With new coupes hitting the market from Ford, Dodge and Chevy over the next year or so, customers looking for a new American sports car have a lot of options. Is the Ford Mustang sporty enough to get their attention, or will the new Dodge Challenger be the best option? What about the new Camaro?
Ford, Dodge and Chevy are taking different avenues when it comes to their famous muscle cars, and each one is slightly different. When looking at these three models and trying to choose the right one, a buyer really needs to decide the following: Do you want a stud on the track, or a daily driver with a lot of kick?
Here's how each car matches up, at least based on what we know now.
2015 Ford Mustang – Performance with Fuel Economy
For 50 years, the pony car has been through lots of changes, however, this new round of changes could be the most extreme. With a focus on fuel economy and competing in global markets, the new Mustang has a different focus and audience. Will it still compete with the Camaro and Challenger? That remains to be seen.
One of the big changes for the new Ford Mustang is the design. With a focus on competing with BMW and Audi offerings in Europe and Asia, the styling has been significantly altered. The 2015's models front and rear has been smoothed out, and it's a much "cleaner," more streamlined style than previous models. This new "global" Mustang is a beauty to be sure, but it's global focus may have cost the design some edginess. It's still a Mustang, but it's not the same Mustang you have seen for decades.
Is A More Sophisticated Mustang A Good Thing?
In addition to the more streamlined styling, the Mustang new features a lower and wider stance. Ford has kept the Mustang's "shark-bite" front fascia and grille, and it has other design cues that are uniquely associated with the Mustang. Overall, the combination of streamlining, widening, and lowering gives the new Mustang a more conventional look.
On the driving side, Ford has made several changes to make the new Mustang more nimble and responsive. One of the largest changes is the introduction of an independent rear suspension. For years, the pony car used a solid rear axle, a fan of drag racing enthusiasts for decades. The trouble is, solid axles are heavy (which reduces fuel economy), and they tend to skip around on bumps (especially while cornering). With the goal of attracting more global customers, Ford replaced the Mustang's solid axle with a new H-arm independent setup that provides better handling, steering and ride comfort. Of course, this loss of a solid axle makes the new Stang' less of a racer.
Powering the Mustang is a new assortment of engines including a 2.3L 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine. While you can still buy a Mustang 5.0L V8 (with 420 horsepower and 390 lb. ft. of torque), the new Mustang's tiny EcoBoost 4-cylinder speaks volumes. This is the new Mustang, a car that trades some braun for some sophistication.
Of course, the small EcoBoost engine isn't a weakling. It's expected to provide excellent fuel economy along with considerable power (300hp, give or take), and it will be very popular int the global markets Ford is targeting. US customers who want decent fuel economy and performance without paying for an EcoBoost 4-cylinder (which will cost more) can opt for 300 HP and 270 lb. ft. of torque V6. All engines are offered with both an updated manual transmission or an automatic with paddle shifters.
Overall, the Mustang has changed from a built-for-the-strip racer to a sophisticated global coupe. If you're looking for a car that offers considerable performance, a comfortable feel in all road conditions, and excellent fuel economy, the 2015 Mustang is probably your best option. If you're looking for more power, however, there are other options to consider.
2014 Chevy Camaro – All New Model Coming?
For decades, the Chevy Camaro has been the pack leader in the segment. The Chevy Camaro has some new changes for 2015/16, if rumors are to be believed. These changes will be revealed at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. Before we get to the 2015/16 rumors, here is how the 2014 Chevy Camaro stacks up.
Like Ford, Chevy decided to design their muscle car with a sleeker, faster appearance. It is much smoother looking and has a new front and rear fascias complementing the look. While the various packages change some of the looks, all Camaro's share a new serious looking front-end. In the rear, an aggressive fascia showcases the vehicle's exhaust pipes and one-piece LED taillights.
Depending on the package you purchase, a new Camaro interior while have Recaro front seats (SS coupe) or heated, leather-trimmed seats in the 2LT and 2SS trim packages. The base model has adjustable seats with power recline, and while the interior isn't as comfortable as those from Ford or Dodge, it's not bad.
Chevy's Power Options Lead The Pack
For power, the Chevy Camaro offers a variety of engines:
- A standard 3.6L V6 in the base model that puts out 323 HP with 278 ft. lbs of torque
- A 6.2L V8 available in SS models that produces 420 HP and 426 ft. lbs of torque
- A supercharged 6.2L for the ZL1 that produces a whopping 580 HP and 556 ft. lbs of torque
The Camaro does fall short in a few areas, or course. First, it's harder for shorter drivers to fit into the new Camaro without getting awfully close to the steering wheel. What's more, visibility is generally poor – it's hard to see what's beside or behind you. Lastly, handling and ride aren't necessarily big selling points. While they're not bad, the Camaro is choppy on bumpy roads and doesn't handle as crisply or predictably as smaller, lighter cars. Finally, the Camaro's pricing is notably higher than the Mustang or Challenger (only the new Mustang may get a lot closer to the Camaro's price levels).
While the stock 2014 Camaro (Z/28 excluded) is arguably not as exciting as either the 2015 Ford Mustang or the 2015 Dodge Challenger, rumors of the 2015/16 model are sparking lots of conversation. Most outlets claim the new Camaro will be completely redesigned and re-engineered with the aim of being smaller and lighter. The goal is to create a vehicle with better visibility, driving experience, performance and fuel economy. There are rumors that GM will need to develop an entirely new platform to incorporate these changes. It also seems likely the interior will become more modern with lots of improvements in technology offerings.
Overall, we can expect the new Chevy Camaro to follow the same trend that the Mustang seems to be leading: The new Camaro will probably be lighter, more nimble, and offer better fuel economy. But for now, the 2014 Camaro offers solid power when you opt for the SS model (MSRP of $35k, depending on options), and incredible performance when you step up to the $55k ZL1 package.
2015 Dodge Challenger – A Classic, Modern Muscle Feel
With all the talk about fuel economy and making the new Stang and Camaro smaller and more nimble, it's refreshing to see that the 2015 Dodge Challenger is true to its' heritage. While not as supple or "sophisticated" as Ford's new Mustang, the new Challenger offers bruising power at a price a few thousand dollars lower than the ZL1 Camaro.
Relying on 100 years of muscle car performance, Dodge created the new Challenger to follow in the footsteps of its renowned muscle cars. From the exterior, to the interior and the performance, there is no mistaking the Dodge Challenger. Critics and most fans agree that the Challenger is one the best looking domestic coupes – if not the best looking domestic coupe - in years.
The Challenger's Styling Is Hard To Beat
The exterior of the 2015 Dodge Challenger continues the design heritage of previous generations. Like Ford and Chevy, it is sleeker and more contemporary than previous models, yet it hasn't lost its flavor. Dodge reached back into its history to bring back the split grille with a more pronounced and functional hood. It also has LED halo headlamps and LED tail lamps that are reminiscent of older Challengers. Officially, Dodge says the design, both exterior and interior, is based on the 1971 muscle car.
On the inside, the 1971 inspiration is carried into a high center console and instrument panel. Sitting in the new Challenger, it feels like an old friend. Dodge has also added a 7-inch screen between the dials to improve the driver experience and added keyless entry with push-button start. For the driver, it is easier and faster to get the Challenger moving fast, very fast. The interior quality and Challenger parts they used are much improved as well.
Plus, the Challenger is a better family car than the others due to a real backseat. While most people don't buy a sports coupe to haul the kids, the fact is that cars with four comfortable seats are more usable than cars with 2 comfortable seats and 2 impossibly cramped seats.
Under the hood, the return of the "Scat Pack" package is the big news. Adding the Scat Pack to a 6.4L HEMI SRT8 raises output to 485 HP and 475 lb. ft. of torque, as well as a nifty shaker hood modification and a new exhaust. In a word, the Scat Pack is "cool." No one is going to mistake this package, not with the slew of appearance changes like Bumble Bee rear stripe, Gloss Black grille and Scat Pack logos.
The base Challenger will feature a 3.6L V6 Pentastar engine with 305 HP and 268 lb. ft. of torque mated to the advanced TorqueFlite eight-speed transmission. This is one of Dodge's newer powertrains, and Dodge is optimistic that this setup can offer 30mpg highway performance. There's also a 5.7L HEMI available in the R/T package, with a very respectable 375 HP and 410 lb-ft of torque.
Overall, the Challenger isn't fancy. It doesn't feature a fancy turbocharged 4-cylinder, nor was it designed for Europe. Yet the Challenger looks great, is comfortable for up to 4 passengers, and it's very affordable (relatively speaking). An SRT8 Challenger has an MSRP starting at $46k, yet it produces nearly as much power as a $55k ZL1 Camaro. As for the 2015 Mustang, it's unlikely we'll see a powertrain in a Mustang that's directly comparable to the ZL1 Camaro or the SRT8 Challenger.
Summing up, you have three options:
- If you want a sophisticated sports coupe with a European feel – and you're OK with sacrificing some power to get it – then the Mustang is your Pony.
- If you want the most horsepower and torque, and aren't too concerned about spending a few thousand extra to get it, the Camaro is the way to go.
- If you want traditional American muscle car styling and tire-melting performance, while maintaining some kind of budget, the SRT8 or R/T Challenger are the way to go.