COMPARED: Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Vs Ford Mustang GT
It’s muscle car mayhem as the finally-here Chevrolet Camaro 2SS takes on the selling-like-hotcakes Ford Mustang GT.
Chevrolet Camaro 2SS 2019 Specifications
Price $85,990+ORC Warranty three-years, 100,000km Safety NA Engine 6.2-litre petrol V8 Power 339kW at 6000rpm Torque 617Nm at 4400rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive rear-wheel drive Dimensions 4782mm (L) 1897mm (W) 1348mm (H) 2811mm (WB) Seats four Kerb Weight 1710kg Fuel Tank 72 litres Thirst 11.5L/100km combined-cycle claim
Ford Mustang GT 2019 Specifications
Price $62,990+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited km Safety 3 stars Engine 5.0-litre petrol V8 Power 339kW at 7000rpm Torque 556Nm at 4600rpm Transmission six-speed manual Drive rear-wheel drive Dimensions 4789mm (L) 1916mm (W) 1387mm (H) 2720mm (WB) Seats four Tare Weight 1770kg Fuel Tank 61 litres Thirst 13.0L/100km combined-cycle claim
LONG gone are the days when Australians could access V8 performance in a roomy, locally made sedan costing under $50K.
Now we must look to America for that sort of recipe, and even then the Chrysler 300 SRT8 is reportedly soon extinct. So we wind back the formula even more, specifically by stripping off two doors.
The Ford Mustang GT has been a huge sales success here since its launch three years ago for under $60K. However, this now-facelifted model pushes the cost of entry to $62,990 plus on-road costs.
Finally, HSV has lobbed a sort-of successor to the tuned Commodores it has built its name upon for 30 years-plus, in the form of the new Chevrolet Camaro ‘remanufactured’ in Victoria from left- to right-hand drive. And we’ve seen the process – it really is a sizeable, superb job. But it costs (gulp) $85,990+ORC.
The bow-tie-badged brute is, however, up on torque and down on kerb weight compared with its Blue Oval rival, but that perhaps throws up another question to deal with here. For starters, does this duo deal with local conditions as well as the V8-powered VF Series II Commodore high watermark? And is the Ford deservedly popular, or is the Chevy-via-HSV worth the extra spend?
What Are The Chevrolet Camaro 2SS And Ford Mustang GT?
Okay, a couple of caveats first up. We could only procure a Mustang GT manual to test, whereas choosing a new 10-speed automatic to match the Chevy asks $66,259+ORC. Our tester did, however, come with $8250 worth of optional equipment, including Recaro leather sports seats ($3000), MagneRide adaptive suspension ($2750) and 19-inch forged alloy wheels ($2500). Add those to the auto and you’re looking at $74,509+ORC and near-$10K off a Chevy.
A couple of features are important here with the facelifted ‘Stang, including the addition of much, much grippier Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres teamed with adaptive suspension designed to cure the pre-facelift model’s grip and body control ills respectively. The price rise also brings a more powerful, port- and direct-injected 5.0-litre V8 ‘motor’ (as the Yanks would say) making 339kW of power at 7000rpm and 556Nm of torque at 4600rpm, all pushing along this 1770kg coupe.
The Camaro is US-built but Argentinian 2SS specification (even though it only wears SS badging on its rump) for our market. It’s eight-speed auto-only, at least for now, and basically options free. Its 6.2L V8 delivers an identical 339kW but at 6000rpm (this LT4-designated Chevy pushrod engine continuing the tradition of those installed in its Holden forebears by hardly revving hard) and with 617Nm at 4400rpm. In a lighter, 1710kg two-door that’s a 61Nm advantage from the off…
Adaptive suspension isn’t available at any price, and indeed the Chevy’s fixed tune is unaltered by HSV. The 2SS does, however, get larger 20in tyres, though the 245mm front width is actually 10mm narrower than the GT, and the 275mm rears are identically broad.
Equipment levels are broadly similar, too, with keyless auto-entry and push-button start, touchscreens (Mustang’s one inch larger at 8.0in) with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech, premium audio systems (Bang & Olufsen in GT and Bose in 2SS), multi-way power adjustable driver’s seats, heated and ventilated front seats, and dual-zone climate control common to each.
Only the Ford gets lane-keep assistance, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, integrated satellite navigation and digital radio, though it still gets scored three stars by ANCAP overall; but then only the Chevy scores an electric sunroof, power adjustable passenger seat, wireless smartphone charging, and a blind-spot monitor. Nobody is buying one or the other based on kit levels, for sure.
What’s Are Their Interiors Like?
It might stun some to learn that, despite being pulled apart in Clayton, Victoria, then put back together with the steering wheel and pedals on the right side of the car, the Camaro’s cabin bests its rival.
It is far from perfect. The front seats are plainly supportive rather than being aggressively sporty, the cupholders have been left on the right side of the car exactly where an Aussie driver’s arm naturally falls, the mirror housings look a bit oddly angled (with the inner fixture replaced only to suit right-hook) and the A-pillar Bluetooth speaker receptor is literally two drill holes – c’mon guys, even a molded plug over it would do nicely.
But these are really small things. The 2SS dashboard is a master of harmonious simplicity, with the knurled-silver outer rim of the central vents winding nicely to raise or lower each side’s climate control temperature; the surrounding switchgear is simple and sturdy, the touchscreen easy if not feature packed, but the Bose audio brilliantly boomy and better than its rival’s.
With licks of silver trim, adjustable ambient mood lighting, hard but not scratchy plastics, and a chunky though smaller-rimmed steering wheel, there’s just the feeling that this is the more semi-premium cabin of the two.
The Mustang’s interior has been updated with extra soft-form plastics, some of which nab fake stitching. But they’re still of the rubbery vinyl type and they don’t even smell nice. Fit-and-finish is easily inferior, with the odd loose trim part and misaligned panel gap lowering the tone.
If the steering wheel isn’t as nimble to grasp, then it’s at least wrapped in quality leather, the widescreen driver’s display is of a higher resolution, and those optional Recaro seats are tighter and grippier. The touchscreen with nav and digital radio is better, too, but in the age of CarPlay we’ll take a better sounding stereo every time.
What both achieve, and what our locally made Commodores and Falcons never could, is a properly low and sporty driving position befitting of a proper muscle coupe. Of the two the Camaro’s is a little lower and nicer, but the Mustang responds with better rear vision and superior boot space and entry-egress.
What both can’t achieve, obviously, is the epic rear lounging space of our locally grown Holdens and Fords. Consider these a 2+2 at best, and it’s splitting hairs as to which one is better – or should we say, less worse. Expect even moderately tall folk to have cranium meet rear window, but either way, properly separating these two requires hitting (twisty) roads.
What Are They Like To Drive?
Facts, figures and visual confirmation can tell a lot about the different way these two seemingly similar, identically sized, rear-wheel drive coupes behave on the road.
Around town it’s a clear win to the GT for comfort, its new adaptive suspension proving delightful at absorbing hits large and small, with only a fraction of body movement betraying its sports car intentions. On the open road, switching from Comfort to firmer Sport+ mode reveals far tighter body control than the pre-facelift, fixed suspension managed (or didn’t manage as it were – it was loose…).
The 5.0L has low-down grunt, and high-rev energy, in spades. It sounds good, too, especially with the new adaptive exhaust set to Track mode – which you can do via a MyMode setting that allows mix-and-match selections of drivetrain and suspension aggression. It burbles and pops while the V8 growls and howls; exactly as it should be. And the manual shift is delightful, although we’re focusing less on that here given its rival is an auto.
Switch to the 2SS and you’ll immediately find it firm, or hard even depending on your mattress preferences. The steering is quick, but heavier even in the default Tour mode, and it just feels tighter and more serious, with a focus on drum-tight control and driver tactility.
The 6.2L doesn’t rev as hard, but with the eight-speed auto’s short gearing it leaps from the line and sounds great (and fast) spinning fervently to the 6500rpm redline. It does feel quicker, angrier, than its foe.
Frankly, it takes some serious cornering to separate them. And then the gulf emerges and the facts/figures enter the framework.
Open the bonnets of each and the Ford engine sits high and proud between but above the front axle line; the Chev’s unit relaxed further down and further back.
The Mustang’s body stretches 4789mm long, but it rides on a short 2720mm wheelbase; the Camaro is shorter at 4782mm long, yet its 2811mm wheelbase goes 91mm further. And let’s not forget the HSV-converted coupe is 60kg lighter.
So the Chev has less mass to play with in a chassis that contains it within and doesn’t leave it to front/rear overhang.
In isolation the facelifted Ford is quite good; much more impressive than the pre-facelift version, owing to that improved (optional) suspension, grippier tyres and also seemingly sharper steering.
It does, however, cling to its newfound grip, and the revised electronic stability control (ESC) reins in the Pony car quicker than before – ironically when there’s now greater control at play. The front-end can feel a bit blunt and nose heavy, yet there’s still very little feedback to the driver’s hands, while the rear-end doesn’t naturally segue into oversteer like the best rear-drivers do. It all feels a tad wooden.
Such traits are thrown into sharp relief by the Camaro. Its steering sizzles with feel, which encourages spirited progress on roads that became rough and wet – such surfaces that required caution in its rival. The heavy weighting becomes less of an issue at speed, and the tiller connects its driver to a sharper front end that makes good on its fabulously short front overhang.
Sometimes, the US coupe can buck and jitter over mid corner bumps that any recent locally made Holden/HSV would shrug off, but it doesn’t do that by enough to shift off line. Just steamroll through…
What the Chevy also can’t do, and that any VFII did, is naturally roll onto its back axle and encourage throttle-steer. As with the Mustang, the suspension wants all four corners to stay equally pinned, which means any breakaway point at the rear has to be really provoked. It may be fine for smooth racetracks – likewise the Competitive mode of ESC that allows it – but on a tight Aussie mountain pass you really need the rear to pivot naturally, and not forcefully, to shift weight off the front.
Neither do it quite well enough.
Otherwise, though, the 2SS’ auto is brilliant especially in Sport mode, though it does cop a rare loss for braking performance – its four-piston front Brembos are slightly too fade-prone compared with the six-piston Brembos on its rival.
Ah, but the GT also has a tiny 61-litre fuel tank combines poorly with official claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption of 13 litres per 100 kilometres. Conversely its rival’s 72-litre fuel tank combines well with combined-cycle fuel consumption of 11.5 litres per 100 kilometres (owing to four-cylinder deactivation when cruising).
On test the Ford upped that to 14L/100km for a miserly 400km range, while the Chevy managed 11L/100km for a 650km range. In more ways than one it was a clear win for the latter on the road.
So, Which One Wins And Why?
In some ways this test emphasises how losing the Australian car industry means we must reset expectations and rewind former standards. Only we struggle to…
The Mustang GT’s affordability, engine performance, infotainment nous, active safety tech and five-year (versus three-year) warranty makes it seemingly the obvious, clear choice.
The Camaro 2SS is $10K, but definitely not $20K, better than that rival. It’s the coupe with a proper, honed chassis to match the superb engine, it’s the driver’s choice both inside and on the road. But we’d love to see a bit more finesse to the finish, a fine-tune of the features list, and some HSV know-how in the suspension.
Our conclusion is to buy a near-new VFII Commodore, Holden or HSV, while you can. In the 1990s and early 2000s we all demanded that our formerly ordinary locals do better, and from the 2002 BA Falcon and 2006 VE Commodore they did just that – and we now must demand the same of our US imports, especially given how well they do here, and for HSV’s heritage.
Otherwise, for now, it’s Ford for value but the Chevy is better overall.