Consumer Reports Face-off: Mustang Vs. Camaro
Last year, in its face-off of modern pony cars, Consumer Reports tested V8 versions of the freshened Ford Mustang and the reissued Chevrolet Camaro. Despite being an older design, the Mustang outscored the Camaro with a combination of strong acceleration and agile handling.
But what happens when you opt for the V6 engine in those cars? You would expect better fuel economy, but would the lower performance dilute the fun factor?
The answer is “no” for the Mustang but “yes” for the Camaro, according to CR. The Ford’s new V6 engine is not only more refined than the Camaro’s, it delivered stronger acceleration and better fuel economy. The Mustang, which has a new gearbox and different steering for 2011, is the more agile and enjoyable car to drive of the two.
The Camaro provides decent acceleration, but it’s not as readily available. The car rides well enough but it’s almost 300 pounds heavier than the Mustang. Handling is considerably less agile, and the powertrain is rather lackluster. As CR found in the V8 Camaro, the snug cabin has a closed- in feel and limited visibility.
Both cars have softer, more compliant suspension tuning than their V8 versions. That might not appeal to performance-oriented drivers, but it makes the cars more comfortable to drive on a day-to-day basis.
The V6 models are priced about $8,000 less than the V8s that were tested; the Mustang Premium retails at $28,680 and the Camaro 2LT at $28,195.
Only the Ford is recommended. The Mustang has an excellent reliability record with the old V6; CR expects this one to be similar. The Camaro is too new to have reliability data.
RIDE, HANDLING AND DRIVETRAIN
At first glance, the V6 engines in CR’s test cars seem very similar. The Mustang has a 305-hp, 3.7-liter V6 engine, and the Camaro is powered by a 304-hp, 3.6-liter V6 unit (the 2011 model has 312 hp). Both are quick, but the Mustang provides stronger acceleration and a smoother, more refined sound as well as a sharper throttle response at low to mid revs. Its 24 mpg overall is also notably better than the Camaro’s 21 mpg. CR opted for a six-speed manual transmission in its test cars, though you can get both cars with a six-speed automatic. The Mustang has a crisper, more precise shifter.
The Ford corners well, with good steering and little body lean. In contrast, the Camaro feels relatively ungainly, with slower steering response and more lean. The Mustang felt more controlled and balanced at the track, but some steering feedback was lost compared with recent pre-2011 versions. Its 55 mph speed through the avoidance maneuver topped the Camaro’s by 2 mph. Both cars have standard electronic stability control.
Each car has a taut ride that is firm but not uncomfortable. Their suspensions absorb bumps well, but there is a bit more jiggle in the Mustang. Although both cars are generally quiet during highway driving, testers did experience some wind noise. They noticed more road noise in the Camaro.
INSIDE THE CABIN
The interiors are a mix of higher-quality, soft-touch materials and some hard plastics and poor panel fits in spots. Both have well finished leather seats, but the Camaro’s thick-rimmed, leather-covered steering wheel is nicer.
Front leg and head room are ample in both, but it’s best to avoid the Camaro’s optional sunroof, which steals head room. The Camaro has a tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, but shorter drivers found it a stretch to the clutch pedal. The Mustang has a tilt-only wheel, but most drivers found a comfortable driving position.
Neither car has a particularly large trunk, and the openings are small. But folding the rear seatbacks can expand them. The Mustang’s seatbacks are split 50/50 and have releases at the outer edges. The Camaro’s less-versatile one-piece seatback has a release at the top center, which makes it hard to reach.