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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A white 2019 Chevy Camaro ZL1 is shown from the front at an angle.

Three Summer Performance Cars Destined to Fulfill Your Dreams in the Driver’s Seat

I always dreamed of exploring the backroads in a Jeep Wrangler, the top down and doors off. I was lucky enough to bring that dream to life when I bought a Wrangler on a whim after randomly searching for used cars for sale in my area. The price was right, and in excellent condition, so I said “yes” to the deal and proudly got behind the wheel of a Wrangler the color of Big Bird. To be fair, it wasn’t the color of my dreams, but it wasn’t a dealbreaker.

Big Bird navigated some grand adventures and laid the foundation for lasting memories, many with friends happy to climb aboard and enjoy the wind in their hair. However, those adventures transitioned to a different type a few years ago as I traded Big Bird for a more family-friendly SUV. It wasn’t a regretful voice, but it left a vacancy and a nostalgia I only recently discovered after trading in that SUV for a newer model with a sunroof.

A sunroof isn’t the same as the open-air freedom that a model like the Wrangler or Bronco offers, but it’s closer than I have been in years, and I’m incredibly grateful. It also got me thinking about the discovery I made years ago when I started looking for used cars for sale that could fulfill my dreams of cruising with the top down. For many, it’s not solely the thrill of open-air freedom but a need for speed and performance without spending a fortune. That led to another search, but this time for the best summer performance cars on the used lot.

The 2018 Chevrolet Camaro

The Chevy Camaro is an American icon that debuted in 1967 as an answer to the Ford Mustang. Since then, it’s remained a staple in the fleet because Chevrolet continues to finetune its design and find ways to deliver more power and responsiveness. These efforts are apparent in the 2018 Camaro, a top choice for those looking for an agile speed demon that won’t break the bank.

Chevrolet introduced the sixth-generation Camaro in 2016 and earned widespread acclaim as Motor Trend named the Camaro “Car of the Year.” However, Chevy didn’t rest on its haunches and spent the next year looking for ways to eke out more power to give the Camaro an advantage over its rivals. By 2018, Chevrolet had its edge with the ZL1 1LE package.

More than a standard add-on package, the ZL1 1LE transforms the Camaro into a powerhouse by shaving 60 lbs off its weight, improving its aerodynamics, and equipping it with track-tested Camaro SS components. With a uniquely tuned FE3 suspension, Brembo brakes, lightweight aluminum wheels, and a heavy-duty cooling system, the ZL1 1LE is the perfect summer performance car. But what about its power output and your experience in the driver’s seat?

The 2018 Camaro with the ZL1 1LE package roars to life courtesy of its potent 6.2L supercharged V8 engine with variable valve timing and Tremec six-speed manual transmission with Active Rev Match. The manual transmission gives you a physical connection to the Camaro as its supercharged V8 produces 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque for a launch from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. It’s an incredible combination that transforms every backroad into a thrilling adventure.

A blue 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is shown from a high angle after leaving a dealer with used cars for sale.

The 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

Shelby and Ford are a legendary combination that sets the stage for the perfect summer performance car, especially when you find one of these gems on the used lot. If you do, you better act fast. Carroll Shelby’s involvement with Ford began in the 1960s when the racecar driver applied his experience on the track to design a racecar to compete with and overshadow rivals like the Corvette and Camaro. Shelby’s success is apparent throughout history and in models like the 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500.

Shelby was constantly working on a newer, faster model, and Ford pays homage to that legacy with the 2020 Shelby GT500. The Mustang debuted in 2020 as the most powerful street-legal Ford in history, a feat Shelby would undeniably be proud of. But what makes the Shelby GT500 such a powerhouse and an outstanding performance car?

Ford debuted the sixth-generation Mustang in 2015, but as we saw with Chevy and the Camaro, Ford spent the next several years looking for ways to improve its design without compromising its legacy and the very components that make it a Mustang. That answer came in 2020 when Ford reintroduced the Shelby GT500 with its supercharged 5.2L V8 engine. Known as the Predator, the 5.2L V8 is a handbuilt powerhouse that produces over 700 hp and promises a launch from 0 to 60 mph in the mid-three-second range. But Ford doesn’t stop there.

The Shelby-inspired powerhouse embodies every valuable lesson Ford learned with its legendary GT and Mustang GT4 racing programs. Drivers reap the rewards behind the wheel, with the Shelby GT500 offering the segment’s first dual-clutch transmission that shifts in less than 100 milliseconds, the best cornering, and the largest brakes in the American sports coupe market. The trifecta gives the Shelby GT500 an incredible advantage, transforming the Mustang into an exotic supercar worthy of every sigh of appreciation.

The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

Dodge’s recent announcement of its “Last Call” models to mark the end of the gas-powered Challenger and Charger makes finding used models appealing to those not yet ready to adopt an all-electric lifestyle. Exclusive powerhouses like the 2018 Challenger SRT Demon are incredibly rare, with only 3,000 models produced in the United States and 300 in Canada. Finding one of these powerhouses isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s the ultimate performance car and is undoubtedly worth the attempt.

While the rivalry between Ford and Chevrolet has defined the industry for the last century, Dodge has worked diligently to keep up and prove its ingenuity as one of America’s “Big Three” brands. The 2018 Challenger SRT Demon is an exceptional example of this, rolling off Dodge’s production line as the first and only street-legal production drag car. The purpose-built drag racer put the world on notice when it set a new record for the fastest quarter-mile at 9.65 seconds at 140 mph and made history as the first production car to pop a wheelie. Its launch from 0 to 60 mph will take your breath away in a mere 2.3 seconds.

Dodge unleashes the Challenger’s full potential with the Demon Crate that upfits the sports car with Direct Connection Performance Parts like the performance powertrain control module that features a replacement switch module with a high-octane button that reflects the engine’s high-octane engine calibration. The package also includes a conical performance air filter, front-runner drag wheels, and a passenger mirror block-off plate. The crate ensures the Challenger SRT Demon lives up to its name, giving you every opportunity to harness the 840 hp and 770 lb-ft of torque from the potent 6.2L V8 and its 2.7L supercharger.

Hitting the Open Road

My modest SUV with a sunroof is enough to put a smile on my face because it accommodates my family and still gives me the joy of having the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. However, I know many drivers seek more than practicality with a hint of fun. Fortunately, the industry is laden with options, with models like the Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger answering an insatiable need for speed.

Moreover, finding these icons on the used lot means satiating that need doesn’t have to cost a fortune or require you to dig deep into your pockets. It’s a winning combination that one day I’ll happily oblige. Until then, I hope you find everything you’re looking for and more in the driver’s seat of one of these four-wheeled powerhouses.

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