Which Pony car comes out on top, when the sun’s out?
– Detroit, Michigan
Mustang versus Camaro is a tale as old as time (that is, a carbureted, seatbelt-less, crossply-squealing time). But the combatants today – especially in convertible form – have evolved from cheap and cheerful Pony Cars, to powerfully advanced sporting machines.
As soon as we knew we’d be ordering The Most Expensive Mustang GT for our one-month test, we figured to grab a Camaro against which to measure it. Thankfully, Chevy was able to come through with a car that, while not an exact match for our nearly $60,000 Ford, was pretty close.
Both vehicles are convertibles, of course, both with powerful V8 engines, and each has an arm-length options list from which to choose. From a driving perspective the one big (huge) outlier can be found with transmission choice: the brand new ten-speed automatic in the Mustang vs. the tried and true six-speed manual in the Camaro. Since we couldn’t conjure up a Chevy with an automatic for the comparison timeframe, we’ve done our best to leave judgements based on changing gears out of the final equation.
Performance and Handling
Ford: The conversation about each of these vehicles really should start with the engines: fantastic iterations, both of the classic American V8. The 5.0-liter in the Mustang is a jewel: fast revving and wickedly powerful at 460 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. What’s more, the Coyote V8 is the better sounding of the two. The sport exhaust is just loud enough to wake up the neighbors, but without causing them to call the cops on you from bed, too.
Mustang drivers can put all the power down better than ever before, too. With the independently sprung rear suspension, the Ford feels less truck-like than its forbearers, though I would argue, it has perhaps lost a bit of the charm that helped build it into an icon, too. Still, with the optional magnetic dampers and varied ride modes, it’s a versatile thing that’s as satisfying blasting down a back road as cruising Main Street on Friday night.
Chevy: The Camaro SS has a massive 6.2-liter lump under the hood, which makes it feel a little bit more “American” than the Mustang’s engine. Sure, horsepower is down vs. the Ford at just 455, but torque comes in at 455 lb-ft and you can really feel it. The V8 is so grunty one can easily start out in second gear if you’re feeling a bit lazy, or cruise forever in fourth without obvious lugging. Our only complaint is that the SS could be a little louder, but it’s far from quiet, still.
Even in convertible form, the Camaro drives like an out and out sports car. The car is really easy to point and go on a back road, while still feeling very at home making elevens at stoplights with crushing straight-line acceleration. The Mustang has better visibility, which makes it easier to drive fast, but ultimately the Camaro is still the more rewarding machine in which to go hunting corners.
Styling and Interior
Ford: As a coupe, I’d give the style points to Mustang over Camaro any day of the week. But I don’t love the looks of this car, especially not in profile view. As a convertible, with the top down the Ford really flattens out, making it look a bit ungainly and weirdly proportioned, even on those nice big wheels.
Inside the cabin is neat, modern, and really easy to live with. There’s enough head and legroom for even tall drivers. And while the flat seats may be too relaxed for the Mustang coupe, the convertible can better get away with trading some bolstering for a little more long-drive comfort.
Chevy: The hips and curves and interesting lines of the Camaro’s body simply do the droptop form better, at least to my eyes. Top up or down, this is the shape I’d prefer to look at.
With that said, I personally don’t love the Hot Wheels styling of this special edition car. The hood stripes, flashy wheels, and badges just look a little kitsch. The good people of the City of Detroit disagree, though, if the many impromptu conversations I had in parking lots and at gas pumps are to be counted. A bright orange Camaro turns out to be a popular talking point.
Oh, and it’s worth noting that the Camaro Convertible is still on sale with the older front fascia. This might be your last chance to buy the current Camaro before
it gets ugly the updated model arrives.
Inside, and again this is personal, I just like the alcantara-clad steering wheel, neat porthole vents, and big glossy infotainment screen more than the more discrete Ford cabin.
Ford: When we shot the video portion of this comparison, Jake Holmes made the very good point that the Mustang’s soft top is much faster to stow than the Camaro’s. Totally fair. But beyond speediness, I’d argue the top is worse in most other ways. The powered top still has a mechanical release; there are two plastic covers used to hide the hinges when the top is down, and they live in the trunk and are fiddly to attach; and you can’t put the top up or down at all while the car is moving.
What’s more, with the Mustang’s higher seating position, I noticed wind spillover in the Ford more than I did in the Chevy, so highway driving is less enjoyable.
Chevy: Read the above, imagine the opposite, and you’ll understood why the Camaro stands out in convertible-ness (a point of measure I just invented). The fully powered top is slower to operate, but you can do it when slowly rolling up to or away from a stoplight, which is handy. When stowed, it’s neatly covered by a metal decklid, all neat and tidy. And, because you’re able to sit so low in the car, even someone as tall as me isn’t much bothered by the wind (and the stereo sounds better in the open air). Easy winner here.
Ford: Many convertibles are relegated to duty as weekend toys. While a car like the Mustang might fill that role, it is still a model that people daily drive, or at least drive frequently. If you’re thinking about either car for a high-use situation, the Ford stands out.
The higher, more upright seating position, and lower bodywork, give the Ford a huge advantage in traffic, especially highway congestion. It’s just so much easier to see the corners of the Mustang, so making use of the available power to shoot gaps in traffic is simple.
Another gigantic Mustang advantage is its (relatively) huge trunk. Even with the top down (which doesn’t steal space from the trunk) there’s room for groceries or golf clubs… pretty much anything you’d need day-to-day with the exception of new furniture.
And, while I promised not to talk too much about the transmissions, I must say that the 10AT helped the Mustang return far better fuel economy (low 20s with a lot of aggressive driving) than I could manage in the manual-trans Chevy. This transmission hunts gears quite a lot, and can be unpleasant in commuter traffic, but it’s using a lot less fuel in the process.
Chevy: Even with the top down, this car is hard as hell to see out of. Driving on a busy highway is nerve wracking; I probably triple checked my mirrors with every lane change, simply because the side and rear sightlines are such crap. The trunk is tiny with the top down, the rear seats are less usable (though Mustang’s are far from roomy), and the fuel econ (observed) is worse.
Ford: Stripped down to the most critical elements – convertible top, V8 engine – the Mustang starts at $44,690. That’s well below the impressive as-tested price of $58,760 of course. A version that we’d really like to drive, with the GT Performance Package and a few odds and ends, comes out to roughly fifty grand.
Chevy: Meanwhile, the Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible rang up at $54,885 as-tested, kind of a bargain despite (or because of) its manual transmission. A base 1SS car still gets the magnificent 6.2L V8, and goes for $43,995. But, at the end of the day, you’re still going to spend about $50k to get a car with all the performance enhancements and amenities you’d really want. So, while the Camaro technically can be had for less money, you’ll get less equipment (in most cases) in the bargain.
The Chevy Camaro SS Convertible and Ford Mustang GT Convertible are, there’s no doubt, fast, sexy, good-to-drive vehicles with not much white space between them. When push comes to shove, I give the nod to the Camaro, sure, but only just. Personal taste is what will ultimately help you pick your own winner, or blind brand loyalty, and both cars are absolutely worth the cost of admission.
Winner: Chevy Camaro SS Convertible
|2018 Ford Mustang GT Premium Convertible||2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Convertible|
|ENGINE||5.0L V8||6.2L V8|
|OUTPUT||460 Horsepower / 420 Pound-Feet||455 Horsepower / 455 Pound-Feet|
|TRANSMISSION||10-Speed Automatic||6-Speed Manual|
|0-60 MPH||4.1 Seconds (est)||4.0 Seconds (est)|
|TOP SPEED||155 MPH (electronically limited)||155 MPH (electronically limited)|
|EPA FUEL ECONOMY||15 City / 24 Highway / 18 Combined||16 City / 25 Highway / 19 Combined|
|WEIGHT||3,852 Pounds||3,932 Pounds|
|CARGO VOLUME||11.4 Cubic-Feet||7.3 Cubic-Feet|
Photo Credit: James Bradbury / Motor1.com