With many businesses closed due to national health issues, finding some entertainment away from home can be scarce, but this isn’t the case for anyone behind the wheel of two American brand muscle cars.
The experience they provide is good old-fashioned fun, starting with the Chevy Camaro SS. Under the hood is a potent 6.2-liter V8 cranking a healthy 455 horsepower. The standard transmission is a six-speed manual, but this had the optional 10-speed automatic. Chevy claims a 0-60 mph time of 4.2 seconds if the electronic launch control program is used, but my unit was disconnected. Still, a 4.5-second time is quick enough. And the attention-getting sound from that loud exhaust is a pleasure to listen to at any speed. Real world fuel economy was 17/25 mpg.
The base Camaro starts about $25K, and that provides a turbo-charged four-cylinder engine. The V8 SS begins at $37K. This was an upgraded version with a start tab of $42K. With options like 10-speed gearbox, magnetic ride suspension, dual sound exhaust (a must!) and custom trim, the total damage was $47,475.
The price tag is soon forgotten once you hit the road. Yes, this cabin is cramped, the materials inside are cheap, the noise is loud, luggage space is scarce and visibility is horrible. Some have described it like driving a coffin on wheels. But after a week you adjust and don’t want to get out. Going on a 100-mile trip? Let’s take the long way around, and make it 200. This is especially true if taking mountain roads with plenty of tight corners — this car can zip around with ease. No, it’s not very practical, but great fun!
For something with similar performance but slightly more practical, the Mustang GT is just right. For daily commuting, this Ford has better visibility and is quieter on the road. The suspension seems smoother too. But with a 460-horsepower V8 hooked to a six-speed manual or 10-speed automatic gearbox, it burns rubber just as quick. With an optional exhaust system, it makes as much noise at full throttle. Real world fuel economy was 18/25 mpg.
The GT has a switch to adjust steering effort: Comfort, Normal and Sport. The computer offers Sport, Sport+, Track, Drag Strip, Snow and Normal. It also has the ability to record the best quarter mile and 0-60 mph times. Launch control is there but was disconnected on this car. To control exhaust noise, this optional system has a setting for Normal, Sport, Track and Quiet so you don’t wake up the neighbors at 5 in the morning.
Choosing between the Camaro or Mustang is not an easy pick. The Ford is more practical in daily driving and certainly more comfortable. But there is something addicting about the sound of an old-fashioned Chevy small block V8. I am just glad to have driven both!
Chad Haire, of Phoenix, test-drives vehicles for this feature.