I always relish the opportunity to test different iterations and trim levels of the same model, perhaps because it helps me determine whether the inherent goodness (or badness) of a given car is innate, or limited to a specific loaded-up example. In the case of the Dodge Challenger, my experience with the model line had thus far been limited to the full-fat SRT8 392 model with 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. I thoroughly enjoyed that car, loaded as it was to a near $50k price tag, but would its core values be retained in the 95-horsepower-tamer R/T Coupe? Only one way to find out.
Tag - Camaro
Nissan’s been making waves within the automotive press lately with two announcements – first, that it’s developing a sports car to go head-to-head with the likes of the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S, and second, that it’s slashing the sticker prices of 2014 370Z Coupes by up to $3 grand versus last year. The two statements seem to go hand in hand, considering the current 370Z’s been around since 2008 more or less unchanged. Dropping the price on the hardtop, which has seen some key new competitors come into the marketplace since then, will incentivize those buyers on the fence to make the move now. What remains to be seen is what, if any, effect that new sports car will have on the next Z car, or if perhaps a change in mission in fact means the next Z is that new BRZ/FR-S competitor.
Readers of this site with particularly strong memories will recall that I have a bit of a history with the latest generation of Mustang GT. I drove a few of the 5.0-liter cars when they came out back in 2011, and I liked them so much that I shelled out my own money for one – a Yellow Blaze GT Premium coupe with a 6-speed manual and the Brembo package; no other options. The test car on this page was more or less equipped similarly to mine, save for two crucial factors – its convertible top and a 6-speed automatic. Having never sampled a newer GT configured with either of those options, I was eager to grab the keys to one for a week.
Resto-modders, listen up: stop tearing apart perfectly salvageable classic muscle cars, fitting them with wide wheels and tubbed fenders, and instead go straight to your nearest Dodge dealer. There, you’ll find the Challenger SRT8 392, a classic 70s muscle car disguised as a brand new, modern five-seat coupe with a warranty. The Challenger looks as tough as those resto-modded vintage rides, hunkered down the way it is on its 20” 5-spoke wheels, a deep chin spoiler splitting the flies up front and a pair of over-the-roof vinyl stripes the only decoration on what is otherwise a totally throwback body.
The man before us in this crowded Los Angeles garage, Mustang head honcho Dave Pericak, is about to burst. He knows what the press is about to learn: that there are two muscular rabbits in his hat, and he’s going to pull them out with an absolute maximum of hyperactive enthusiasm. We all know the numbers: 305 horsepower for a revitalized V-6 and 412 ponies in the five-liter. 31 miles per gallon for the automatic six, 26 mpg for the stick-shift V-8.
What we don’t know, or perhaps haven’t considered, is the significance — the context — of these numbers. There’s a Honda Accord sulking outside this garage. Why? It seems Mr. Pericak wishes to make a particular point. Honda is synonymous with fuel efficiency in the minds of the American public, but the Accord V-6 coupe is rated at just 28mpg. As an automatic. As a stick-shift, it gets 25. Take a moment to think about that. A front-wheel-drive Honda coupe can’t match the mileage of a rear-wheel-drive ponycar. The antiquated, low-tech, “oxcart-axle” Mustang may be faster and more powerful than the Accord, but we all expected that. Did we expect that it would be more fuel-efficient as well?
By the time the relatively rapid press briefing is over, we all understand what’s happened here. While Chevrolet was aiming its Camaro at the Mustang, Ford was aiming elsewhere. The V-6 Mustang is a two-fisted blow to the throat of competitors as diverse as the aforementioned Accord and the Hyundai Genesis Coupe. The five-liter takes the core values of that revamped car and adds enough pace to walk away from some very rapid automobiles. And both cars are priced to cause heartburn everywhere from the RenCen to Ingolstadt.
Enough numbers. Let’s drive.
For many ponycar fans, the most compelling variant of Chevrolet’s reanimated Camaro isn’t the big-money, nose-heavy SS model. The lighter, more efficient “high-feature” V-6 base car has captured a lot of hearts and minds since being released earlier this year, and although Ford’s revised 2010 Mustang meets or beats the Chevy in many areas, it was severely hampered by its thrashy, understrength four-liter V-6. With this morning’s announcement of a Duratec-powered V-6 2011 Mustang and a track-oriented Performance Package to match, Ford has made it plain that they intend to match the Camaro pony for pony — a stance that we can only hope they back up further with a new high-performance “Coyote” V-8 announcement in weeks to come.
The new 2011 Mustang has 305 horsepower from a thoroughly revised 3.7L Duratec V-6, allowing it to challenge competitors as diverse as the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Infiniti G37, and the aforementioned “Jodie Foster Special” Camaro. More details, including specs on the long-awaited V-6 Performance Package, after the jump.