The Camaro and Mustang have been arch enemies going on 50 years. In all those decades and countless stoplight races that have passed, there’s still one thing missing: A heads-up contest involving a pair of 4-cylinder engines with turbochargers.
Yes, Ford did build a limited number of SVO (Special Vehicle Operation) turbo 4-banger Mustangs from ’84 to ‘86. And it’s a long forgotten truth that early in the third-gen Camaro production, the 2.5 liter “Iron Duke” 4-cylinder engine was an option, though it was not turbocharged.
The time is now, as both pony cars offer powerful and efficient engines for an intriguing match-up. The Camaro LT comes standard with the Ecotec 2.0 liter Turbo, good for 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The Mustang counters with its EcoBoost 2.3 liter GTDI Inline-4 Turbo and makes 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. With 35 more horsepower and 25 more lb-ft of torque, Ford has Chevy’s number here. That is, unless the General is purposely underrating their engine, a practice it has been known to do in the past.
Going strictly by engine displacement, the Camaro’s Ecotec has only 122 cubic inches versus the Mustang’s EcoBoost of 137.5 cubic inches. It’s a stretch to use the old adage “there’s no replacement for displacement,” as both Inline-fours are the epitome of maximizing power from a smaller bore-and-stroke combination. Still, a difference of 15.5 cubic inches is nothing to sneeze at.
More important is curb weight, which is historically where the Mustang has been the lighter model, leading to a better handling car. The tides have turned with the Mustang now the heavyweight and the Camaro the starving up-and-coming fighter. Chevrolet reports that the sixth-gen Camaro has shed 368 pounds from the fifth-gen model. While most of that “fat” would normally be felt in the SS (Super Sport) V8 iteration, it is an important distinction as to where GM put their focus on in the F-body redesign.
Given this, power-to-weight ratio is a useful tool in bench-racing. Doing the math, the results are promising. The Mustang at 3,532 lbs has 310 horsepower for a 11.4 lbs/hp ratio. The Camaro weighs 3,339 lbs, according to the Chevrolet Pressroom release. With 275 horsepower, the Camaro offers a 12.1 lbs/hp ratio. Ford scores a win initially for the advertising department, in a sheer horsepower point-of-view. In real-world drive-ability, the Camaro would likely be faster.
Reviewing more statistics, the rivals share similar performance. Zero-to-Sixty times are close with the Camaro clocking in at 5.4 seconds versus the Mustang at 5.2 seconds. Even more shocking is the near-identical quarter-mile numbers. The Camaro runs the track in 14-seconds, according to GM. The Mustang delivers it in 13.9 seconds in most reviews (equipped with manual transmissions).
Both pony cars now employ Independent Rear Suspensions (IRS) with available limited-slip differentials. As of now, the 2016 Camaro LT only lists a 3.27 rear ratio. Ford makes a 3.31 standard for the Mustang with a 3.55 limited-slip optional. Steeper gears such as 3.55 would provide a faster 0-60 MPH time and quarter-mile trap speed. All things being equal, though, the standard gears would provide virtually the same performance between the cars.
Though steeper gears makes for a faster car, it also consumes more fuel. These 4-cylinders offer better MPGs than their V8 counterparts, and that’s precisely why turbochargers are so often used. They produce increased horsepower and torque numbers along with increased gas mileage. As long as you keep your foot out the throttle, turbos offer a combination of performance and mileage that is hard to beat.
Ford claims up to 32 MPG with the EcoBoost turbo, while Chevy has initially claimed “more than 30 MPGs on the highway.” Official city/highway mileage numbers for the Ecotec 2.0 liter turbo is not listed on the Chevrolet website. A difference of 2 MPG is significant. However, real-world testing has proven Ford EcoBoost engines, including the V6 variant in F-series trucks, as not living up to the manufacture’s MPG claims. Both pony cars offer slightly improved MPGs when equipped with the optional 6-speed automatic transmissions. (An 8-speed automatic is available only in the V6 and V8 Camaro models).
The starting price for a Camaro 1LT with 6-speed manual is $26,695, according to the Chevrolet website. The Mustang EcoBoost Fastback model with a 6-speed manual starts at $26,545, according to Ford’s Build and Price site. It’s surprising to see that both cars are within $150 of each other.
More boost equals more power, all at a substantially reduced price when compared to the upgraded V8 models like the Camaro SS or Mustang GT.
And the winner is? Shoppers looking for a new muscle car for under 30-grand.
Whichever 4-cylinder you prefer, turbo technology is here to stay. It will be interesting to see how the aftermarket embraces these new turbocharged muscle cars.
Let the stoplight confrontations begin!