2018 Ford Mustang GT vs 2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS - Power Play
HSV has thrown a spanner in the Mustang GT works by introducing a ‘re-engineered’ Camaro, pulled apart and reassembled left to right for Down Under use. How do they stack up?
We haven’t had a Chevrolet in New Zealand for quite some time, at least one that was built here, almost a century by my count. But of late they’ve been arriving in the country ex-Australia, the first of the rebuilt-for-RHD Silverado full-sized utes dotting down this year.
And as of now, you can also buy a 2SS Camaro, a direct competitor to the Mustang GT.
That’s thanks to GM Australia’s traditional tuning arm, HSV. Once a fettler of V8 Commodores, it is fast becoming an expert in converting left-hook vehicles to right-hand drive. Its first model since the shuttering of Holden production facilities in Australia was a tweaked Colorado, but it got no extra power, the Sportscat by HSV. The second was the aforementioned Silverado. And now, after three years of development work, a right-hook Chevrolet Camaro 2SS has gone on sale here, costing $NZ104,990.
The Australian company has ‘re-engineered and re-manufactured’ the Camaro for local consumption, 38 coming to New Zealand initially. There’s only the one option, that of metallic paint which adds $1000. One of the three colours available is the one you see here, bright yellow, with red and blue hues are also part of the line-up.
Right now you’re probably wondering many things, like how Camaro got its name. Evidently GM sportsters have to start with a C, like Corvette and the coolest name of the reportedly 2000 submitted was Camaro, which was a French slang term for a friend or comrade. It had to be evocative to counter the Pony car and it just sounded right.
With Camaro and Mustang, most potential buyers are in one camp or the other, and few would consider both. It’s like Falcon vs Holden; think tribal. If you’re one of the few who isn’t, price may well be a consideration.
HSV suggested there’s nothing too much in it, the Bullitt costing $93,450 and the Camaro $104,990. Well, that’s $11,450 for starters. Secondly, you can’t buy a Bullitt; they’re a limited edition and have sold out. So the actual price difference between a Mustang GT you genuinely can buy ($79,990) and the Chev is a cool $25k.
The reason for the difference is that Ford makes Mustangs in right and left hook guise from the factory. The right-hand drive Camaros arrive in Australia as left hookers and are completely torn down before being rebuilt with the wheel on the proper side. They do a nice job too, though soft plastics are conspicuous by their absence, especially given the Ford has these on the dash.
Other than that, these two are surprisingly close to one another in a direct comparison, both with V8s and both rear drive, similar size and weight, identical power output (!) and are much of a muchness on the acceleration and braking front.
There are certain advantages to one, wins for the other. Put simply, the Camaro is faster and more comfortable, the Mustang has better visibility and is more agile but doesn’t ride as well. There are certain spec differences too; Mustang gets active cruise while Camaro comes with a sunroof. So briefly to the cars themselves, both of which we’ve covered extensively already.
The Camaro 2SS is the pre-facelift version. Under the hood is an atmo 6.2-litre GenV LT1 V8 with direct fuel injection and variable valve timing, good for 339kW of power and 617Nm of torque. It also features displacement on demand to limit fuel use during the occasional times when the engine isn’t giving its all. It actually runs in V4 mode a lot of the time when you’re not playing at being Chase Elliott.
By comparison, the Mustang GT gets a smaller 5.0L V8, also naturally aspirated with direct and port injection, and pumping out exactly the same amount of power, at 339kW. What a coincidence! It’s torque figure is 556Nm.
Respective weight figures? The Camaro feels and looks bigger but that’s not the case and it actually weighs less, by 50kg. On the other hand, it gets an eight-speed auto compared with the Mustang’s quicker shifting 10-speeder. With less weight, more torque and the same amount of power, no surprise it’s the faster machine, though not by much. Our best zero to 100km/h time on chipseal of 4.61sec compares with a 4.87sec time for the Mustang, while an overtake of 2.53sec just edges that of the GT at 2.60sec.
Both vehicles run Brembo brakes and once they’re primed with a bit of heat in the pads, they each stop on the proverbial dime, the best 33.42m 100-0 of the Ford just edged by the Camaro’s 32.96m effort. They’re inspirational stoppers, both. Given each vehicle had done roughly 6000 hard kilometres, they’d be even better with fresh rubber. They really do need decent brakes too for both of these go like scalded cats.
Physically they’re both extremely compelling. Only one person thought the yellow car off, primarily because of the colour. Yellow you either like or loathe. The Ford is the more traditionally retro of the pair, and it does it as well as any. New for Mustang are the even squintier headlights, now LEDs while those in the Camaro are high intensity discharge units. Both have LED running lights. Each has four exhaust outlets, a diffuser and a fixed spoiler at the rear, while in profile they’re both fetching, stunning even.
The main difference between these is the wheel set, 20s on the Camaro with low profile rubber, 19s on the Mustang and with taller sidewalls it looks marginally undershod. The glasshouse is different too, slightly bigger in the Mustang and it has vastly better visibility as a result, though both feature high-res screens relaying the reversing camera info. Not helping the Camaro’s visibility is a low slung driving position, though it feels sportier than that of the Mustang where you feel perched a bit high.
That said, the Ford has adjustable lumbar support and a nice cushy left knee rest. Camaro has neither, though the seat still feels fine. In the back both have what you might call vestigial pews. I shoehorned myself into both and lasted about five seconds from lack of head and leg room. For kids only then.
Regarding boot space the Camaro is said to hold 260L of clobber, the Mustang closer to the 400L mark. The seat backs in the Mustang fold over individually where there’s more the long load scenario with the Camaro. In terms of what they come with, spec is relatively similar, both with powered, heated and ventilated seats, dual zone air, leather trim, Brembo brakes, customisable instrument clusters.
There are a few more bits and bobs on the Camaro, like 24-colour ambient lighting that changes according to driving mode, remote starting (for impressing your mates), wireless phone charging (handy) and a powered sunroof (which does eat into headroom for the driver). The Mustang gets one back with its active cruise control; Camaro really should have this too.
It’s the automatic transmissions that also set these apart slightly, with a 10-speeder for the Mustang, an eight-speeder for the Camaro. The 10-speeder has a few party tricks, like downshifting into turns in Sport mode when it detects you’re braking. Mention of Sport mode, that’s activated by merely pulling back on the shift lever.
In the Camaro you have to select one of the sportier drive modes by button. For the most part the Mustang 10-speeder works really well, especially in its Sport mode though is a busy shifter. In the Normal setting it’s a bit laid back, but the low end urge of the V8 can handle that in general. When it’s in Sport mode and on song, the shifts from the 10-speeder slur through in highly convincing fashion.
Overall, the eight-speeder in the Camaro is about as good; not quite as rapid fire but fast enough, and it always seems to pick the right gear for the occasion. Eight speeds is sweet, ten’s a talking point. Now to the bits that aren’t quite so convincing with either vehicle. They’re both well shod and so are somewhat noisy on the worst of our poxy coarse chip roads, essentially measuring the same 76.5dB average.
For the most part the noise is acceptable because of what overlays it. And here the Mustang gets an edge on the Camaro. It just sounds right.
Sport mode lets vent to the most delicious V8 rumble, deep, loud and emotionally satisfying. Evidently local Ford tuners are not bothering to bring in aftermarket systems for this car because the stock one sounds so awesome and they’re not wrong. There’s a Quiet mode too, for keeping the peace and all.
As to the Camaro, it makes a pretty tasty noise of its own, again best in Sport, only not so loud unless you’re right up its date, from 5000rpm onwards. It signs off about 1000rpm earlier than the Ford engine, but compensates by having a meatier midband of torque so isn’t quite so dependent on revs for real go-forward action.
That makes the Camaro a slightly easier car to drive overall, but as with most things in this compo, there’s not much in it. Except for ride quality and in this regard we were quite surprised. For the Ford came fitted with MagneRide but no matter the setting it was always a bit firm for my liking.
That’s not an issue on smooth surfaces but we don’t have so many of those. At times it can thump into sharp edged bumps and the rear isn’t as tied down as that of the Camaro. The yellow bird treads a better line between control and comfort. While not quite as quick to turn as the Mustang, it still devours technical roads and with a more compliant rear end feels more secure at speed.
Again, not huge differences but noticeable. Both power oversteer into turns if given half a chance, the torque-laden Camaro keener to step out. As mentioned, a conclusion is largely irrelevant here. It’s a case of never the twain shall meet. Camaro buyers wouldn’t give the Mustang a second glance, and vice versa.
For those with no allegiance, the Ford’s financially the saner buy given how close this pair is otherwise. But the Camaro is perhaps the more rounded machine.
They’re both emotional purchases and while neither is what you’d call a rational choice in an age of climate change and high fuel prices, we can absolutely understand why some folk might figure “to hell with that, I’m buying it anyway.”
Model Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Price $104,990
Engine 6162cc, V8, DI, 339kW/617Nm
Transmission 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Vitals 4.61sec 0-100km/h, 11.5L/100km, 260g/km, 1721kg
Model Ford Mustang Fastback GT Price $79,990
Engine 5038cc, V8, DI, 339kW/556Nm
Transmission 10-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Vitals 4.87sec 0-100km/h, 12.1L/100km, 249g/km, 1776kg