A decades-long power feud lives on
The battle between muscle cars has shifted into high gear – especially between the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro – arch-rivals for decades. Petrina Gentile checks out which is out-muscling which
2017 Ford Mustang
- Base price: $25,185; as tested: $54,348
- Engine: 5.0-litre V-8
- Transmission/Drive: Six-speed automatic or six-speed manual/Rear-wheel drive
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 15.6 city, 9.8 highway
- Alternatives: Dodge Challenger, BMW 2 Series, Alfa Romeo 4C, Chevrolet Camaro
The Mustang is a blast from the past with its sleek, aerodynamic lines and striking stance. The colour of this particular one stops people in its tracks, causing a stir among young and old alike. Parked outside a swanky dress shop in Vineland, Ont., in the heart of the Niagara region. I could hear three female baby boomers discussing the bold shade – eventually reaching a consensus that it must be "Cobalt Blue." In fact, it's a new shade dubbed "Lightning Blue," with big black hood stripes. Also a crowd-pleaser is a small pony emblem that projects onto the pavement when the car's doors are locked or unlocked at night – a magical little touch that brings a smile to everyone's face.
The interior is well-laid out, with retro touches blending seamlessly with modern technology. Ford's SYNC 3 system is a cinch to operate for audio, navigation, and phone systems; it recognizes voice commands instantly, saving time and frustration. The optional eight-inch LCD touchscreen is worth the upgrade, its menu interface easy to use. You can even operate it like a smartphone – swiping and pinching to zoom for a better view. Additionally, it's Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.
Powering this rear-wheel-drive coupe is 5.0-litre V-8 engine cranking out 435 ponies and 400 lb-ft of torque. It hugs the pavement beautifully, especially when turning. The ride – smooth and composed – can be a little bumpy, but not too jarring, on uneven road surfaces. However, it would be easy to live with as a daily driver. Better-than-expected fuel economy numbers, too: I averaged 10.6 litres/100 km in combined city/highway driving.
The Mustang received four "good" ratings in crash tests (moderate-overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints/seats) from the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In the small-overlap front-impact crash test, it received an "acceptable" rating – the second-best score. Standard safety features include front knee airbags and a rear-view camera. Adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with brake support, and rain-sensing windshield wipers are optional.
The Mustang is a 2+2 coupe, but the rear seats are best suited for kids or for storing a purse or gym bag – head-, leg-, and shoulder-room is tight. The front seats, however, are spacious and comfy. Cargo space is larger than expected – there's 382 litres of room. Plus, the rear seatbacks fold down for extra cargo-carrying capacity.
You can't go wrong with either muscle car. But the Mustang edges out the Camaro for functionality, design, visibility and space in the cabin and cargo area.
2017 Chevrolet Camaro
- Base price: $29,495; as tested: $58,995
- Engine: 6.2-litre V-8
- Transmission/Drive: Six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic/Rear-wheel drive
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 14.2 city, 8.7 highway
- Alternatives: Dodge Challenger, BMW 2 Series, Alfa Romeo 4C, Ford Mustang
There's no resisting the Camaro's bad-boy good looks. Menacing and powerful in its design, this sixth-generation Camaro is instantly recognizable on the road. Taut, crisp lines, a low and wide stance, and beefy five-split-spoke low-gloss black wheels are undeniably striking. But the design, with its pronounced rear quarter panels and small rear windows, impedes rear-view visibility. However, blind-spot monitoring and a standard rear-view camera help with that.
The cabin is attractive – with cool touches such as a sporty, flat-bottomed steering wheel, intuitive and simple-to-use rotating dials for the HVAC system and interior mood lighting. A nice touch, especially at night: you can choose from 24 colours to cast light around the radio, door trim, and cup holders. An eight-inch colour touchscreen with large icons is easy to use, and features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and OnStar 4G LTE with WiFi hot-spot capability.
The Camaro is serious fun thanks to its 455-horsepower 6.2-litre V-8 engine. When nailing the throttle and accelerating in a straight line or taking tight corners quickly, it's nimble, fast and powerful with exceptionally tight steering and grippy tires that can stop on a dime. It can hit 0-100 km/h in less than four seconds; the Mustang 5.0 achieves the same feat in 4.5. The eight-speed automatic shifts seamlessly and quickly, too. But it's slightly thirstier than the Mustang; I averaged 11.5 litres/100 km in combined city/highway driving.
The Camaro earned four "good" scores (small overlap front-impact, moderate-overlap front impact, side, and head restraints/seats) in crash tests from the IIHS. It received an "acceptable" rating in roof strength. It is well-equipped with eight standard airbags and a number of other safety features such as side blind zone alert with lane change alert, rear park assist, and rear cross-traffic alert systems.
The front seats are supportive and comfortable, but the two rear seats leave much to be desired. Entering and exiting the rear is a chore, not only for adults, but for kids, too. The rear seats are best suited for storage, which is needed because the trunk space is small (257 litres). The trunk opening is also narrow and it's tricky to get large or awkwardly shaped items into it. A high lift-over height doesn't help, either.
The Camaro scored extra points for its exhilarating performance, tight steering and deep exhaust growl. It's fun to drive, especially with the V-8 engine. But its tiny trunk, tight rear-seat space and some visibility issues make it harder to live with as a daily driver.