970s Camaros and Mustangs. Sporting a 640 hp V8 engine, test drivers found little wrong with its performance and also appreciated the modern technologies of the Bass 770 in its cabin. The problem is despite its impressive specs, the Equus Bass 770 can cost $250,000 or more making it one of the most overrated cars from a value perspective.
2 2015 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
For many Camaro diehards, the most exciting part about the fifth generation of the pony car is the ZL1 trim with a 6.2 liter V8 engine outputting an impressive 580 hp. Nevertheless, by 2015, as this generation of the Camaro drew to a close, the car looked a bit long in the tooth compared to its competition. Ford had recently launched the 6th generation of the Mustang with some noteworthy advancements, and the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat offered even more performance with its V8 engine cranking out 707 hp. The Camaro ZL1 continued to suffer from ongoing issues of limited visibility in the cockpit and a lack of storage and seating space. Considering drivers could step up to a Corvette for about the same price, the Camaro ZL1 ranks dollar for dollar as one of the worst muscle cars in 2015.
1 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500
Few cars have larger legacies to live up to than the GT 500, each time Ford develops a new model of the 1960s racing-inspired muscle car. Following Caroll Shelby ending his relationship with Ford in 1969, the American public was not graced with another GT500 until 2007.
Ford would continue to up the performance of the GT500, resulting in the 2013 model with a 5.8L V8 engine producing 662 hp. With Shelby passing away in 2012, Ford certainly honored him from a performance perspective, but Autoweek noted some drawbacks that it made an overrated car as a daily driver. The GT 500 was ideal for drag racing but struggled in anything less than perfect weather conditions and smooth roadways with a bumpy back end. Its interior was not stripped down like a racing car, but still consisted of plastic materials and lacked an adjustable steering wheel.