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Camaro Z28 vs. Mustang GT

1994 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 - with some chrome ZR1 Corvette wheels1994 Ford Mustang GT - Nice Color, Yellow

Comparison 'Car and Driver' test, December 1993
Pony Wars:
Camaro vs. Mustang
Check your excuses at the door: the Z28 and GT Square off. Again.
By Kevin Smith

    Thirty years ago, in the spring of 1964, Ford invented the American two-plus sporty coupe when it popped the Mustang on an eager public - A public that responded by ordering 22,000 cars on the first day. Chevrolet was caught flat-footed and had to spot the Mustang more than a million sales before responding with the Camaro in the fall of 1966. Chevy's pony car quickly established itself as the Mustang's most bitter rival, and the two have been brawling ever since - in showrooms, on racetracks, and between the covers of magazines.
    The Fortunes of war have varied over decades. But the report from the front as 1994 gets underway shows the tide clearly running in Chevrolet's favor. Against a commendably smooth and refined new Mustang, the Camaro redesigned last year for it fourth generation, more than holds its own. In fact, it kicks pony tail. In nearly every performance measurement we take, the Camaro Z28 runs all over the Mustang GT.
    As you'd predict for otherwise similar cars, the 275-horsepower Camaro creams the 215-horsepower Mustang in sheer speed. Our Z28 lunged to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, while the GT needed 6.1 By the 130 mph mark, the gap had ballooned with the Z28 reaching that speed in 26.6 seconds, versus 44.7 for the GT. The Camaro ran the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 101 mph, the Mustang in 14.9 seconds at 93 mph. Top speed? Same story. Camaro: 156 mph. Mustang: 137 mph.
  How about the contests that don't reward brute power? The Camaro still held the upper hand. It generated 0.86 g on the skidpad to the Mustang's 0.85, and stopped from 70 mph in 167 feet, versus the GT's 179 feet. Around the short, 1.5-mile Waterford Hills roadcourse, the Z28 consistently lapped a solid second faster, averaging 1:26.1 to 1:27.2 for the GT.

Test Results

  acceleration, sec top speed
70-0 mph,
300-ft skidpad, g
1/4 mile street
5-60 mph
top gear
top gear
50-70 mph
2.2 5.4 16.8 26.6 14.1 @
101 mph
5.5 12.0 12.1 156 167 0.86
2.1 6.1 17.6 44.7 14.9 @
93 mph
6.4 10.5 11.0 137 179 0.85
2.2 5.8 17.2 35.7 14.5 @
97 mph
6.0 11.3 11.6 147 173 0.86

Vital Statistics
as tested
engine SAE net power/torque transmission/
gear ratios:1/
maximum test speed, mph/
axle ratio:1
% F/R
V-8, 350 cu in (5733cc), iron block
and aluminum heads. GM engine-control system with port fuel injection
275 bhp @ 5000 rpm/
325 lb-ft @ 2400 rpm
6 speed/
2.66, 1.78, 1.30, 1.00, 0.74, 0.50/
47, 70, 95, 124, 156, 140/
3460 56.6/43.4
V-8, 302 cu in (4942cc),
iron block and heads, Ford EEC-IV engine-control system with port fuel injection
215 bhp @ 4200 rpm/
285 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm
3.35, 1.99, 1.33, 1.00, 0.68/
42, 71, 106, 137, 137/
3400 57.1/42.9

    Of course, performance figures do not tell the whole story. The new generation Mustang GT is a much sweeter automobile than this evidence suggests. As we reported in a preview drive (October 1993), Ford's work to improve the structural rigidity and suspension control of this chassis has paid impressive dividends. The Mustang has a tight, polished feel that we would not have thought possible from a platform whose roots are in the 1978 Fairmont. Still, a shoot-out is a shoot-out, and the tradition of Camaro-Mustang faceoffs gives little credit for finishing second at the track.

Ford Mustang GT
Highs: Catchy new look, sophisticated new feel.
Not enough beans, if there's a Z28 hanging around.
The Verdict: A fine, polished pony, but no one will notice unless it gets more power.
1994 Ford Mustang GT 302 - 5.0 with 215 H.P.


    Had the Z28's performance advantage come at a huge cost in such areas as ride comfort, ergonomics, and noise control, we might feel more reserved about its dominance. But in truth, the Camaro is a refined piece as well. Ride quality is marginally stiffer than the Mustang's but still entirely acceptable. And the extra racket is almost all V-8 rumble - hardly objectionable in this kind of car.
    The Camaro has a much racier feel, and impression that begins when you plop into the driver's seat. It's a wide, low car, and the driver looks out through a radically raked windshield and over a rapidly dropping nose. By contrast, you sit bolt-upright in the narrower Mustang, the higher hood running out to a blunt front end.
    In both cars, the driver is surrounded by interiors and instrument panels that are efficiently laid out, but the Mustang's clean design is easier to look at. The Camaro's gauge cluster is garish by comparison, but at least its instrument faces are now marked in white rather than the jarring yellow of last year.
    Seat comfort is better in the Mustang, even with some pressure points at the lower back and under the thighs. The Camaro's seats are flatter and feel less well made, offering little retention in hard cornering, and they move around annoyingly due to frame flex and mounting slack. Neither back seat offers more than minimal room, but most passengers preferred the higher cushion location of the Mustang.
    Light off the V-8 engines and they give vastly different impressions. The Mustang's 302 almost suggests the quiet "adequacy" of a Bentley Turbo R, while the Camaro's rowdy 350 sounds straight out of an old Can-Am car. Both are flexible, strong, and smooth-running, with lively throttle response and good fuel efficiency (both are projected to get 17 mpg on the EPA city cycle). When you want to get out of town, or just out of a corner, neither V-8 cares much whether it's turning 2500 rpm or 4500.
    Ford's venerable "5.0-liter" engine (which, as we've noted before,

actually rounds to 4.9) is unchanged for 1994 except for some repackaging of the inlet manifold to fit under the new hoodline. Chevy's Corvette-derived LT1 goes to sequential fuel injection for 1994 and employs a mass airflow sensor in place of the previous speed-density system.
    Under the whip, the Chevy 350 has bite to match its bark. Between its 325 pound-feet of torque at just 2400 rpm and 275 horsepower at 5000, it delivers loads of sheer grunt anytime, anywhere. The Mustang's numbers are tamer (285 pound-feet of torque at 3400 rpm, and 215 horses at 4200), and so is its personality. But reinforcements are waiting in the wings. A 235-hp version of this engine appeared last year in the Mustang Cobra (and ran third against a '93 Camaro Z28 and a Firebird Formula in our February 1993 issue). In spring of 1994, a 240- or 245-hp Mustang model will be available.

Chevrolet Camaro Z28
Highs: Performance to match its snarky shape and gutsy sound.
Lows: Indifferent seats, exhaust rumble a bit much at times.
The Verdict: Thrilling, fast, a good buy, and a clear winner.
1994 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 with LT1 - 275 H.P.

Both Ford and Chevy back these V-8s with stout, light-shifting manual gearboxes (or four-speed automatics). The Mustang's five-speed may shift a little more cleanly than the Camaro's six-speed, but not by much. And despite the different number of gearbox cogs and fractionally shorter gearing overall in the Mustang, both drivelines span about the same overall ratio range. New this year in the Camaro is the first-to-fourth ship-shift feature intended to finesse the EPA's dyno program. It's a nuisance, but it's also easy enough to defeat--a little extra speed or throttle before the upshift will cancel it.
    Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on both cars. The Camaro comes with anti-lock brakes, the Mustang offers it as an option (out test car had ABS). Alloy 17-inch wheels, 8.0 inches wide and fitted with 245-section Goodyear Eagle ZR tires, are a GT option, and our car was so equipped. The Z28 rolled on optional 245/50ZR-16 Goodyear GS-C tires on 8.0-inch-wide alloy wheels.


racecourse, min: sec interior sound level, dBA fuel economy, mpg
idle full throttle 70-mph cruising 70-mph coasting projected EPA city projected EPA highway C/D observed
1:26:1 56 85 75 74 17 25 18
1:27:2 48 79 73 72 17 24 16
1:26:7 52 82 74 73 17 25 17
dimensions, in fuel tank gal interior volume, cu ft suspension brakes
wheel-base length width height front rear trunk front rear
101.1 193.2 74.1 51.3 15.5 53 29 13 ind, unequal-length control arms, coil springs, anti roll bar rigid axle, 2 trailing links, Panhard rod, torque arm, coil springs, anti-roll bar vented disc/ vented disc; anti-lock control Goodyear
Eagle GS-C, P245/50ZR-16
101.3 181.5 71.8 53.1 15.4 50 33 11 ind, strut located by a control arm,
coil springs, anti roll bar
rigid axle, 4 trailing links, 2 leading hydraulic links, coil springs, anti-roll bar vented disc/ disc;
anti-lock control
Eagle ZR45,

    These aggressive, short-sidewall tires are managed fairly effectively by both suspension systems. Neither car burdens its driver with nasty ride characteristics or nervous direction changes. But the Camaro and the Mustang cannot disguise their live rear axles, or their preference for mirror-smooth road surfaces. Rotten pavement gets both chassis leaping and crashing about. Still, under most conditions -- and for the money -- these cars stick and steer well.
    Splitting hairs, we'd say the Mustang is a little more calm in the steering wheel and more compliant, and despite a little more body roll it feels slightly better composed overall (though it was more nervous at top speed). The Camaro feels sharper and reacts to the wheel more quickly. We thought we could hear and feel what was going on down below a bit more plainly. the Z28 also has a lower center of gravity.
    Frankly, the Z28 has a lower everything. Call it road-hugging height. The Camaro's rakish, droop-snoot lines look Concorde-quick alongside the stubbier Mustang. Yet Ford performed a remarkable transformation in reskinning this platform. The profile look great, the roofline is graceful, and the tall glass gives better outward visibility than does the Camaro's squashed greenhouse. Some eyes find the Mustang's details a bit overwrought, with too many character lines and contour changes. But it's a ripping good improvement on the previous rectilinear shape.
As performance values, the modern pony cars are tough to beat. Prices in the $18,000-to-$20,000 range place these cars among such front-drive coupes as Toyota's Celica, Honda's Prelude, and Ford's own Probe. In that crowd, the speed and power of the V-8s look fabulous. There isn't a great difference in cost: the base price of the Camaro is $17,269, and the Mustang is $17,750. As we drove them, the Z28 cost $20,590 and the Mustang $19,150.
    It's sad that the 1994 Mustang GT runs so far behind the Camaro Z28, and it's obvious that Ford has undergone a change in philosophy with its mythic pony car. All the same, Ford engineers and designers didn't put in this painstaking job of refinement to have the result spoken of as a loser. They deserve better. But so do the Mustang faithful. Sure, their beloved steed has taken huge strides in styling and sophistication, but at Waterford Hills, it got its haunches hammered by the archrival Camaro. Ring up the dyno room! Call in the horsepower! And count on another battle in the War of the Ponies.

Mustang Versus Camaro
in Car and Driver

July 1968: The mother of all Mustang-versus-Camaro shoot-outs. After C/D throws down the gauntlet, Ford brings a "Tunnel Port" Mustang with unheard-of 60-series tires and Chevrolet marches in a faster Z/28. Speed wins. Advantage: Camaro.

August 1982: After the fuel-frenzied Seventies subside, C/D revs up the muscle-car face-off once again. Mustang GT, Camaro Z28, and Firebird Trans Am slug it out with Germany's finest, the Porsche 928. This contest of "Red Speed" puts the Deutsche treat a mile away in acceleration, top speed, and price. Among the domestics, the Camaro edges the Mustang by a point. Advantage Camaro.

June 1983: A high-output 190-hp Z28 and a Mustang GT boosted to 175 ponies square off again for the GT championship. Testers find fault the Mustang's drop-throttle oversteer and steering feel: "It feels like a Mafia triggerman," notes Michael Jordan. The Camaro's extra speed and better braking give it the nod. Advantage: Camaro

May 1984: C/D staffers search for the best-handling sports car amont Chevy Corvette, Dodge Daytona Turbo Z, Mustang SVO, Camaro Z28, and Pontiac Fiero 2M4. The Camaro runs away with honors. Advantage: Camaro.

May 1985: A V-6 Camaro Berlinetta and a Mustang SVO compete for best sports-coupe honors. The Camaro ranks eighth out of eight, while the Mustang ties for fifth. The winner is the Audi Coupe GT, a blip on the radar of sports-coupe history. Advantage: Mustang

July 1896: A two-door blood-red Mustang LX V-8 takes on a limited-run Corvette-engined Camaro in "Dearborn versus Goliath." Winding by beautiful Santa Barbara, sunny San Luis Obispo, and Jimmy Dean's splat spot near Cholame, we vote the Mustang tops despite soggy brakes and a top end 10 mph slower than the Chevy. Advantage: Mustang

June 1987: Looking for revenge, Chevy supplies us with a standard-issue 5.0-liter Camaro. "These cars have fought off corporate purges the way social diseases resist penicillin," says Chevy engineer Jim Hall. A ten-pony advantage over the Camaro--and a curb weight one hundred pounds lighter--lets the Mustang zip circles around the IROC-Z. A half-second quicker in the autocross, the Mustang wins by a nose. Advantage: Mustang.

February 1993: The brand-new Camaro and Firebird take on the twelve-year-old Mustang, updated in 235-horsepower Cobra form. Though it's relaxed and refined at cruising speeds, the Mustang gives up pure speed to the GM pony cars. The Camaro edges out its stablemate by a hair, based on lower price and sleeker styling. Advantage: Camaro.

---Martin Padgett Jr.

On the Track

    We took the Z28 and the Mustang GT to Waterford Hills, a 1.5-mile road-course near Pontiac, Michigan. Despite many tight turns and one steep hill, the track has a straightaway long enough that both cars attained speeds between 100 and 105 mph at its conclusion. The circuit is also a cruel test of brakes.
    In fact, what we noticed first was that the Camaro's brakes required less pedal pressure than the Mustang's and were easier to modulate. Having said that, the Z28's anti-lock system suddenly quit anti-locking at the end of the straightaway, giving Kevin Smith a moment in which to mentally review his last will and testament.
    At ten-tenths, the Mustang's steering was more linear and suffered less kickback than the Camaro's. The Z28's is more heavily assisted--usually a plus at a tight track like this--but it tended to evoke too much initial turn-in. So you spent the rest of the turn making minute corrections to the Z28's wobbly line.
The Mustang's seat was also a winner, offering good thigh support on max-lat turns. In the Camaro, on the other hand, you have to scrunch up your left leg and wedge it as stiffly as possible against the door panel, then brace your upper body by desperately clutching the steering wheel. Or onto that huge medicine ball on the tip of the shifter.
    Pushed to its limit, the Camaro didn't understeer as much as the Mustang, in part because, with all the Z28's torque, a punch of the throttle helped rotate its tail. That same torque carried the Camaro up Waterford's steep hill with less effort than the puffing Mustang expended. That section of the course alone may have given the Camaro a half-second advantage.
    The Camaro's suspension was always quicker to settle after bumps and ham-fisted maneuvers. And the Z28's grip was marginally higher when the chassis was unweighted, which is about always at hilly Waterford. It feels like the Z28 has a center of gravity far lower than the Mustang's.
Still, both cars were benign, predictable, and easy to drive to their limits--particularly the Mustang, perhaps because it's slightly slower, goes into understeer earlier, and felt as if its platform flexes much less.
    The winner? The Camaro, with an average lap of 1:26.1, compared with the Mustang's 1:27.2. But given the Z28's 60-hp advantage, we were surprised it prevailed by a measly 1.1 seconds. Which says a lot for Ford's savvy chassis tuners, among them a wee Scot named J. Young Stewart. He may sit on a pillow, but he seems to know what he's doing.

---John Phillips


Editors' Rating   engine trans-mission brakes handling ergo-nomics comfort ride utility value styling fun to drive OVERALL RATING*
9 8 9 9 8 6 6 6 9 9 9 85
7 8 7 8 8 7 7 7 7 6 7 74
HOW IT WORKS: Editors rate vehicles from 1 to 10 (10 being best) in each category, then scores are collected and averaged, resulting in the numbers shown above.
*The Overall Rating is not the total of those numbers. Rather, it is an independent judgment (on a 1-to-100 scale) that includes other factors -- even personal preferences -- not easily categorized.

There's the facts!

1988 Callaway Sledgehammer Corvette, One of the Worlds fastest Street Legal Cars, 254.7 MPH