Big Three Muscle Car Offerings, Mustang vs. Camaro vs. Challenger
The Big Three Muscle Car Offerings from Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge are locked in a battle for performance supremacy not seen since the Sixties-era Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger horsepower wars. American muscle cars have evolved into world class machines that far surpass any legendary muscle era performance with a contemporary take on the classic big horsepower V8 rear wheel drive acceleration formula that leaves white-knuckle, drum brake, solid axle oxcart handling in the past. Powerful engines linked to a 6-speed manual and 10-speed automatic transmissions mean you can have 400-plus V8 horsepower and still kick out the jams with 20-something miles per gallon. Each model year offers more power and choice than the last.
Blue Oval fans can rejoice as the Mustang is leading the muscle car sales battle with more power and refinement slated for 2018. The Ecoboost turbo 2.3-liter 4-cylinder packs 310 ponies and 350 lb-ft of torque for a 30 lb-ft gain over last year. The 5-liter Coyote V8 is factory equipped with direct and port fuel injection for 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque with smooth power delivery from idle to the 7500 RPM redline. The V6 engine is gone from the 2018 Mustang lineup. The turbo 4-cylinder gets dual exhaust tips and the V8 belts out quad-tipped sound with optional active valve exhaust for adjustable soundtrack.
The new optional automatic transmission packs 10 forward speeds, adaptive shifting, paddle shifters and driver-selectable shift maps including a drag strip mode that Ford says will launch the V8-equipped Mustang from 0-60 MPH in under 4-seconds. The standard 6-speed manual transmission was beefed up with a dual-mass flywheel and twin-disc clutch. New rear suspension cross-axis joint works with revised damper valving and improved front and rear anti-sway bars for world-class handling. Optional Performance Package upgrades include MagneRide magnetorheological damper control and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires purpose-designed for the Mustang.
Exterior design was augmented front and rear. All-LED headlamps and lighting meet an optional rear spoiler. Refinements continue inside with restyled seating, hand-stitched center console surround, padded knee bolsters and a Mustang first – driver-configurable all digital instrument cluster with normal, sport and track display options including an animated tire-smoking wheel in line lock burnout mode now available on Ecoboost and V8-equipped Mustangs. A dozen alloy wheel designs and three new colors add up to more choice in making the more powerful Mustang your Mustang.
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2018 Ford Mustang GT
Engine: 5-liter DOHC V8 with direct and port fuel injection
Power: 460 horsepower/420 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual or optional 10-speed automatic
Curb Weight: 3,705 pounds
Availability: Fall 2017
What’s New: More Coyote V8 power. LED lighting. Digital instrumentation. 10-speed automatic.
The good news for 2018 is you don’t have to be Don Yenko to select the right combination of factory codes and options to create your ultimate Camaro as the new model year brings more of everything available across the entire lineup. The Camaro can be configured in a vast array of powertrain, suspension and style combinations from a stripper LS up to the supercharged ZL1 1LE track tuned terror that recently shattered the previous Nurburgring record Camaro lap time to bring supercar level performance and handling to the Camaro party for just under 70 large.
The Camaro lineup is offered in LS, LT, SS and ZL1 coupe and convertible models. The Krypton Green 50th Anniversary special is gone but the Redline Edition package has returned to the LS, LT, and SS Camaro. Red accents and dark graphics meet factory blacked out bowties and side mirrors with a set of 20-inch black finish aluminum alloy wheels to hook power to the ground and show lesser drivers the dark-finish taillights. At the top of the pack is the Camaro ZL1 1LE that channels 650 inter-cooled and supercharged V8 horsepower to the tarmac through race-tuned suspension with Multimatic DSSV dampers. Front dive planes and a carbon fiber rear spoiler help hold the Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3R tires to the road.
Horsepower ranges from 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque from the turbocharged 2.0-liter LTG 4-cylinder up to the 650 supercharged and inter-cooled horsepower from the 6.2-liter LT4 V8. Choosing between the 6-speed manual transmission and 8-speed automatic depends on the combination with a 10-speed automatic offered only with the ZL1. Uprated 2SS interior appointments are available by combining the SS and 1LE packages together. The track focused 1LE performance package is available on coupes across the lineup with features tuned specifically for each model. Optional dual-mode active exhaust with driver-selectable modes delivers custom tuned Camaro sound.
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2018 Chevrolet Camaro SS Coupe
Engine: 6.2-liter pushrod V8 with direct fuel injection
Power: 455 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic
Curb Weight: 3685 lbs
Availability: Summer 2017
What’s New: ZL1 ILE track terror. More choice across the board. ILE packages.
When the tire smoke clears, the Dodge Challenger lineup will emerge as the most powerful ever. An astounding 840 horsepower and 770 pound-feet of torque from a supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI makes the Dodge Demon the undisputed production car champion of the wheels-up, straight line 9-second 1/4-mile drag strip universe but our money is on the upcoming Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody. New ERP electric steering with driver-selectable street, sport and track modes guarantees big fun. 20×11-inch 5-spoke aluminum wheels shod with 305/35ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero UHP-compound meet fender flares that add 3.5 inches of width and improved handling to the Challenger HEMI formula.
The Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody will have to manage with 707-horsepower from the supercharged HEMI Hellcat playbook. More rubber on the road means the wider cat shaves seconds off road course lap times and dips into the 10-second zone on the 1/4-mile proving that wide is good and more rubber down on the pavement means more grip running straight or sideways. Quad projector headlamps work to accent the Widebody design with a Demon-sourced front splitter and Hellcat-spec rear wing for added stability. Standard Brembo brakes with two-piece 15.4-inch vented rotors and six-piston front calipers scrub off velocity from a 195 MPH top speed.
The Dodge Challenger lineup not only boasts the most powerful V8 of the big three muscle car or any production car ever but also offers something Ford and Chevrolet do not with the all-wheel drive Dodge Challenger GT AWD. The all-weather muscle car is currently available only with the 305-horsepower Pentastar V6 and 8-speed automatic but we can only hope that SRT is working day and night on transplanting the AWD powertrain from the Jeep Trackhawk into a wide body Challenger to bring Hellcat power and all-wheel drive together for Tommy Ivo Showboat-style 4-wheel muscle car burnouts.
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2018 Dodge Challenger R/T Coupe:
Horsepower/Torque: 375 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque @ 4300
Power: 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with port fuel injection
Transmission: 6-speed manual or optional 8-speed automatic
Curb Weight: 4190 lbs.
MSRP: TBD/$32,995 (2017)
Availability: Fall 2018
What’s New: Wheelstanding Demon. Widebody Hellcat. Most powerful production engine ever.
Photos courtesy of the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and FCA