MT Modern Muscle Comparo - Mustang 5.0 vs Challenger SRT8 vs Camaro SS

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Apr 12, 2010.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    V-8 Threeforall: With a New 5.0 in Town, It's "Game On" Again in the Muscle Wars

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    From the July, 2010 issue of Motor Trend / By Frank Markus / Photography by Brian Vance, Julia LaPalme

    Avid fans of the sport will recall in vivid detail the outcome of last season's pony playoffs, in which team Chevy's rookie Camaro SS won a narrow buzzer-shot victory over Ford's restyled and abundantly chassis-tweaked fifth-generation Mustang GT.

    Dodge's then-new 5.7-liter Hemi-powered R/T variant of the retro-chic Challenger warmed the bench in third place-a result that incited an angry mob of apparently well-heeled Mopar fans to hurl vitriolic letters at us like so many Bobby Knight folding chairs: "WHY DIDN'T YOU EEJITS PIT THE SRT8 AGAINST THE EQUALLY POWERFUL AND TORQUEY CAMARO SS!?!!! CANCEL AND REFUND MY $8 SUBSCRIPTION IMMEDIATELY!!!!!

    That tournament was organized according to price, but now that we understand that pony buyers' horsepower demand knows no budgetary boundaries, we've relaxed that regulation. For 2010's rematch, we'll pit Ford's spanking new 5.0-liter Mustang GT against the reigning champ Camaro SS and Dodge's $12-13,000 pricier SRT8 ringer in hopes of separating the winners from the whiners once and for all.

    PARKING LOT PLAY

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    We started this tournament with some real inner-child stuff. Big smoky burn outs, four-wheel-drifting, and Alex Zanardi-style victory donuts -- just in pursuit of compelling photographs, you understand. Perennial class clown, Lead-foot exec editor Ed Loh reported that the immense low-end torque and long wheelbase make the Challenger SRT8 the easiest one in which to break traction and hold long, Rhys Millen-worthy slides.

    Chevy's fatter 275/40R20 Pirelli PZeros generate the densest cumulonimbus-grade clouds of billowing white smoke as the 6.2-liter small block tickles its redline. And while the Mustang makes plenty of torque to break traction, its fiercely spinning 255/40R19 PZeros generate no more smoke than a clandestinely puffed boy's room Marlboro, and its live-axle rear suspension can provoke some vicious snaps when attempting a drift.

    FINISHING ORDER: Dodge, Chevy, Ford.

    With the tires all warmed up we set about conducting our normal battery of instrumented tests, the results of which jibed pretty well with our expectations, based on power, weight and gearing. The Mustang enjoys the best weight-to-power ratio, at 8.8 pounds per horse to the Camaro's 9.1 and the Challenger's 9.8. It's also equipped with the shortest optional axle ratio (the $395 3.73:1 setup), so its overall gearing is more than 20 percent shorter than the others' in the lower gears (it'll chirp its tires on the 2-3 upshift). That means that despite generating 30 fewer pound-feet of peak torque, the force this powertrain delivers to the rear tire contact patches maxes out at 2364 pounds in first gear (at 24 mph), whereas the Challenger peaks at 2016, and the Camaro just 1826.

    The Mustang enjoys a (diminishing) advantage in all six gears, which enabled the 'Stang to dominate the acceleration tests, storming to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds (three- and four-tenths ahead of the Chevy and Dodge), and on through the quarter in 12.7 seconds at 111.3 mph (four and six tenths ahead of its 251- and 567-pound heavier sedan-based competitors). Chevy geared the Camaro to avoid a guzzler tax (Dodge pays shareholder Uncle Sam $1751 for each SRT8), making the first three gears 35-39 percent taller than the Mustang's. With equivalent gearing, the race would be a lot closer, but there are no factory options for the Camaro. (It probably isn't feasible for the aftermarket to provide a 4.72:1 ring-and-pinion set, so the tranny internals would probably need changing.)

    FINISHING ORDER: Ford, Chevy, Dodge.

    All three ponies are shoed with Brembo stoppers, and they all performed admirably, with the featherweight Mustang stopping shortest in just 104 feet, followed by the Camaro at 108 and the Challenger in 113, but that's not the whole story. The Challenger's brakes are arguably the best, generating 751 horsepower of stopping force to the Camaro's 716 and the Mustang's 697. They're also the only ones that never faded or shuddered at all during repeated hard use. The Mustang's pedal effort is perhaps a tad lighter than ideal, the Camaro's firmer, more confidence-inspiring pedal feels practically perfect.

    FINISHING ORDER: Dodge, Chevy, Ford.

    The Mustang ran away from its portlier pursuers in all of our handling tests, circling the Figure-8 course in just 24.7 sec at 0.77 g, fully a half-second ahead of the Camaro and a second quicker than the big Dodge. Lateral grip measured at a legitimate sports car level of 0.97 g. Here the more interesting statistic may be the Dodge's ability to match the lighter, fatter-tired Camaro at 0.92 g each. The Challenger also generated an average of 0.71 g on the skidpad -- just 0.02 g under the Camaro -- while lapping a half-second slower. This suggests that the difference is more attributable to the SRT8's blunted acceleration on the straights (besides weighing more, it requires a 2-3 upshift the Camaro does without) while cornering and transitioning every bit as hard as the Camaro. The SRT8 chassis team clearly earned their salaries.

    FINISHING ORDER: Ford, Chevy/Dodge tie.

    BORREGO HILL CLIMB

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    Armed with all the facts and figures, we setup camp in Borrego Springs and ran each car 12 miles up the scenic and serpentine Montezuma-Borrego highway's eight-percent grade and back down again. The combination of open and blind increasing and decreasing-radius turns gave each car a serious workout, with engines straining on the way up and brakes scorching on the way down. Is it any wonder that our average fuel economy, including the 140-mile highway run from the test facility down to Borrego Springs ranged from 11.5 to 13.3 mpg? But what self-respecting V-8 pony pilot gives a rip about his Clydesdale-like carbon hoofprint? We'll take them in alphabetical order:

    CHEVROLET CAMARO SS

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    Chevy's donor sedan endowed the Camaro with some admirable bones. The 52/48-percent front/rear weight distribution is closest to ideal, leading to admirably neutral chassis dynamics and impressive responsiveness. As Loh observed, "You can never say it serves up less than a totally planted feel. Brakes are fantastic. Might be the best here."

    The 6.2-liter small block is always ready to thrust occupants into their seatbacks, and the indefatigable Brembos inspire confidence. We always leave stability control systems fully engaged when running on public roads, and the Camaro's Stabilitrak system is astutely calibrated, metering the fuel and brake intervention as conservatively as possible to keep the car on its intended line without dousing the fire. And at $36,465, our SS's lowest as-tested price represents strong value.

    But on the negative side of the ledger, most editors agreed the styling of this car has grown old quickly, or at least it isn't compelling enough to make us forgive the huge penalties the cartoonish proportions exact on the packaging. The Normandy pillbox visibility and redwood-trunk A-pillars make it difficult to look ahead through left-turn apexes, the gauge fonts and location make them hard to read, and the exaggerated and oversized steering wheel rim and shifter make the driver feel small (aren't these cars supposed to do the opposite?). The V-8's snarl is the angriest and noisiest of this trio as well, with a bit too much unwelcome staccato exhaust-bark.

    "Inside this hulk of a two-door is a fine sports car clamoring to escape," opines editor-at-large Arthur St. Antoine, concluding "the Mustang feels like a scalpel; the Camaro a hammer." Loh concurs "The Camaro feels like a concept car or a toy. Fun in a big plastic Lego blocks kinda way, but certainly not the kind of place you'd like to spend a lot of time. It's the one I'd want to rent for a weekend trip, not live with." Ouch.

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    DODGE CHALLENGER SRT8

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    Okay, we all know this car is big -- longer, wider, taller, and heavier than anything else that's ever called itself a pony car. And in its lesser R/T and SE guises the Challenger never really manages to get past those dimensional handicaps, wallowing in turns and sweating hard to run with the leaner ponies. But bake in $10,000 worth of Street and Racing Technology magic (hey, it's only money, right angry letter writers?) and suddenly this retro-rocket becomes incredibly endearing.

    Its 425 Hemi horses keep it in the hunt, while its starchier suspenders eliminate nearly all the body roll without exerting an oxcart ride. The brakes work like an invisible parachute pack, with enough whoa-power in reserve to keep the palms from sweating even when charging downhill at ten-tenths through hairpins with precipitous drop-offs. The front thrones are cushy enough for long-haul comfort, but heavily bolstered with grippy suede inserts to hold those folks too narrow of beam to span the bolsters.

    "Really special. Not the class or speed leader, but so full of character. Hemi note is just sublime as you're gunning uphill," notes St. Antoine, adding "That supple suspension rolls through turns like oil spilling into a maze. So composed, comfortable, pliant. Doesn't feel sharp like the Ford and Chevy but it's still rewarding. More fun, actually, than Camaro."

    "Love the pistol grip shifter. Action is nice and smooth, though the throw is not particularly short or sporty (which matches the car), and the sound from the driver's seat is pure American Graffiti," says Loh. Indeed, the consensus opinion was that this caramel-smooth Barry-White-baritone V-8 may be the sweetest sounding muscle car engine ever. And senior editor Ron Kiino speaks for all of us, declaring the Challenger's styling to be "the best of any of the Big Three. It just looks so mean, classic, and unique."

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    FORD MUSTANG GT

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    Okay, at the risk of spoiling any secrets this far in, let's face it -- this test was the Mustang's to lose. The 2010 model with 97 fewer horses barely lost to the big-bore Camaro SS last time out, and the chassis we all went gaga over now gets a $1695 optional Brembo brake package, which includes 14.0-inch vented discs and oversized calipers (borrowed from the GT500) plus unique 19-inch wheels shod in high-performance summer rubber (naturally all press cars loaned out during comparo season will be so-equipped). It also boasts the lowest base price and the best EPA fuel economy.

    And indeed the Montezuma-Borrego logbooks quickly filled with rhapsodic hyperbole. "This V-8 burbles in a slightly higher register than the other two, but on the boil it mimics the soundtrack to Frank Bullitt's car exactly." "An engine note worthy of conversion to a ring tone." "The Mustang feels like a real car -- mature, adult, grown up, but still fun and sexy." "Snickety gearbox -- is this a Honda?! Love the positive action and short throws." "Very nice. Lots of stick, well-balanced grip. Just world's more fun than the similarly fast but far more massive Chevy."

    There were a few nits to pick. These front-only Brembos occasionally flinched on the downhill blasts, shuddering disconcertingly when fully heated up (maybe the stock rears aren't doing their fair share?). When hurried, the otherwise sublime shifter sometimes balked on two-three upshifts and six-five downshifts.

    We loved the airy cabin feel provided by our test car's $1995 glass roof, but its broad soft sunshade doesn't block all the light and it looks likely to sag with time. And at $39,755, we were surprised there was no navigation screen. But that price does buy the most dramatic interior -- resplendent in red leather accents adorning the seats, door panels and steering wheel -- and performance that might just surprise a BMW 3 Series owner or two.

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    CONCLUSION

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    The galloping-away winner this time out is the Ford Mustang GT. It's simply the one pony car most of us covet, and it's the one that hews closest to the original concept of a lightweight (they weren't called draft-horse cars, after all), nimble body and chassis choc-full-o' V-8 muscle. You can see out of it, you get a nice view of the hood and the driving line you're trying to trace, and the engine sounds better than the radio.

    The lengthy and impassioned argument over which car would finish second is what really ran up the post-dinner bar tab. The proletarian staffers found the Challenger SRT8's sticker too shocking and argued fervently for the Transformers-yellow Camaro SS, while the Jack Daniels Single Barrel swilling patricians dismissed the gauche, faddish Camaro with its overwrought controls in favor of the refined, mellow, mellifluous Dodge. (Plus it finished higher in more of our individual contests.)

    So when the buzzer sounded (last call), the scoreboard indicated that more staffers would prefer to own the Challenger, even if it meant downgrading to blended whiskeys and Swisher Sweets to save the extra $10 large. And so, until Chevy or Dodge tweaks a substantial engine, chassis, or body part, the Ford Mustang GT is the reigning V-8 Ponycar champion of the universe. See you next season.

    [Y]DMktli1m0og[/Y]

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  2. T0nyGTSt

    T0nyGTSt New Member

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    i seriously don't like the Camaro but i think it got judged harshly here
     
  3. matrix243

    matrix243 My body, is ready.

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    sounds about right.
     
  4. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    ive always said the Challenger is the prettiest, but those side on shots really emphasise the Camaro's amazing lines
     
  5. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    The challengers interior is also the nicest
     
  6. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    Why do they feel the need to say this shit? The Mustang would stomp on anything but a m3.
     
  7. matrix243

    matrix243 My body, is ready.

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    m3 they tested.

    Base Price $56,975
    Price as tested $68,270
    Vehicle layout Front engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
    Engine 4.0L/414-hp/295-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
    Transmission 7-speed twin-clutch automatic
    Curb weight (dist f/r) 3689 lb (50/50%)
    Wheelbase 108.7 in
    Length x width x height 180.4 x 78.9 x 58.0 in
    0-60 mph 4.3 sec
    Quarter mile 12.7 sec @ 110.6 mph
    Braking, 60-0 mph 105 ft
    Lateral accel 0.94 g (avg)
    MT figure eight 24.9 sec @ 0.78 g (avg)
    EPA city/hwy econ 14/20 mpg
    CO2 emissions 1.22 lb/mile
    Total mileage 5354 miles
    Average fuel economy 15.9 mpg
     
  8. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    i love all three of them :o all for different reasons too, i couldnt pick
     
  9. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I agree. The car is easy to drive and live with after a day or two. I loved my week with an SS.

    But I also agree with MT on the Challenger.
     
  10. GammaRadiation

    GammaRadiation Active Member

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    But still came out middle pack. :hsd:

    The dodge is too retro.

    Mustang grew on me, Camaro isn't great but I still think its a good looking car compared to the 90's F-body, Dodge just said lets go back to 1970 with modern parts and a FI engine.
     
  11. ices

    ices New Member

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    The Camaro came in last.
     
  12. matrix243

    matrix243 My body, is ready.

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    I'd like to see more testing, top gear style, where they take the cars into everyday use, and head to the track, or highway trip.
     
  13. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    We can only hope that Top Gear will somehow get ahold of all three for an upcoming episode.
     
  14. GammaRadiation

    GammaRadiation Active Member

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    If you go by the rankings in the individual comparison tests alone ties the dodge and chevy and the ford just barely beats the two out. :dunno:
     
  15. ices

    ices New Member

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    No they don't. Dodge was ranked #1 x 2, #3 x 1 and Camaro was ranked #2 x 3. Not like it really matters though, because to most people it ultimately comes down to what they can afford and what they subjectively like more.
     
  16. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    top gear is more about opinions than fact
     
  17. matrix243

    matrix243 My body, is ready.

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    I just meant getting away from the standard old tests. not them specifically. they would rape the shit out of all 3.

    maybe top gear u.s.
     
  18. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    i think i like the challenger most
     
  19. art_VW_shark

    art_VW_shark OT Supporter

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    a stock 'stang GT is a 12 second car
    there is a god
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2010
  20. ZACKMORRIS

    ZACKMORRIS Active Member

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    I'm impressed with the Mustangs stock #'s
     
  21. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I like their opinions. And you can read numbers anywhere.
     
  22. GuiltySparc

    GuiltySparc OT Supporter

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    I havent been following the price of these cars at all but i was surprised to see the mustang at about $40k. Wasnt the last GT closer to $30k?
     
  23. victimizati0n

    victimizati0n New Member

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    :rofl: topgear us will say that all three are shit and you should buy a 1992 honda accord instead
     
  24. art_VW_shark

    art_VW_shark OT Supporter

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    <clarkson accent>
    We decided to take detroit's three new boys in town....for a spin!
    First there's the Challenger. To call this car anything more than a Crown Vic with some hustle is to give it far, far, far too much credit. Right then, moving on.
    There's the Chevrolet Camaro, a car that has made more progress since the mid-90s than the Labour movement, and that's saying something. The new Camaro is a rip-roaring basket of poised fun. There's only one problem. In 40 years, the car will still look like a Star Wars left-over. It's about as organic as Coke Light.
    Finally, the Ford. Firstly, to drive a car made in America with a blue oval and not be utterly and undeniably disappointing is a refresh. With a new five liter motor, the new Mustang goes like stink too. But then there's the typical weakness for American cars-what happens when you step inside
    <shot of Clarkson entering> Frankly...it's not that bad."
    </clarkson>
     

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