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Desktop Drives: America’s Drift Heroes–Pony Car Edition

This week we are continuing the ‘America’s Drift Heroes’ series into its third installment, and as such this on-paper comparison will not really be looking at the interior or daily drivability, but rather how well it can make it around a corner in a nice, smoky manner.


While we have previously looked at America’s sports cars and insane sedans, when people around the world think of rear-drive, V8, American tire-smoke machines, they inevitably think of the cars that started it all here: the muscle car. These ‘Pony Cars’, as they are also referred to as, still exist today, although not in the number of choices as originally available.  As such, buyers are only faced with three choices when shopping for American Muscle (Only 2-door variants will be examined). These choices are the Ford Mustang, the Chevrolet Camaro, and the Dodge Challenger. While all three models offer smaller engines and bigger engines, the ‘mass-market’ V8 models are the focus of today’s ‘Desktop Drives’. In particular, the models will be the Mustang GT, the Camaro SS, and the Challenger R/T Scat Pack. As the table below shows, the Challenger, with its slightly older design, is starting to show its age, but with almost 500bhp on tap, simply cannot be excluded.

2016 Mustang GT

MSRP w/ destination: From $33,920

Price as Built: $37,835

Engine: 5.0 L V8

Horsepower: 435 hp

Torque: 400 lb-ft

Curb weight: 3,705 to 3,729 lbs

MPG: Up to 16 city / 25 highway

Dimensions: 188″ L x 75″ W x 54″ H

2016 Camaro SS

MSRP w/ destination: From $36,295

Price as Built: $41,335

Engine: 6.2 L V8

Horsepower: 455 hp

Torque: 455 lb-ft

Curb weight: 3,539 to 3,685 lbs

MPG: up to 15 city/ 25 highway

Dimensions: 188″ L x 75″ W x 53″ H

2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

MSRP w/ destination: From $38,090

Price as Built: $40,180

Engine: 6.4 L V8

Horsepower: 485 hp

Torque: 475 lb-ft

Curb weight: 4,082 lbs

MPG: Up to 15 city / 25 highway

198″ L x 76″ W x 57″ H

 

This week, in an effort to tidy up, the order does in fact matter. From now on, the winner will be detailed last, with preceding places done before it in reverse order. So below will be the third-place choice in this weeks ‘Desktop Drives’.

2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack: Real Muscle Car, Less Drift Car

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Challenger is bringing up the rear of this comparison. The Challenger is big. Really big. Not only is it over 300lbs heavier than the next heaviest muscle car, it is a massive 10 inches longer than both other cars. Despite this, Dodge loves to advertise the “sporty-ness” of their cars. When you compare the stats on paper with the competition, this can seem a little ridiculous, but I think Dodge is onto something. Muscle cars are supposed to be 2-door sedans—yes, sedans—with gigantic engines, capable of burning the tires for a respectable amount of time, on the way to a speedy quarter mile. Handling? Comfort? Such concerns were secondary to the buyers of muscle cars in the 60’s and 70’s. Today, buyers concern themselves with those silly considerations, and you can’t quite get away with what they sold to the public back in the heyday. The Mustang and the Camaro are much more global cars than the Challenger, and they must work in almost every country, which may not have as nice, big roads as America, and should pay even more attention to comfort and handling. Because of this, and the fact that European buyers are a bit pickier due to their increased up-front and lifetime costs, the Mustang and Camaro have become closer related to sports cars, rather than muscle cars. Dodge sells the Challenger primarily in the United States, and as such have the luxury of playing up their muscle car roots and ignoring the requirements of the rest of the world, as much as they want (and boy do they).

challenger-front
It is absolutely unfair that my favorite color, B5 Blue, is not on offer on the Scat Pack.
challenger
That being said, the metallic steel with black accents has a satisfying ‘stealth’ look to it.

the rear wheels, this combination is deeply capable of lighting up its rear tires at will, especially considering that no summer-specific performance rubber is on offer from the factory, and the largest tire you can get is a laughable 245mm section width (Dodge admitting it isn’t as sporty as they would like, perhaps?). As a street car to put a smile on your face, these things are perfect. For drifting around corners, controllably, they are less than ideal. While also receiving the LSD from the SRT’s, with so much power, weight, and size, combined with so little rear tire section, performing a controllable drift—as an amateur, even a practiced one—will not be as easy as its sportier competition.

All that being said, for $40,000 this is a lot of engine for a car. For the fully optioned price of $40,180 owners would get the middle audio system, upgraded seats, and all the SRT goodies that matter. With almost 500bhp, the Challenger is still the most powerful one, and comfortably sits between the price points of the Mustang and the Camaro.

challenger-interior
Super boring interior, but with the increased size, the back seat is usable. Dad’s everywhere rejoice, Dodge has made your muscle car.

2016 Ford Mustang GT: Tuner’s Steed

If the Scat Pack Challenger is the closest to the muscle cars of yester year in its execution, the Mustang is probably the farthest. For the longest time, this was not the case, as the Mustang featured a live-rear axle long after its competition, but with the inclusion of independent suspension in the rear, the Mustang has stepped into the present day. The new rear suspension is forced to deal with a 5.0L ‘Coyote’ V8, which unlike its competition, features dual-overhead camshafts, allowing for higher, quicker revving action. This engine is the smallest, least powerful engine here, making 435bhp and 400lb-ft of torque, routed through a six-speed manual and LSD 3.73 rear end, however it does have the distinction of having the highest specific output (Horsepower for engine size). Terms like ‘small’ and ‘least powerful’ are a little misleading, as the Mustang GT has more than enough power to scoot it along, and should be able to break its rear end loose as well now that it has the rear-end axle setup to safely handle such activities. Further increasing the safety in drifts, the GT comes equipped with 255/40R/19 tires, which while not much bigger than the Challenger, are dedicated performance summer rubber, and has 40bhp less to handle.

mustang
Grabber Blue is an apt name. Consolation from no B5 Blue at Dodge…

As well as being new-and-improved, the Mustang GT is still affordable. Featuring the cheapest entry price of $33,920, an example with every performance option ticked still only totals at $37,835. For the optioned price, buyers would get the GT performance pack—better wheels/tires, cooling, and suspension tuning—Recaro cloth seats, and of course, the essential Sport pedal pack. Further bolstering the price was a $350 reversing sensor to prevent bad days in parking lots. Compared to the Challenger, it is better set up out of the factory for performance, and has almost $3,000 left on the table to play with. Compared to the price of the Camaro, the Mustang has almost $5,000 to play with, a huge sum to either maintain the Mustang or modify it.

mustang-interior
So…many…BUTTONS! Those seats are great looking though.

Although the Mustang GT sits in the middle at second place, if I had near $40,000 to spend on a muscle car, Ford would be getting my money. Not only do I feel it looks the best, but the extra money in my pocket would not remain there for long. Using the extra $3,000 I would save, even under the Challenger, I would purchase a proper suspension, to better take advantage of the available power, and burn a few sets of tires away in having fun. It gets second place however, because stock it is not the better car.

2016 Camaro SS: The Winner

I have never liked the new Camaro. Oddly enough, Camaros I desire end at the somewhat hated F-body. The new Camaro has always seemed like a little Fortress of Solitude, which for driving is less than ideal. Visibility is horrendous, and no amount of modification can solve this. Despite this, even I cannot deny how impressive the new Camaro SS is on paper. Featuring the new LT1 out of the Corvette—albeit detuned by 5bhp and 5lb-ft of torque, as not to step on said Corvette—and a 6-speed manual, the Camaro is a real tire shredder. The new LT1 has 455bhp and an equal number for torque, being fed to a LSD in the rear, putting power to the ground using proper 275/35ZR20 rubber. Most of the performance and cooling upgrades that are optional via the Mustang GT’s Performance Pack are standard on SS models, although the higher base price, and highest as-built price reflect this. Along with the tires and cooling, the Camaro SS’s $41,335 price with options includes black wheels (to match the GT), dual-mode exhaust w/ground effects kit, and Chevrolet’s Magnetic Ride Control. The dual-mode exhaust will turn heads when you want, and when you should run a bit more stealth, the optional ground effects package will keep heads turning. The Magnetic Ride Control allows you to choose between various damping settings, and by all accounts is the best in the business, allowing comfort when you are driving to the track, and more sport-oriented settings when it is time to get sideways.

camaro-interior
It all seems fairly functional. Until you have to turn your head to see behind you.
camaro-seats
Those seats are shameful.

The interior of the Camaro looks fairly dull, but I have a feeling this is on purpose. It would have been very easy to add over $1,000 in bits and bobs to spice up the visual flare of the interior, which I skipped on because they don’t help the car get sideways. Another way to get a better interior is to step up to the 2SS package from the 1SS package I chose. Not only would this net you more leather, it would also allow you access to the sport seats. While I am a huge advocate of sport seats, the base price of a 2SS was over a grand more than the price of this optioned 1SS. I felt the money could be better save elsewhere, and helps keep weight down. Keeping weight down is important for any car, but the weight of the new Camaro is its trump card. Not only does it have more power than the Mustang, it is the lightest of the three by far. This is due to the chassis engineers over at GM, and by all accounts they have made a masterpiece of a chassis. This lightweight chassis, combined with the high-tech suspension, and the powerful pushrod V8 ensure that the Chevrolet Camaro is the winner of this weeks ‘Desktop Drives’ and is the most capable American muscle car from the factory when it comes to drifting.

camaro-ext-1
Even Chevy has a cool blue. What is up Dodge?
camaro-ext-2
This Camaro has A LOT going on with the visuals of the car.

Remember to like and share with your friends! Comment down below and let me know what you think. Next week is the conclusion of the ‘American Drift Heroes’ series, and will be quite the exciting one. Follow to see what is next!

Stephen Hyden View All

I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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