Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chevy vs. Ford: Mustang GT500 will go head-to-head with the Camaro ZL1.

580 hp ZL1. Photo courtesy of Chevrolet.
650 hp GT500. Photo courtesy of Ford.

Chevrolet Camaro versus Ford Mustang.  The battle between the two cars has gone on ever since the first '67 Camaro rolled off the dealership lots.  Countless grudge races at the dragstrip, race track and on the streets has never ended the debate of which is better, and both the Mustang and Camaro have their die-hard fans. 

Chevrelot took a hiatus from clashing with the Mustang after the 2002 model year, but returned with a vengeance in 2010.  The new Camaro sported a 426 horsepower V8, providing Mustang GT owners a great view of the Chevy's tail lights.  Ford returned fire with the new Coyote 5 liter V8 with 412 ponies, and with a power-to-weight ratio besting the Camaro, the tables were turned. 

The recent press releases of the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and Ford Mustang GT500 will give both camps new ammunition for their arguments of pony car supremacy.  Both vehicles will feature supercharged V8 engines making more horsepower than even some recent supercars such as the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera and Ferrari 458.  Both cars will be priced around $60,000, and both have a top speed in excess of the 155 mph limit of their lower priced counterparts.  Since both cars are very close in terms of price and engine setup, we will take a look at the features each car will be bringing to the table.
The supercharged ZL1 has a very wide and low stance.  Photo courtesy Chevrolet.
To start, the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is currently on sale.  The MSRP is approximately $55,000 for a base model ZL1.  The ZL1 has a 6.2 liter engine mated to an Eaton 4 lobe supercharger (the GT500 uses a similar type of blower).  Packing 580 horsepower and 556 lb-ft. of torque, the monster Camaro also a weighs a not so insignificant 4120 lbs.  The good news is that the weight is distributed well, with the Camaro having 51 percent of its mass up front and 49 percent in the rear.
A rear decklid spoiler finishes the rear of the ZL1.  Photo courtesy of Chevrolet.
The ZL1 has a top speed of 180 mph.  Photo courtesy of Chevrolet.

The suspension features Chevrolet's Magnetic Ride Control and a traction control system also found in the Corvette ZR1.  According to Chevrolet, the suspension is capable of adjusting the damping at a rate of up to 1,000 times per second and has 3 driving modes:  Tour, Sport and Track.  The rear suspension is an independent rear, making the ZL1 look like it might have an easier time in bumpy roads over the GT500.  Handling the shifting duties will be either a Tremec TR-6060 manual transmission, or an automatic with manual shifting abilities.  The Tremec manual transmission has 30% more torque capacity than the standard SS Camaro.  Cars with the manual transmission will also have a launch control feature.
Red stitching and a unique steering wheel garnish the interior.  Photo courtesy of Chevrolet.

Brembo brakes hide behind 20" wheels.  Photo courtesy of Chevrolet.

To show drivers that the ZL1 will be more than a one trick pony, the fuel system has been modified to allow adequate fuel supply in corners even with a low fuel level.  The fuel system has an increased number of pickup points in the primary side, and the secondary fuel pickup point is moved towards the outside to ensure fuel supply is constant in a high g-force corner.
The ZL1 has a vented to help combat against excess heat.  Photo courtesy of Chevrolet.

Along with the beefed up drivetrain, the ZL1 will have additional external fluid coolers to keep temperatures in check.  Rather than use the popular liquid-air oil coolers found on most vehicles, a liquid-liquid engine oil cooler is used for the Camaro.  This setup has been proven to work on the Corvette ZR1, so it should be able to handle the stress the ZL1 makes.  The rear differential will be cooled by a traditional liquid-air cooler, and both coolers are standard features on the Chevy regardless of transmission choice.  GM has a lot of faith in their product, as it reflected in the Camaro retaining the company's 5 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

Front splitter and vented hood are part of the GT500's differences over a Mustang GT.  Photo courtesy of Ford.
Ford's GT500 is set to debut as a 2013 model this spring, and it's obvious the team from the Blue Oval did not want to be outdone by GM.  The GT500 is powered by a 5.8 liter supercharged engine producing 650 horsepower and a massive 600 lb-ft. of torque.  The GT500 undercuts the Camaro's weight by nearly 300 pounds, weighing in at 3850 lbs.  No official word yet on the weight distribution of the vehicle, but we believe it will be better than the current 2012 model's 56/44.  The GT500 also avoids a gas guzzler tax, with a 3.31 ratio for the rear differential, down from the 3.55 of the 2012 GT500.
19" wheels up front and 20" rear wheels.  Photo courtesy of Ford.

Quad exhaust tips and a rear diffuser finish the rear.  Photo courtesy of Ford.

Like the ZL1, the Mustang GT500 features plenty of upgrades to its drivetrain over its naturally aspirated version.  The transmission is the same Tremec 6060 like the ZL1, featuring twin clutch plates.  The Ford also has a carbon fiber driveshaft linking the transmission to the rear-end.  Unlike the ZL1, there is no automatic transmission option for the GT500.  The suspension is a live-axle rear end, and that may prove tricky to put the power down in an off camber turn.  There are driver aids such as traction and stability control to help drivers keep the 650 horsepower car in check.
Recaro bucket seats hold the front passengers well.  Photo courtesy of Ford.
2013 Ford GT500.  Photo courtesy of Ford.
 The GT500 will have 2 optional packages, one is the performance package, giving the Mustang a Torsen limited slip differential and adjustable dampers.  The other package is the track package which upgrades the GT500 with an engine oil cooler, transmission and rear differential cooler.  Standard cooling aids are a vented hood, a charge air intercooler with a 36% increase in volume, larger radiator fan, and a fan shroud featuring high speed relief doors.  All the extra cooling capacity will be needed since the 2013 GT500 is projected to have a top speed of at least 200 mph.  This puts the Mustang in league with some rare company.  Most cars with that kind of maximum velocity cost well over $90,000. 

So which car is better?  That question will undoubtedly be asked by many people.  Fans of each will make claims in favor of one over the other, and there will be plenty of one dimensional videos posted showing the cars doing acceleration runs side-by-side, mostly from a rolling start.  For some, they may only deem a car's worth from straight line speed, but we would want to take it further and see how the cars perform under braking, turning, and accelerating.  We would love to see these two super pony cars battle at several tracks to determine a winner.  Maybe a best 3 out of 5.  The 5 tracks we have in mind are:

1)  The Streets of Willow on the Horse Thief Mile setup to see how the cars handle on a tight course with many undulations and no long straights to make up for any deficits in cornering prowess.  

2)  Laguna Seca since it has a great mix of low to medium speed corners and the famous Corkscrew turn 8 to test the cars' ability to negotiate the track while experiencing a quick drop in elevation.  

3)  Road Atlanta for its high speed sweepers and generous straights to allow the cars to stretch their legs. 

4)  Virginia International Raceway's Grand West configuration which has both high speed and technical low speed turns.

5)  Infineon Raceway due to its great mix of off camber turns and a tricky corner number 10, which appears after a series of undulating esses. 

We would like to ask you, what's your favorite to win?  The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, or the Ford Mustang GT500?  Is there another track you would also want to race them at, and why?  Or maybe you have another method to test the vehicles against each other? 

Happy motoring and keep on driving!

Note:  Sources for vehicle information from Chevrolet and Ford.

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