Here we are, some forty years after the [arguable] Golden Age of Musclecars has ended, comparing contemporary examples of the Big Three pony cars that are bigger and badder than ever before.
The Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang but heads yet again in this recent comparison by our friends over at Automobile Magazine. More specifically, it’s a Z/28, Hellcat, and a GT with the optional Performance Pack facing off on the backroads of New York and the circuit of Gingerman Raceway.
Camaro Z/28 (1:41:80)
While it’s hard not to be a little bit biased based on the demographics of this publication, as well as your author having spent seat time in a Z/28, we will say GM EFI has a soft spot for it. Not because of it high-revving 427ci. LS7 small-block with a usable 505 hp, or its amazing DSSV suspension, or its Brembo carbon ceramic brakes, but because it made everybody look at Camaro in a whole new light – and at a much higher regard. It was, and is, a game changer. The Z/28 is the ultimate track car; sacrificing daily-driver comfort, albeit legally, for precise and instrumental cornering ability.
Challenger SRT Hellcat (1:45:80)
The Hellcat? That thing is basically a cartoon character on speed. It’s all about sheer power, instant tire smoke, the highest horsepower factory-produced V8 ever (SC’d 6.2L HEMI; 707 hp). Oh, and the ability to make you giggle like a five year old. We’re OK with that, but don’t plan on actually winning anything based on precision or efficiency. Besides, that’s not really new for the late-model Challenger, though, is it? Since its inception in 2008, it was always under-braked and the suspension was too soft and wallowy – no matter which trim level you ordered. Even with its now ancient Mercedes E-class based platform, there’s only so much Germany can do to keep the Duke Boys planted in the corners while running from Boss Hogg.
Mustang GT Performance Pack (1:44:80)
The Mustang GT Performance Pack, which was infamously outclassed on the road course by the 1LE recently, is what Automobile claim is the perfect all-rounder of the three. Starting from a fresh sheet of paper, mostly, the 2015 ‘Stang is designed to not only appeal to Steve McQueen wannabes, but to our relatives across the pond, too. Yup, Ford’s pony is going global in style and refinement, and the Dearborn team isn’t ashamed to admit it. A bit more power is online for the 2015 version of the 5-liter DOHC Coyote (435 hp), independent rear suspension makes an 11-year hiatus that was last seen in the 2004 SVT “Terminator” Cobra, and a mag-ride equipped 5.2L-version known as the GT350 is just around the corner, too.
Truth is, each one is just a little bit different from one another in a sense that it’s not really comparing apples to apples, but more like comparing apples to oranges to bananas. It basically all comes down to preference rather than which one is the better car out of the three.
In your authors opinion, the Mustang is too politically correct nowadays to be a contender. Great car, sure, but it’s not too far off from the Mustang your secretary would drive. If you’re a Ford guy, we say wait a year or two to see what Ford has planned for this generation. Then decide.
The Dodge is always trying to kill you or get you arrested. Or both. Fast? Yes. Will you win races? Only if you’re traveling in a straight line. With M3s and AMG-tuned M-Bs seemingly everywhere these days, our musclecar of choice will need to be able to handle, brake and go quickly in a straight line – despite how tempting that blown HEMI is.
Then there’s the Z/28. The fabled road racer reborn, and the badge of badassery risen from the ashes not seen since 2002. Yes, it’s 75-stacks for a Camaro. Yes, it’s based on the outgoing 5th-generation car. But the looks you’ll get from the faces of guys who own Lambos and Ferraris (costing some 3-4 times as much as the Z/28) as you sail past them on a road course? Priceless.
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of GMEFI Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.