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U.S. Exceptionalism: This 4th, we celebrate American power

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The global auto industry offers plenty of cars that deliver muscular performance. But as we celebrate Independence Day, we thought it appropriate to focus on American might. So here's a look at three new cars that unabashedly project American power. Happy 4th!

(Listed performance times courtesy of Car and Driver magazine.)

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

The ZL1 is the most powerful Camaro ever. In fact, in the GM pantheon of power, its supercharged V-8, modified from the one in the Cadillac CTS-V, is second only to the 638-hp beast found in the Corvette ZR.

But Camaro also is a fully rounded ride. With its package of chassis-management electronics, including Performance Traction Management and ultra-sophisticated Magnetic Ride Control suspension damping, it's also civilized enough to be a daily driver.

It's available as a coupe or convertible.

Vital Statistics

DRIVE FORMAT: Rear-wheel drive

BASE PRICE: $56,295, including destination and $1,300 federal gas-guzzler tax

ENGINE: 6.2-liter supercharged V-8

HORSEPOWER: 580 at 6000 rpm

TORQUE: 556 lb.-ft. at 4200 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual or auto

0-60 mph: 4.0 seconds

0-100 mph: 8.9 seconds

1/4 mile at mph: 12.3 seconds at 188 mph

TOP SPEED: 181 mph

EPA MPG: 14 city/19 hwy/16 combined

CURB WEIGHT: 4,120 lbs.

———————————————————-

Ford Shelby GT500

The Shelby GT500 boasts the most powerful regular-production V-8 on the planet.

As if that weren't enough, this Shelby, in both coupe and convertible form, offers a new Performance Package with Bilstein electronic dampers for a driver-selectable level of suspension damping.

Finally, those who opt for the coupe can add the ultimate race prep: a Track Package with external engine oil, rear differential and transmission coolers to prevent components from overheating under high-speed, long-duration driving, such as track days.

Vital Statistics

DRIVE FORMAT: Rear-wheel drive

BASE PRICE: $54,995, including destination charge

ENGINE: 5.8-liter supercharged V-8

HORSEPOWER: 662 at 6500 rpm

TORQUE: 631 lb.-ft. at 4000 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual

0-60 mph: 3.5 seconds

0-100 mph: 7.9 seconds

1/4 mile at mph: 11.8 seconds at 125 mph

TOP SPEED: 189 mph

EPA MPG: 15 city/24 hwy/18 combined

CURB WEIGHT: 3,852 lbs.

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SRT Viper

After a two-year hiatus, Viper returns this fall with V-10 power, a new attitude and a new moniker.

No longer a Dodge, the snake is now an SRT Viper because Chrysler Group's Street and Racing Technology division has become a separate brand.

All new, this fifth-generation car is said to retain the raw, muscle-car appeal for which Viper is famous while smoothing out such rough edges as lack of handling — it's known by many enthusiasts as simply a straight-line accelerator — and heretofore suspect build-quality.

Vital Statistics

DRIVE FORMAT: Rear-wheel drive

BASE PRICE: Not available; expected to be north of $100,000

ENGINE: 8.4-liter V-10

HORSEPOWER: 640 at 6150 rpm

TORQUE: 600 lb.-ft. at 4950 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual

0-60 mph: 3.4 seconds

0-100 mph: 7.5 seconds

1/4 mile at mph: 11.4 seconds (mph N/A)

TOP SPEED: 206 mph

EPA MPG: N/A (previous Viper: 13/22/16)

CURB WEIGHT: 3,354 lbs.

Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer living in St. Louis. He also is a regular automotive contributor to Fox 2 KTVI-TV St. Louis. You can e-mail him at: drivingwithdan@gmail.com

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Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer. He is a regular contributor for Brand Ave. Studios and to AAA Midwest Traveler magazine's online Web Bonus.

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