Answering the Age-Old Question: Mustang vs. Camaro

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For more than 50 years, the battle has raged on newsstands and drag strips all over America: Mustang vs. Camaro. Aside from touching off a debate regarding synthetic vs. dino motor oil, there’s no hotter argument you could enter.

But that’s just what AudiFlyGuy waded into in the Car Talk Community.

He wasn’t asking the question historically. He was specifically interested in the understanding the benefits of the current model year.

More definitively, he was looking for information on two of the versions that don’t get the attention of the more muscular V-8-powered cars: The Mustang with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost, and the Camaro with the standard V-6.

Both of his target cars would be convertibles, and both would be equipped with automatic transmissions.  For the sake of argument, we’re assuming that we’re talking about new cars. We’re at that weird time of the year when 2018’s may still be on the lot, but plenty of 2019s are rolling in, as well.

Engines

Ford offers the EcoBoost as the base engine in the Mustang, splitting the difference between fuel efficiency and performance. It gets 20mpg in the city and 28 on the highway, but also has 310hp and 350lb.-ft. of torque. You’re also encouraged to use all of it with features like the standard electronic line-lock that locks the front brakes on the drag strip so you can churn out an effective burnout before you hit the sticky stuff at the starting line.

In base configuration, the Camaro also comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder. You could say it’s more efficiency-oriented than performance, with 275hp and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, but check this out: fifteen years ago, a top-of-the-line Camaro SS could hit 60 miles per hour in 5.2 seconds. Today, a Camaro rental car with the base four-banger can hit 60 in just a half-second less.

The question, though, was about the next engine up: the direct-injected 3.6-liter V-6. Horsepower-wise, the Camaro definitely gets the edge, with 335hp. But in the all-important torque battle, the Mustang beats it by a wide margin. The V-6 delivers 284 lb.-ft. to the EcoBoost’s 350.

That’s a difference you’ll feel in the seat of your pants.

Look, my dad bought a base-model Camaro brand new in 1976. With a 250-cu.in. six and an an automatic, that car couldn’t peel the skin off the top of a chocolate pudding.

A bare-bones, base-model EcoBoost-equipped Mustang has a “Drag Strip Mode” that maximizes grip and minimizes wheelspin, and as a result, these bottom-feeder, four-cylinder turbo ‘Stangs can hit 60 miles per hour in under five seconds.

What a time to be alive!

Transmissions

First, let’s get the nonsense out of the way: One respondent called the selection of the automatic a “tragedy,” but that’s ridiculous. The Mustang features a relatively conventional six-speed manual as standard equipment, but the option is a fantastic 10-speed automatic.

It’s a better transmission, and depending on which drive mode you select, it will get you through the traps in a quarter mile faster than a stick would, full stop.

The Camaro continues with the 8L45 automatic with eight forward speeds. It debuted in the 2016 Cadillac CT6, and it does a remarkably good job staying out of the way when you’re trying to get someplace quickly, but not quite as quickly as the Mustang.

Interior

It seems like just 15 years ago when you’d buy a Mustang or a Camaro in base trim and both manufacturers would make you feel like the world’s biggest cheapskate by delivering a car with the crappiest interiors known to man, in either Naval Infirmary Gray or Hearing Aid Beige.

Wait, that WAS only 15 years ago.

The interiors on both the Camaro and the Mustang are vastly superior the guts of even European luxury cars from the 1990s. They’re stylish, they’re functional, and they offer more computing power in the infotainment system than Neil Armstrong used to fake that “moon landing.”

In either case, it’s a draw. They’re both nice inside, and you really can’t go wrong.

The one thing we will warn you about, though, is visibility. In the old days, you sat high in a pony car’s seat, and the shoulder line was relatively low, so you could hang your arm out the window. Today, doing that for any length of time will result in rotator cuff surgery. The shoulder line on a modern pony car is at about ear level.

You really feel like you’re sitting in a bucket in either car, and the convertible top cuts down on visibility even more. It’s a good thing that backup cameras and parking sensors are standard equipment. You’ll need them.

Price

Here’s where things can get slippery. The rental-fleet-level base model Mustang Convertible with EcoBoost starts at $31,345. In really short order, that price can climb to pretty breathtaking levels. The automatic adds $1,545, which is an absurd amount of money for something that most people are going to choose. Don’t economies of scale suggest that if you build more of something it should cost less?

Add a few option packages and you can be up to more than $42,000 in a heartbeat.

The Camaro Convertible starts slightly higher at $32,900. To get the eight-speed auto, you need to select the 1LT package, which drives the price up to $33,695. Similarly equipped to the Mustang, (which includes a breathtakingly expensive six-piston Brembo brake package) puts the Camaro Convertible at $44,605.

Fuel Economy

There’s essentially no advantage in fuel economy with the Mustang vs. the Camaro. We’re fudging a little bit because the EPA doesn’t show a convertible model for the Camaro and we couldn’t find specific data for the convertible on Chevy’s media site. But the weight of the two cars is within 10 pounds, so we wouldn’t expect the fuel economy to be any different.

Conclusion

Full Disclosure: I’m a GM guy deep in my bones. I’ve owned 40 some-odd cars in my 50 years, and the vast majority of them have been GM products. But in terms of performance and price, the Mustang EcoBoost is the clear winner here.

What’s your choice?

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Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at BestRide.com.

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