Rivalries run deep, and the one between the Chevy Camero and the Ford Mustang is no exception. Since the 1960s, these two cars have battled to win the crown of the best all-American sports car. It’s even more intense now than it was then because both cars are better than ever.
The Chevrolet Camero runs a great race being priced just under the Mustang, although the latter often delivers more features and options. Power and performance reign in both cars, regardless of which model you choose. Let’s delve into the differences in these cars.
Muscle cars have gotten smarter in recent years. Ford upped the tech quotient when it gave the Mustang a mid-cycle update for the 2018 model year. When ordered fully loaded, it offers a driver-configurable 12-inch digital instrument cluster, an 8.0-inch screen that runs Ford’s easy-to-use Sync 3 infotainment system, and voice-controlled navigation. Audiophiles will appreciate the available Shaker Pro Audio sound system. Ford didn’t skimp on driving aids, either. Buyers can order adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, and a reverse sensing system. Note that most of those features cost extra.
The Camaro offers slightly less tech — it’s not available with a fully digital instrument cluster, for example. The list of tech features nonetheless includes a cloud-connected infotainment system, a wireless charging pad, a head-up display, a teen driver function, a driver information display that’s integrated into the instrument cluster, rear park assist, lane change alert, and side blind zone alert. Again, you’ll have to tick a few boxes on the options list and spend a little more to get a model that speaks tech fluently, though 2SS and ZL1 models come standard with a trick rear camera mirror. Chevrolet’s Performance Data Recorder and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot are offered, too.
Performance and fuel economy
The Mustang and the Camaro each offer a dizzying selection of engines. Let’s start with the Ford. The base Mustang comes with a turbocharged, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 310 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 350 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm. It’s the same basic engine found in the now-retired Focus RS and the Ranger pickup truck. In this application, it spins the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. Ford also offers a 10-speed automatic at an extra cost, but you can’t get the Mustang with all-wheel drive — at least not yet.
There’s no V6, so the next engine up is the Mustang GT’s 5.0-liter V8. It generates 460 hp at 7,000 rpm and 420 lb-ft. of torque at 4,600 rpm. The eight-cylinder comes with the same transmission options as the turbo four. Flick the Drag Strip mode on and Ford promises it will hit 60 miles per hour from a stop in under four seconds.
Ford designed the hot rods of the Mustang lineup with input from famous American tuner Shelby. The GT350 and GT350R receive a 5.2-liter V8 engine with 526 hp and 429 lb-ft. of torque. Both come exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission; you’re out of luck if you want an automatic. The R model also receives a cool set of upgrades, including wheels made entirely out of carbon fiber to save weight. It’s not the top Mustang, though. That honor goes to the GT500 model with a jaw-dropping 760 hp and 625 lb-ft. of torque between its fenders.
Let’s walk over to Chevrolet and check out the Camaro. Base models come with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 275 hp at 5,600 rpm and 295 lb-ft. of torque between 3,000 and 4,500 rpm. Rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission come standard, while an eight-speed automatic is offered at an extra cost. The list of options also includes a 3.6-liter V6 with 335 hp and 284 lb-ft. of torque. It also comes standard with a six-speed stick, but it can be paired with an optional 10-speed automatic transmission.
The Camaro SS ups the ante with a direct-injected 6.2-liter V8 engine rated at 455 hp and 455 lb-ft. of torque, which is enough power for a 4.1-second sprint from zero to 60 mph. The hierarchy doesn’t end there. Designed specifically for the track, the Camaro ZL1 gets a supercharged version of the 6.2-liter from the SS that pumps out a solid 650 hp and 650 lb-ft. of torque. Both V8-powered models come with a six-speed manual transmission, and they’re available with a 10-speed automatic transmission at an extra cost.
Muscle cars and fuel economy sound like they’re mutually exclusive, but that’s not necessarily the case. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports the most efficient Mustang (with a turbo-four and an automatic) returns 21 miles per gallon in the city, 32 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg in a combined cycle. The least-thirsty Camaro (also with a four-cylinder and an automatic) posts figures of 22, 31, and 25, respectively.
Interior and exterior design
The 2020 Ford Mustang still wears the long hood, short deck proportions of the original model introduced in April of 1964. Designers created several visual links between the two models but it’s not full-on retro like the Mini Hardtop and the Volkswagen Beetle. We think it’s one of the sharpest-looking ‘Stang models to date, but maybe that’s just us. Step inside and you’ll find a heritage-laced three-spoke steering wheel, round air vents, and a tall center console. It’s technically a four-seater but the rear seats are best-suited to carrying groceries or small children.
Chevrolet took the 2020 Camaro in a similar design direction. The current model pays tribute to its predecessors without aping their styling. It still boasts the traditional Coke bottle shape that made hundreds of thousands of American motorists fall in lust with the original car. Its front-end design varies from model to model but every trim receives LEDs integrated into the headlights, a wide grille, and quad rear lights. Open the long door, slip behind the wheel, and you’ll feel like you’re sitting in a sports car just by looking around you. Design is a big part of its appeal.
Every Mustang regardless of engine or trim level comes with dual front, side, curtain, and knee airbags for the front passengers, an alarm, and a tire pressure monitoring system. It’s surprisingly well-equipped in that regard; some cars that cost twice as much as an entry-level Mustang don’t offer a single knee airbag, let alone two.
The Camaro comes with a similar level of equipment. Select the base model and you’ll get dual front, side, and curtain airbags, plus knee airbags for the front passengers. The list of standard features also includes a five-year subscription to the basic OnStar service, the teen driver function, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
If it’s a Mustang you’re after, plan on spending at least $26,670 for a base hardtop with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine. The V8-powered GT starts at $35,630. Going topless will cost you $32,170 for a four-cylinder and $45,130 for a V8. This figure places the V8-powered drop-top deep into luxury car territory. Ford priced the Shelby-badged GT350, GT350R, and GT500 models at $60,440, $73,435, and $72,900, respectively.
The turbo four-powered Camaro starts at $25,000. Selecting the V6 bumps that figure up to $27,095, while the V8 model starts at $34,000. Chevrolet priced the supercharged ZL1 model at $62,000. The convertible model starts at $31,500 for a four-cylinder engine and tops out at $69,595 for a supercharged ZL1 with a 10-speed automatic.
Note the aforementioned prices don’t include the mandatory destination charge, which is like shipping and handling for cars. Chevrolet charges $995 while Ford recently increased its fee to $1,195.
The Mustang and the Camaro face serious competition from the retro-styled Dodge Challenger. It’s bigger and heavier than its two rivals, so it won’t handle nearly as well on a twisty road due to its bigger footprint. The trade-off is that it’s much closer to the spirit of the muscle cars that rumbled across America in the 1960s. And, neither the Mustang nor the Camaro match the Challenger Hellcat in terms of raw power, though the GT500 comes close.
There are many other options. The base convertibles land in the same price bracket as a nicely equipped Mazda MX-5 Miata, though they are, of course, two completely different animals. Buyers can also consider the Fiat 124 Spider, the Miata’s Italian twin. Moving up in the range, the more expensive V8-powered models square off against German machines like the Audi A5, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, and the BMW 4 Series.