- Ford and Chevy both offer entry-level versions of their iconic muscle cars.
- The Mustang has a 310-horsepower EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine, while the Camaro has a smaller 275-horsepower motor, also turbocharged.
- The Mustang was the clear winner in this contest.
Ford and Chevy have for decades been locked in a battle for muscle-car supremacy.
Ford’s Mustang arrived in 1965. The Camaro landed in 1967. The fight hasn’t let up since.
Both carmakers know that not everybody wants a massive V8 engine, which is what makes a muscle car a muscle car. So they offer less stonking versions of the ‘Stang and the mullet-mobile, each with a turbocharged powerplant.
We tried the turbo Camaro last year. More recently, we jumped behind the wheel of the turbo Mustang. Here’s how it all went down.
First up is the Camaro.
The Camaro was Chevy’s 1960s response to the Mustang. Here’s a rude 1968 model.
We’re up to the sixth generation of the muscle car. The 2009 redesign radically reimagined the early-2000s ride, dropping a sleek chassis in favor of a burly, aggressive coupé that a lot of people first saw as Bumblebee from “Transformers.”
The fastback design is very Camaro. The overall design has actually been finessed for the 2019 model year — and we’re looking forward to sampling that car later in 2018.
The fascia is borderline hostile.
Test car had a 275-horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine.
Muoio wrote in her review: “That’s an immediate dealbreaker for most who want actual muscle in their muscle car — say, the bonkers 650hp supercharged V8 in the Camaro ZL1. In fact, there are some folks who wouldn’t look twice at the available 3.6-liter V6, which makes a mere 335hp.”
That famous gold bowtie badge is remarkably subdued on the front grille.
The Camaro starts at $30,405, but options like the eight-speed automatic transmission (yes, this Camaro can be had stock with a six-speed manual) and additional safety tech bumped the price to $38,130.
We had the LT with the $1,950 RS package, so we at least got our hands on the sportier four-cylinder.
Turbo-haters can always move up to the 455-horsepower Camaro SS, shown here with the refreshed 2019 look …
… or shoot the moon with the 650-horsepower Camaro ZL1, whose output is in Corvette Z06 territory.
Camaros can also be had as drop-tops.
Speaking of drop-tops, let’s now turn our attention to the Mustang EcoBoost turbo, which I tested in convertible trim.
2018 test car was priced at about $33,000 and packed a 2.3-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged motor, making 310 horsepower with 350 pound-feet of torque, piped through a 10-speed automatic to the rear wheels.
That’s a decent bump over the Camaro’s four-banger, and definitely a notch in the ‘Stang’s favor.
The Mustang has a longer history than the Camaro, but not by much. Here’s an original vintage ‘Stang parked next to a 2018 model. The ‘Stang arrived in 1965, and Chevy followed with a sporty coupé in 1967.
In the battle of the drop-tops, I think the Mustang has always been the victor. If you match coupé to coupé, it’s a closer race.
Here’s the ‘Stang with the top raised. The simple automated mechanism can provide open-air motoring in about 10 seconds.
The Mustang family was refreshed for 2018, after the previous generation rolled out in 2015. The front end, just to highlight one feature, shed some snoutiness and became sleeker and smoother.
So what about that 10-speed auto versus the eight-speed in the Camaro? The Mustang’s is better.
You can paddle-shift both cars in manual mode — but while we liked doing that in the Camaro, enjoyed the slick-shifting Mustang’s auto so much that I barely paddled the pony car at all.
The Mustang’s EcoBoost four is a sad sight for anybody who craves a V8 under the hood of their muscle car. But it’s quite simply a superior engine to the Camaro’s smaller turbo.
There’s no longer a six-cylinder Mustang option, but if the turbo-four doesn’t float your boat, you can always move up to the 460-horsepower GT …
… and even go large with the 562-horsepower Shelby GT350. Both ‘Stangs pack potent V8s.
And the big winner is the Mustang EcoBoost turbo!
Normally, when we compare competing vehicles, we don’t have a runaway winner. But this time around, the EcoBoost Mustang trounced the Camaro turbo.
We liked the Camaro OK — it’s a sportier, more tossable take on the mullet-mobile. But the 2.0-liter, sub-300-horsepower turbo four feels underpowered and laggy when matched up against the ‘Stang’s peppy 2.3-liter powerplant.
The Mustang also feels more thought-out and better executed, while the Camaro suffers from a more utilitarian interior and some plasticky aspects. The Camaro we tested was also more expensive than the Mustang.
As for the driving, I enjoyed the Mustang as a sort of tool-around-slowly ride, a weekend chariot that can supply a zero-60 sprint in about six seconds if needed. My colleague Ben Zhang thought the front end was unstable and that it made the back end seem more jittery. Not a bad thing in my book.
The Camaro is objectively more balanced, but that’s most likely because of the less beefy motor. In the end, the Mustang drives like a junior muscle car, while the Camaro has a European-sports-car vibe.
In the battle of the entry-level icons, I’d take the Mustang and not look back.