The story of the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro is one intertwined from the beginning. The Mustang came first in mid-1964, offering bang-for-the-buck performance in a sleek package. Three years later, the Camaro answered with its own take on the idea. Skip to 43 years later, and the battle rages on. Today, we will be taking a look at the V-6 versions of today’s pony cars, and see which one comes out the winner in a paper challenge royal.
To make it a fair comparison, we will divide the competition up into four rounds essential to any pony car fan: styling, performance, comfort, and features, with extra weight given to styling and performance. Naturally, the winner of the most challenges will be our victor. Lets start off with one of the most important aspects of a pony car, styling. The look of a pony car is just as important as its bite, as many drivers want to be seen in the latest hot little domestic as much as they want to drive it. The bowtie-versus-oval battle is just a layer of this dimension of ownership.
Styled after the 1969 Camaro, and with a heavier dose of retro-modern than the Mustang, the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro cuts a bold line through traffic on any city street. The low greenhouse, aggressive fenders, and huge wheels all shout the car’s identity to passersby, who are also often deafened by the loud paint schemes. With less throwback styling while still keeping the general feel of the early cars thanks to carefully chosen accents, such as the rear window panels, the grille and headlight area, and the fastback-like silhouette, the Mustang is a more conservative choice.
It is not as flamboyantly pony-tastic, and it is not ashamed of that fact, either. For 2011, the car’s lines have grown sleeker, better hiding the bulk that lies just beneath the surface. One final factor to weigh is of course the convertibles. Top-down cruising is, for some, the epitome of pony car style, so the drop-top element cannot be dismissed. The 2011 Mustang will be available as a convertible, just as the 2010 Mustang was. The 2011 Camaro will also be offered as a convertible as well. It would have been a tie, but the convertible factor tips things in favor of the Camaro.
Both cars look great in the flesh, though they do so in remarkably different ways. The second most important is performance. Getting up and going is also what pony cars are about, but since we’re looking at the V-6 models, we’ve already decided we don’t need the brutal power supplied by either model’s beefy eight-pots. Instead, we are looking for a balance between everyday behavior and weekend (or weeknight) enthusiasm. The 304-horsepower, 3. 6-liter V-6 in the new Camaro is far above the previous 4. 0-liter, 206-horsepower V-6 of the Mustang.
However, we are looking at the new 3. 7-liter Duratec V-6 in the 2011 Mustang, and things are much, much tighter. Rated at 305 horsepower, the new Mustang V-6 is the first 300+ horsepower car to rate over 30 mpg highway with the EPA. That is a fact GM has been crowing about, though the Camaro is right on its heels at 29 mpg highway. So far, the Mustang has the slight edge, but it is very slight. Weight is a prime factor in pony car performance, too–especially since we do not have the forgiving torque of a big V-8 to make up for porky poundage.
Things are tight here, too, with the 2011 Mustang V-6 estimated at an even 3,750 pounds at the curb, and the 2010 Camaro V-6 checking in at about 3,770 depending on trim. Twenty pounds is about a half a percent, so again, the Ford holds a razor-thin margin on the Chevy. Something not typically a major concern for the pony car enthusiast is handling–after all, there are true sports cars available for similar money. However, the 2010 Camaro has upped the ante with four-wheel independent suspension, while the 2011 Mustang continues to make do with a solid axle rear end.
When it comes to turning corners, or just sorting out broken pavement, the lack of rear-end skitter provided by the more advanced gear on the Camaro give it the edge on stability and traction. On the other side, the Mustang’s solid axle layout is less prone to wheel hop on hard drag-style launches, so for the pony car possessor with straight-strip aspirations, the Mustang is actually the better choice in a straight, but the Camaro leaves it in the dust threw the corners.
Once again, things on both sides look to balance out, leaving only the vagaries of personal preference to sort the differences, but since these are the V-6 versions, the Camaro takes this one for everyday ease of use, and the occasional corner-carving commute. Round 3: Comfort – 5 points The third aspect to consider is comfort, whether cruising the boulevard on Saturday night or stuck in traffic on a Monday morning, pony cars have always been about comfort. Getting from point A to point B cannot include a jarring ride or an assault on the senses for the more mainstream small-engine cars.
This is an area where both Camaro and Mustang have made great strides, equaling the best midsize sedans for front-seat room and ease of access to controls. The back seats of both are another story, but these are really two-plus-twos, not true four-seaters, so some concessions to comfort are expected. One primary concern for comfort behind the wheel, however, is visibility. This is no problem for the Mustang, with a big windshield, ample side and rear glass making it a breeze to spot that car just off your rear quarter panel in the next lane.
The Camaro fares worse, as its low greenhouse means just a sliver of windshield over the dash and prominent hood, and even less rearward visibility thanks to those thick, stylish rear pillars. While it is no easy trick judging distance when parking thanks to either long noses and domed hoods, the Mustang is the clear winner when it comes to navigating the morass of morning traffic, so the Mustang wins, with the Camaro’s vision blurred. Accessories are a category that was essentially irrelevant, even non-existent in the original pony cars. A/C, heat and AM/FM radio were the primary amenities.
Things have changed, however, and any modern image car has to offer a pounding stereo, digital media access, phone integration and more to hang with the pack. Both the Mustang and the Camaro can be loaded up with more features than your average mid-1980s luxury sedan. The Camaro even offers rear-parking assist to help overcome its lack of visibility. This being the second decade of the 21st century, people want to hear buzzwords like “connectivity,” “infotainment,” and “multimedia” when they are shopping for their prized daily driver, and the pony car segment is no exception.
To feed this need, Chevrolet offers an available Boston Acoustics 9-speaker audio system, XM Radio upgrade, Bluetooth phone capability, OnStar telematics, remote vehicle start, SYNC infotainment system, and a huge array of interior appearance upgrades. The 2010 Mustang offers a near-identical list of options, including a reverse camera system that helps avoid obstacles that would be unseen from the driver’s seat. The available SYNC infotainment system is also in the Mustang, as Motor Authority’s experience with the SYNC system ut it on par with any computerized entertainment/media/vehicle interface in the industry, and ahead of most. SYNC provides Bluetooth phone connection, excellent navigation, MP3 media player access, voice commands, plus traffic and weather. While the Mustang offers most of the features found on the Camaro, the Camaro has more of a modern interior that overcomes the mustang. The conclusion of the pony car show down are very clear, the Camaro keeps its title as the best of the pony cars. Although the Mustang comes close, it still does not live up to the Camaro, with its stylish looks and postmodern look.