As if it was the 1960s all over again, Detroit automakers are pushing horsepower in what's left of their muscle car lineups to new heights.
But having just announced 700 horsepower in a production car, some experts question whether it's more power than most potential buyers can handle.
The bar was raised last week by Chrysler Group's Dodge, which announced that a special version of the Challenger will spit out 707 horsepower for the first time in a production car. Ford Motor and General Motors' Chevrolet are already within striking distance:
•Ford's 2014 Shelby GT500 version of the Mustang already gets 662 horsepower, but an all-new Mustang is on the way for 2015, and that horsepower rating could increase again.
•General Motors coaxes 580 horsepower out of a big V-8 in the Camaro ZL1, and "at least" 625 out of the engine in its 2015 Corvette Z06.
The cars are a throwback to a more innocent age of cheap gas and screeching tires.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, cars like the Pontiac GTO, Plymouth Barracuda and Ford Boss 302 ruled the roads.
Prices of these new models are on the upper end of affordability for mainstream car buyers -- and their appeal usually is limited to Baby Boomers, because they have both the spending power and the nostalgia. For them, allegiances can switch quickly to the most powerful car.
"It is a game of one-upsmanship," says Rik Paul, auto editor for Consumer Reports magazine. "For people who buy these cars, it's bragging rights."
But, he says, it may be way too much power if left in the hands of inexperienced drivers. For instance, he says, his magazine warns parents against letting their kids drive sports cars or cars capable of excessive speeds.
When it comes to a 700-horsepower car, he says, "no one needs that horsepower, and few drivers would know to use it properly."
Those who closely follow racing, however, say these are a new breed of muscle car.
Tim Suddard, editor of Grassroots Motorsports, a "hard-core" sports-car magazine, says he recently drove a Shelby Mustang. "The shock wasn't how fast it went, but (that it) was a pussycat to drive." Modern muscle cars have electronic engine controls and other features like traction control that let even less experienced drivers stay in control.
"You're talking a different world," he says.
The 707-horsepower engine going into the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT is the supercharged, 6.2-liter Hemi Hellcat engine. The other performance characteristics of the engine, and the price, are due to be announced before the car goes on sale in the fall.
Original headline: Muscle cars break 700-hp barrier
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