This week we are finishing the ‘America’s Drift Heroes’ series with the fourth and final installment, and as such this on-paper comparison will continue to not look at the interior or daily drivability, but rather how well it can make it around a corner in a nice, smoky manner.
If you are interested in drifting an American car, then you cannot get away from the muscle cars detailed last week. With 6 cylinder and even 4 cylinder engines on offer in most muscle cars, the ‘pony’ in pony cars may be a little too close to the truth for comfort, even with the V8 models. Especially considering how close those ‘lesser’ models look to their V8 brethren, the line can be blurry between those who bought their cars for performance versus those who bought it for looks. For those people, the Big Three have raised the stakes over the years with various special editions. If last week’s cars were pony cars, then these current special editions are the big brother stallions. Reigning over the Mustang paddock, the 2016 Shelby GT350R will be taking the fight to the new-old kid on the block, the 2017 Camaro ZL1, as well as the ‘old favorite’, the 2016 Hellcat Challenger.
|2016 Ford Mustang GT350R
Base w/ Destination: $62,195
Price as Built: $62,670
Engine: 5.2L Flat-Plane Crank V8
Horsepower: 526hp @7500rpm
Torque: 429 lb-ft @4750rpm
Curb Weight: 3,710 lbs
Dimensions: 189.7” L x 75.9” W x 53.6” H
|2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Base w/ Destination: $62,135
Price as Built: $63,905
Engine: 6.2 L V8 Supercharged
Horsepower: 650hp @6400rpm
Torque: 650 lb-ft @3600rpm
Curb Weight: 3,850 lbs
Dimensions: 190″ L x 75″ W x 53″ H
|2016 Dodge Challenger Hellcat
Base w/ Destination: $65,290
Price as Built: $67,575
Engine: 6.2 L V8 Supercharged Horsepower: 707 hp @6000rpm
Torque: 650 lb-ft @4000rpm
Curb weight: 4,449 lbs
Dimensions: 198″ L x 76″ W x 57″ H
Again, continuing from last week, the order does matter, with the winner detailed last.
2016 Mustang GT350R: Great Car, Wrong Car
By all accounts, the GT350R, and even the ‘normal’ GT350, are special cars. Most of that special-ness comes from the 5.2L flat-plane crankshaft V8 going through a proper 6-speed manual gearbox. This flat-plane crankshaft differs from normal engines by many, many complicated ways. The facts that matter to the driver are simple: it revs to the moon and is loud as all can be on the way there. This high-revving nature of the engine—while fun and smile-producing—lets it down in a competition like this. With high revving motors, comes higher horsepower numbers at the cost of torque, and while the GT350R has a healthy 429lb-ft of torque, it cannot compare to the dollops provided by the supercharged competition. The torque that is provided is also provided at higher points in the rev-range for lower amounts of the time. While great for carving up corners and clipping apexes, such an engine as the GT350R’s is out of place trying to push the tail out.
The rest of the car is similarly imperfect for getting around a corner as sideways as possible, while ideally set-up for getting around a corner as fast as possible. In other words, not what this test wants. Weight is low, and carbon fiber is abundantly used, comprising the splitter, the rear spoiler, as well as the wheels—a first for a car at this price point of $62,195 base. To further keep weight down ‘useless’ items like the radio, A\C, and backseat are all deleted. They can be added back on for further cost—and weight—although to keep this cars as-built price low at $62,670, the only option added was the racing stripe.
Included with the R package are heavier duty front springs, working with magnetically controlled dampers. Those trick wheels are shod with Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires of 315mm rear section width with the pre-requisite Brembo brakes inside. While good tires, do not expect to get many miles out of such an extreme rubber, another fault against it in the drifting world. A huge plus however is all the extra cooling apparatus which are included with the R package, essentially if you want to abuse the car the necessary amounts for drifting.
The GT350R is really the wrong car for this test. Why did I include it? Because A.) I needed a Mustang, and B.) Ford is dragging their feet with the new GT500 and its rumored twin-turbo variant of this same, magic engine. The GT350R is not a drift pig, or drag queen, but rather a track rat, and its specifications reflect that. Despite this, the GT350R is a great looking performer on paper, and a stunning auto in person.
2016 Challenger Hellcat: The Everyday Winner
Unless you have been living as a hermit, you know about the Hellcat motors from Dodge. The Challenger is the real muscle-car variant of the Hellcat twins, and the Charger has already been looked at in a previous week. The Challenger is so much more than the other cars, in more than one way. Not only is it a massive 8 inches longer than the other cars, it weighs a massive 600lbs more than the next heaviest competitor, the Camaro. To move that extra weight is the real centerpiece of the car: the 707hp, 650lb-ft of torque supercharged HEMI 6.2L V8 routed through a 6-speed manual. This engine is required because the heft is provided by not only the increased size, but also the improved interior—in an oddly compelling shade of brown—compared to the other competitors.
Obviously, Dodge believes in the tried-and-true “more is more” philosophy, the Challenger being longer, heavier, more powerful, and more expensive–$67,575—than the other cars. The one area this doesn’t seem to have applied is the tires. The summer tires (an option at that!) are a laughably small 275mm section-width, and while great for losing traction for a drift, controlling that drift would not be fun or easy. This is a shame, because the chassis is up to the task of handling 707hp, featuring improvements such as adaptive dampers and massive Brembo brakes. Despite the power advantage, combined with the plush dimensions, these tires ensure a second place in this week’s Desktop Drive.
That being said, the Challenger is the everyday winner of this comparison. What I mean by this, is as a daily driver, or a less sporting focused driver, the increased dimensions, power, and luxuries, all combine to make for a more pleasing, comfortable cockpit.
2017 Camaro ZL1: The Actual Winner
I don’t like the Camaro. I said it last week, and I will probably keep on saying it until they get rid of this body: it is almost impossible to see out of a Camaro Coupe. Considering this $63,905 example is new for 2017, this body, and its blind spots, are here to stay. Despite this, Chevrolet must make a damn good product considering that not only is the ZL1 taking the 1st place title this week, the ‘pedestrian’ Camaro SS also won last week. The ZL1 is powered to first place by 6.2L supercharged V8 which is only similar to the Hellcat motor by its total displacement. This motor produces 650hp and 650lb-ft of torque going through a rev-matching 6-speed gearbox. The optioned price is increased due to a performance data recorder, and the necessary stripe, however all the necessary performance equipment is included in the base price. With such an engine, including things like adaptive dampers, Brembo brakes, and 11 extra coolers, are a necessity, not an option.
With all that power, Chevrolet did not make the same mistake as Dodge, providing 305mm section-width summer tires in the rear. Such a tire allows for actual control at the limits of traction, as well as past it, whereas the tires on the Challenger simply allow for passing the limits of traction. This combination of more power than the GT350R, and more control than the Hellcat, ensures that the Camaro continues into first place this week. Whether this would be a similar result if the next generation GT500 was out is anyone’s guess, although until that release, the ZL1 will maintain first position among the Stallions of the muscle cars.
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I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.