The Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger. Three legendary names that have been back in the automotive fold for quite some time now. They’re all classified as muscle / pony cars, but at days end they couldn’t be more different from each other. The real question though is, which one is right for you. Before we answer this you need to put aside your bias for your favorite brand and ask yourself one simple question – What am I going to use it for? At first the answer may seem simple, but I assure you, the more you think about the question, the more difficult your final decision will be.
PRO’s: The best performer from a handling/track perspective, great looks and bulletproof drive-train.
CON’s: Awful visibility, cramped for taller drivers, rear seats are all but useless.
FINAL THOUGHT: If you’re looking for a vehicle that’s more sports car, than muscle car, then this is the one. When equipped properly it’s a weapon on the track, but only ranks a 6 out 10 for overall street duty.
Let’s start with the Chevrolet Camaro. With the most dramatic styling of the bunch, the Camaro has looks that you either love or hate. Personally, I think it’s a great looking car that unfortunately suffers at the hands of its styling. For instance, outward visibility is terrible, a chopped roof line, small side-view mirrors and high rear fender arches make it difficult to see out of. Rear seating room is all but non-existent, unless of course you have no legs, and if you’re over 6’2″, you’re going to have a real tough time getting comfortable due to a lack of headroom. The Camaro’s styling also caters to a younger audience. If you’re between the ages of 22-35 for example, then the Camaro is fine, however I don’t see it as being a very professional looking automobile with its boy-racer undertones.
From a driving perspective the Camaro is definitely the sportiest of the bunch. It sits low with a wide stance, has independent rear suspension for more sure footed handling, and is the most performance oriented depending on the model. If you track cars like I do, then the Camaro SS with the 1LE track package is the best of the bunch. You get the best suspension, the widest rubber and gearing that is simply better suited to the racetrack than that of the Mustang or Challenger.
PRO’s: Best looking of the bunch, wonderful open road GT car, plenty of power and cargo space and a 100% usable rear seat.
CON’s: Weight and size hampers performance, high price tag, SRT8 is leaps and bounds above other models.
FINAL THOUGHT: A great looking open road car that provides all day comfort and styling. However if you encounter a Mustang or Camaro in the turns, let them go.
The Dodge Challenger is up next and honestly, it’s my favorite of the bunch (even though I own a Mustang). The Challenger, especially in SRT8 form is one of the best open road GT cars period. Is that a big statement? Yes it is. The Challenger is a big heavy car that rides on a much longer wheelbase than the Mustang or Camaro. It’s got the best outward visibility, the most comfortable and usable interior, and even though it may not be the quickest of the bunch, it’s got more than enough power for any situation. On long road trips it simply dominates the other two in ride quality, interior refinement and cargo room.
However, even though fast, that big wheelbase, chub-chub weight and relatively skinny tire size make the Chally fall short in the handling department. Are the brakes good – absolutely, and as a daily driver, this is the one I’d have in my garage. However as mentioned, I own a Mustang, but then again I don’t drive it daily.
PRO’s: A lot of car for not a lot of money, great engine, looks and a decent performer out of the box.
CON’s: Solid axle hinders performance potential, cheapish interior
FINAL THOUGHT: This is a bang-for-the-buck, Jack-of-all-trades pony car. It does everything well, but doesn’t shine in any one area. However if you don’t want to spend big money and don’t mind modifying, then this is the one for you.
The Mustang is the last of the real muscle cars as it still retains a solid-live-axle. It’s cheap, does everything well and is highly modifiable. Remember in the beginning when I said you’ve got to ask yourself the question, what are you going to use it for? Well, here’s my reasoning.
As someone who does a fair amount of track days per year, I needed an inexpensive car with big power, decent out of the box handling, and a usable interior. The cars got great outward visibility, big power, adult looks, a decent interior and the best aftermarket support in the industry. Now granted the mileage on the Mustang is terrible and the quality of interior materials could be better, HOWEVER for my purposes, this car fit the bill.
Truth be told, there isn’t a bad car in the bunch and regardless of what the forums and manufacturers say, these are all very good automobiles. However before you purchase, take a look at your lifestyle. Be realistic and honest with yourself and then and only then, will you be in the right mindset to make a purchase.