C/D Comparo - LS3 Camaro SS vs 5.0 Mustang GT

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Apr 28, 2010.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Double Jeopardy: A classic confrontation that never seems to get old.

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    BY TONY SWAN, PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN ROE
    April 2010

    You’re forgiven if you feel you may have seen this movie before, because you probably have. Like Hamlet, or Macbeth, its core is a classic confrontation that never seems to get old, thanks to the arrival of new players and fresh productions, as one generation succeeds another.

    You may be thinking, “New? Don’t see no new here.” With little more than a year in Chevy showrooms, the Camaros roll into summer unchanged. And it takes the experienced eye of a longtime Mustang cognoscente to see the updates for these 2011 models. The dashboard surface is revised, softened to make impacts with one’s head a little less unpleasant. There are also suspension tweaks aplenty, but the real giveaway is a 5.0 badge on the flanks of GT models.

    That badge panders to hallowed memories of the Mustang’s revered old Windsor V-8 (1979–’95), which, as any member of the Mustang club will admit, fell 58 cc short of 5.0 liters. Ford’s 4.6-liter V-8s never seemed to eclipse memories of the not-quite-5.0, but it may be a different story with this barely 5.0 (4951 cc) successor. All aluminum, double overhead cams, 32 valves, variable valve timing on all four cams, a high compression ratio (11.0:1), four-bolt mains—the new V-8 shares bore centers but little else with the 4.6.

    Ford stopped short of direct injection, saving about $200 per engine, but output is potent nevertheless: 412 horsepower at 6500 rpm, 390 pound-feet of torque at 4250—burlier by 97 horses and 65 pound-feet. There’s also a new V-6 for the base Mustang, a more vigorous version of the 3.7-liter aluminum engine found in the Lincoln MKS and MKT: 305 horses and 280 pound-feet of torque.

    With Mustang’s power now comparable to Camaro’s across the board, these two longtime rivals needed another face-off. We rounded up our four-horse field in Los Angeles and drove to Buttonwillow Raceway Park, near Bakersfield. Some of the results were predictable. But there were surprises, too.

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    Those of you old enough to remember the carefree years of the big-inch V-8 will recall the original pony-car premise—lots of power packed into a relatively lightweight coupe. The revivalist Camaro seems to have lost touch with those roots. Developed by General Motors’ Australian subsidiary, Holden, on the same foundation that supported the late (and lamented) Pontiac G8 sedan, the latest Camaro is lighter than the Brobdingnagian Dodge Challenger, but at 3860 pounds, it’s more Percheron than pinto—280 pounds heavier than the Mustang. Maybe ponies are bigger in Australia?

    Whatever, mass is never an asset in a sports coupe, and it’s one of two elements that work to relegate the Camaro to second place in this rematch with the Mustang GT. This SS is 20 pounds lighter than the car we tested last summer, with more break-in miles, and it grumbled through the 0-to-60-mph and 0-to-100-mph sprints a little quicker this time: 4.6 seconds and 10.5 seconds, respectively. The revitalized Mustang was the Camaro’s equal to 60 mph, but once the 6.2-liter pushrod V-8 (426 horses, 420 pound-feet of torque) got all that metal moving past 60 mph, it was a bit quicker than the Ford.

    On the other hand, with a 280-pound weight advantage and a shorter (numerically higher) rear end (3.73:1 versus 3.45), the Mustang was quicker in our 30-to-50-mph and 50-to-70-mph top-gear passing exercises, as well as in the 5-to-60 rolling start.

    On the road, particularly a mountain road, the Camaro’s mass is magnified by its dimensions. At 190.4 inches, it’s 2.3 inches longer than the Mustang, 1.6 inches wider (at 75.5 inches), with a roofline 1.6 inches lower (54.2), on a wheelbase (112.3) that’s 5.2 inches long*er, and with a track that’s wider, front and rear. In its defense, this is a solid chassis that’s exemplary in terms of stability and inspires confidence as speeds build, confidence augmented by steering that’s nicely weighted, linear, and tactile throughout its range.

    With its relatively forgiving suspension tuning, the Camaro is an easy car to drive fast—check the lane-change results—but it’s also a big car that drives big and feels even bigger, thanks in part to sightlines sliced thin by the styling. The faster you go, the more you want to see, but the Camaro’s views are restricted in almost every direction, particularly aft—“like the rear view from a nuclear submarine,” according to one crew member. That’s the price of the Camaro’s macho styling. It got the nod over the Mustang’s by-now familiar looks, and it turns heads, but claustrophobes need not apply.
    Inside, the Camaro’s leather-clad bucket seats provide slightly better support than the Mustang’s, and it is easier to achieve an ideal driving position, owing to power adjustability and a steering column adjustable for both rake and reach.

    The instrument panel won praise once again for its innovative design, although its lurid night lighting reminded one tester of a “pachinko parlor,” and the usefulness of the four gauges just ahead of the shifter—oil pressure, oil temp, transmission-oil temp, volt meter—is diminished by their position, particularly during daylight hours.

    This Camaro has more extras than last summer’s test car, and it showed up with an as-tested price that was $3485 higher than the Mustang GT’s. Chevy offers a lot of car for the money here, figuratively and literally. But like Sarah Jessica Parker or a hard-tail Harley motorcycle, it’s an acquired taste.

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    The people handling the press presentations for the 2011 Mustangs insist the improvements went much further than mere powertrain upgrades. They point to selective chassis stiffening, suspension revisions, some interior detail changes, expansions to Ford’s Sync infotainment and communications system, and a nav-screen option (strangely absent in the Camaro inventory).

    Okay, fine, but let’s get back to that big chunk of aluminum under the hood. We already mentioned the basics—DOHC, 32 valves, variable valve timing, and a bottom end designed to handle even more power in the future. We didn’t mention the deeper oil pan, to help maintain oil pressure in long corners, or the windage tray, to reduce power losses associated with excess oil dragging on the crankshaft.

    Everything about the new 5.0 smacks of racing hardware and sounds like it, too, with a throaty baritone bark that’s more musical than the Camaro’s primal basso profundo. Louder, too—note the dBA readings in the chart. One crew member wondered whether that high noise level might get a little tedious on long drives—76 dBA at 70 mph is a couple brass bands more than 72 dBA, which isn’t exactly library quiet. To which the rest of the crew replied, “Nah.”

    With its big edge in pounds per horsepower—8.7 versus 9.1—and shorter rear end, we expected the GT to smoke the Camaro in the sprints, but this turned out to be one of the surprises. The Mustang matched the Chevy to 60 at 4.6 seconds, limited slightly by an extra upshift, but it trailed by a half-second to 100 mph, and in the quarter-mile: 13.2 seconds at 109 mph versus 13 flat at 111.

    Our test driver felt that the Mustang’s smaller rear footprints (255/40-19 versus 275/40-20—all four cars on Pirelli P Zeros) hampered its launch and may have held it back in the lane change, where it was slower than either Camaro. On the other hand, it pulled a respectable 0.94 g on the skidpad and also stopped in 153 feet from 70 mph, thanks in part to its newly optional Brembo brake package.

    But those are just numbers. On mountain back roads and the Buttonwillow road circuit, the dynamic distinction between the Camaro and the Mustang was akin to the difference between a fighting bull and a star matador. The Mustang felt much lighter than the heavy Chevy, quicker in transient responses, and much quicker out of corners, live rear-axle suspension notwithstanding.

    Demerits were tiny: an occasional steering column tremor during bumpy cornering, a hint of twitchiness in hard braking, and ride quality that could be tiresome on short-coupled slabs of pavement.

    We found the Camaro’s edgier styling a little more entertaining—though it was refreshed for 2010, the Mustang has become perhaps a little too familiar—and the interior of our test car, a base GT with almost no options, looked cheap. The base GT buckets could do with more torso bolstering, and the omission of a telescoping steering column is a poor way to save money.

    And, of course, there’s the fuel-economy thing. The EPA projects 17 mpg city and 26 highway for the GT. Fed a diet of switchbacks and sweepers and wide-open throttle, our GT didn’t do quite that well: 15 mpg over the entire test, one better than the Camaro SS’s average.

    Nevertheless, the addition of a potent new V-8 and six-speed transmission to an already lively package makes this Mustang an *almost unmitigated delight. For those attracted to the basic concept, resistance will be futile.

    Highs, Lows, and Verdict

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    Chevrolet Camaro SS

    Highs: Earthmover torque, predict-able handling, respectable hustle, creative interior design, guttural V-8 growl.

    Lows: Gun-slit side windows, limited rear and rear-quarter sightlines, sedan dimensions and mass.

    The Verdict: A sports coupe with the soul of a war machine.

    Ford Mustang GT

    Highs: Sweet new V-8, crisp-shifting six-speed, nimble responses, mellifluous baritone exhaust note, strong stopper.

    Lows: Can be darty under hard braking, steering column visited by quivers, low-rent standard interior, so-so seat bolsters.

    The Verdict: Finally, a Mustang engine that doesn’t have to demur to a Chevy small-block V-8.

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    “Gung-ho” is too tame a term for the Mustang fervor espoused by Ford staffers at the recent introduction of the new 5.0 V-8. Lots of cheerleading. Lots of enthusiastic hyperbole about the “next 45 years,” a time span reflective of the 45 years the Mustang has already survived.

    Given the performance of the new 5.0-liter eight, as well as the new 3.7-liter V-6 and the slick new transmissions, the troops responsible for the 2011 Mustangs can be forgiven for a little innocent zeal.

    But amid all the euphoria, we did catch one ominous portent of a possible survival challenge in the not-too-distant future. This came from no less an authority than Dave Pericak, the Mustang’s personable chief engineer. We asked Pericak about reaction to the new 5.0 V-8 in consumer group clinics.

    He reported enthusiasm among over-30 types and outright jubilation among Mustang-club types. But it was a different story with under-30 groups.

    “Everybody loves a good-looking car with power,” he said. “But a lot of the younger buyers won’t consider a V-8. They don’t even want to hear about it.”

    Pericak and his cohorts perceive the challenge as educational in nature.

    “Environmental responsibility and fuel economy are increasingly important,” he said. “But we can justify a V-8. It’s a matter of getting people to understand that a V-8 engine can perform efficiently.”

    As a case in point, Pericak cites the 5.0’s impressive EPA fuel-economy ratings—17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway—and the even more impressive ratings for the V-6: up to 31 mpg highway, a first for an engine rated at more than 300 horsepower, according to Ford.

    We hope Pericak is right about the future of Mustang power because we can remember two episodes when Ford product planners looked into the future and declared the day of the V-8 pony car over.

    The first of these tea-leaf readings led to the subcompact Mustang II, which made its debut with a lot of Pinto parts and a four-cylinder engine. It was definitely not one of Ford’s better ideas, and was duly interred after five years (1974–’78).

    The second was the front-drive coupe that eventually became the Ford Probe (1989–’97), diverted from Mustanghood at the last minute by a deluge of anguished mail from club members and other friends of the pony.

    Well, good luck to Mr. Pericak and his colleagues with their education program. One ride in a Mustang GT could well sway some of the fence sitters.

    Complete Test Data

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  2. CJPA

    CJPA New Member

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    Mustang looks great in Red...IOM is probably my favorite Camaro color.
     
  3. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    The Verdict: A sports coupe with the soul of a war machine.

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  4. rockstar b

    rockstar b no OT Supporter

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    I thought I read somewhere that the new 5.0 had 6-bolt mains
     

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