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It might seem like we’ve compared every combination of Mustang versus Camaro that exists. We pitted V-6 against RS, GT against SS, and even ran the mighty Mustang Boss 302 and GT500 against the Camaro ZL1. Still, two models have gotten away from grille-to-grille competition thus far: the Camaro SS 1LE and the Mustang GT Track Pack.
We hear you loud and clear — you’re wondering if maybe the Boss 302 might be a tougher opponent for the SS 1LE. Well, we asked Ford for a Boss and were politely refused. Ford’s reasoning was simple: See, the Boss 302 is a distinct and separate model, much like the Camaro ZL1 or the Shelby GT500. More than a hop-up package, the Boss goes so far as to have a unique engine relative to the standard GT. The GT Track Pack is simply an option on top of the base GT that adds equipment to make it better suited for hot lapping. Similarly, the SS 1LE is an option package for the base SS to serve the same purpose.
So with that in mind and two cars in our garage, we set out with a clear question: Which of these musclecars gives the track-day enthusiast more bang for the buck? For the answer, we ventured just north of Los Angeles to Willow Springs Raceway and the adjoining Streets of Willow track to see which of our pair was superior. We got a little help from Randy Pobst, MT pal, 24 Hours of Daytona winner, and all-around good guy.
Trackside, there was plenty of time to kick the tires of our ponycars. Our Mustang is a GT with the now-familiar 5.0-liter V-8 producing a worthy 420 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. It has just three options: the premium package ($4000), leather Recaro sport seats ($1595) and the Track Package ($2495), available only on GTs equipped with a manual transmission and includes a 3.73:1 axle. Those two-and-a-half bills bring more than a few goodies: 255/40R19 Pirelli P Zero summer tires, 9.0 x 19-inch aluminum wheels, larger Brembo brakes with performance pads, an upgraded radiator and engine oil cooler, and the same heavy-duty Torsen limited-slip differential found on the Boss 302. Total cost: $39,185.
Our Camaro is a 2SS coupe with a 6.2-liter V-8 that puts out 426 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. That slight power advantage over the Mustang is a good thing: At 3860 pounds, the Camaro outweighs it by 242 pounds. Options include the RS package with HID headlamps and some extra body molding ($1350), a dual-mode performance exhaust ($895), Rally Yellow paint ($395), and the SS 1LE performance package. Chevrolet’s performance pack may cost $1005 more than the one in the ‘Stang, but it also gives the buyer more equipment. Above and beyond the similar Brembo brakes, 3.91 axle ratio, and larger wheels from the ZL1 with super-sticky tires (10.0×20 front and 11.0×20 rear, wrapped in 285/35ZR20 rubber all the way around), there are uprated front and rear anti-roll bars, a front strut tower brace, a close-ratio Tremec six-speed manual transmission, along with the ZL1′s wheel bearings, toe links, rear shock mounts, and fuel pump. The standard SS’ twin-tube rear dampers are swapped for monotube units, and the faux-suede quick-throw shifter from the ZL1 is thrown in, along with a flat-bottom steering wheel trimmed in the same material, a unique front splitter, and a matte black hood and rear spoiler. All in, the Camaro stickers at $43,105, just over $4000 more than the Mustang including options.
We could go on about trick bits and pieces all day, but it’s more interesting to see what they actually mean for performance. We started at the dragstrip, where the run slips were remarkably similar. The Camaro hit the 60-mph mark in 4.3 seconds (0.1 second quicker than the Mustang), but by the quarter-mile post, the Ford had tied the ball game with an identical 12.7-second time, though with a 0.1-mph advantage at 111.9 mph, while chirping its tires into fifth gear. In our other instrumented testing, the Camaro gained the advantage, partially by virtue of its wider, grippier Goodyears. The Mustang gave up 9 feet in 60-0-mph braking tests, while losing 0.07 g to the Camaro on the skidpad and a significant 0.8 second on the figure-eight course, where acceleration, braking, and cornering are all factors.
We could go on about trick bits and pieces all day, but it’s more interesting to see what they actually mean for performance. We started at the dragstrip, where the run slips were remarkably similar. The Camaro hit the 60-mph mark in 4.3 seconds (0.1 second quicker than the Mustang), but by the quarter-mile post, the Ford had tied the ball game with an identical 14.7-second time, though with a 0.1-mph advantage at 111.9 mph, while chirping its tires into fifth gear. In our other instrumented testing, the Camaro gained the advantage, partially by virtue of its wider, grippier Goodyears. The Mustang gave up 9 feet in 60-0-mph braking tests, while losing 0.07 g to the Camaro on the skidpad and a significant 0.8 second on the figure-eight course, where acceleration, braking, and cornering are all factors.
Numbers in, we hit the road course for impressions. My cohort, senior features editor Jonny Lieberman, came in after a few laps in the Mustang and some pretty white knuckles with this to say: “Any aggression when the traction control is off results in instant, tail-out nonsense. With it on, the computer just cuts power until you’re creeping along. It’s just not a very good track car, as you spend too much time paying attention to what direction the body is gyrating toward.” I had to agree. Even with the Track Package, the Mustang’s excess body and suspension movement is simply too much for its Pirellis to keep a handle on, resulting in a squirmy rear end. Neither of us was enamored of the optional Recaros, which offered less support than $1595 should buy. At not quite 6 feet tall, I couldn’t get enough legroom and still comfortably reach the steering wheel–I place the blame on a non-telescoping column.
A few laps in the Camaro hammered in the point: With the 1LE package, the SS goes from pig to pony. Lieberman: “The 1LE is spectacularly planted. It’s just glued to the track. This means you can concentrate on all that good stuff they taught you at race school.” Indeed, the grip generated by the Camaro is so spectacular that the piece-of-cake burnouts we could do in the Mustang were considerably tougher in the Chevy. The Camaro’s driving position and seats were superior to the Mustang’s, as was its shifter action — solid and precise. There’s also something to be said about staring down that matte-black hood and listening to the engine growl its way to redline, then crackle and pop as it slows into turns. Of course, Jonny and I are hardly track pros, so we handed the keys over to Mr. Pobst to record a couple hot laps.
Even our race veteran had an easier time with the Camaro, putting a full 3.0-second gap between it and the Mustang at Streets of Willow racetrack. Watching Randy from the sidelines, we confirmed much of what we felt from behind the wheel — mostly how flat and planted the Camaro was as it swished down the final turns of Streets, while the Mustang rolled and dove its way along with plenty of rear-end movement.
So it’s clear the Camaro is the superior track toy, but there’s still a daily commute to slog through and weekend errands to run — these aren’t just one-trick ponies. We liked the Mustang quite a bit on the road, despite a rather noisy whine under load on the freeway in fifth and sixth gears. Power is strong, and, minus the whine, the exhaust note is aggressive without being overbearing. We also found the Mustang to have superior visibility to the Camaro’s cavernlike cabin. Still, while the Camaro’s dual-stage exhaust is louder under load than the Mustang’s, the Chevy is actually quieter at cruise, with no whine and a taller sixth gear that drops revs to below 2000 at the upper end of legal speeds. The Camaro’s ride was also smoother, lacking the excess vertical movement found in virtually all current live-axle Mustangs.
When all is said and done, Chevy easily takes the win even considering its higher pricetag., Still, we have no question a Boss 302 would have given it a tougher time.
| ||2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS||2013 Ford Mustang GT|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD||Front-engine, RWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||90-deg V-8, aluminum block/heads||90-deg V-8, aluminum block/heads|
|VALVETRAIN||OHV, 2 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||376.0 cu in/6162 cc||302.1 cu in/4951 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||426 hp @ 5900 rpm||420 hp @ 6500 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||420 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm||390 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm|
|REDLINE||6250 rpm||7000 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||9.1 lb/hp||8.6 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed manual||6-speed manual|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; live axle, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F;R||14.0-in vented disc; 14.4-in vented disc, ABS||13.2-in vented disc; 11.8-in vented disc, ABS|
|WHEELS, F:R||10.0 x 20-in; 11.0 x 20-in cast aluminum||9.0 x 19-in cast aluminum|
|TIRES||285/35ZR20 100Y Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G: 2||255/40ZR19 100Y Pirelli P Zero|
|WHEELBASE||112.3 in||107.1 in|
|TRACK, F/R||63.7/63.7 in||61.5/62.1 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||190.4 x 75.5 x 54.2 in||188.5 x 73.9 x 55.8 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||37.7 ft||33.4 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3860 lb||3618 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||53/47%||55/45%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||37.4/35.3 in||38.5/34.7 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||42.4/29.9 in||42.4/29.8 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||56.9/42.5 in||55.3/51.6 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||11.3 cu ft||13.4 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-30||1.8 sec||1.7 sec|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||2||2|
|QUARTER MILE||12.7 sec @ 111.8 mph||12.7 sec @ 111.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||101 ft||110 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||1.03 g (avg)||0.96 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||24.2 sec @ 0.83 g (avg)||25.0 sec @ 0.77 g (avg)|
|1.55-MI ROAD COURSE LAP||01:22.7||01:25.8|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1500 rpm||1900 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$43,105||$39,185|
|AIRBAGS||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain||Dual front, front side/head|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/36,000 mi||3 yrs/36,000 mi|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||5 yrs/100,000 mi||5 yrs/60,000 mi|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||5 yrs/100,000 mi||5 yrs/60,000 mi|
|FUEL CAPACITY||19.0 gal||16.0 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY ECON||16/24 mpg||15/26 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||211/140 kW-hrs/100 mi||225/130 kW-hrs/100 mi|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.03 lb/mi||1.05 lb/mi|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded premium||Unleaded premium|