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15th March 2012, 11:26 PM
2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 vs 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca
Live and Independent: New Breed of Power Pony Meets the Last of the Old Guard

From the March, 2012 issue of Motor Trend
By Michael Febbo


It was the 1960s. The Baby Boomers were in their 20s; we had the technology to put a man on the moon; and social change was the new social norm. Ford's idea guy, Lee Iacocca, decided it was time to go after the youth market with a small, performance-oriented fashion piece built from off-the-shelf parts that would turn heads on the streets and profits in showrooms. The plan was not only simple but brilliant. The 1964 Mustang was born to instant success, with dealers taking 22,000 orders on the first day. Ford hoped to sell 100,000 cars in the first year of production, but after extending the model year to meet orders, more than 600,000 1964-1965 Mustangs galloped off lots. Clearly, this Lee guy was on to something, and that something would later be dubbed the ponycar.

2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 And 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca Rear
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Chevrolet was not about to let Ford run away with this new market. Within two years of the Mustang's launch, GM had its own ponycar headed to showrooms and eventually racetracks. The Camaro was bigger and heavier and had more powerful engine options than the lithe Ford. The trend of bigger and faster would continue until the gas crunch of the '70s, and, even then, the quest for power continued as expectations for comfort and convenience were rising.

2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 And 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca
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Lap Time: Mustang 1 min 43.74 ...

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Jump forward to more recent events. The Mustang has remained in continuous production, while the Camaro took a little time off to regroup in the early part of this century. The return of GM's ponycar for 2010 saw the gap widen even more with Chevy's big engine coming in at 6.2 liters while the Mustang GT's displaced a smallish 4.6 liters. The Camaro was also bigger and heavier than the Mustang by a considerable margin. It was a little more comfortable, and hidden beneath the retro-nostalgic body panels was an independent rear suspension.

For 2012, Chevy aims to redefine the ponycar completely in one electronically optimized fell swoop. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 takes the once-simple formula for all-American performance and reworks it into a recipe for a modern cyborg warhorse. Literally leaning on suspension technology originally developed for Cadillacs and Corvettes, the Camaro achieves better-than-Boss levels of handling with the highway ride quality of a CTS-V. The active exhaust system sounds nearly as quiet as a family sedan at part throttle, but opens up its big, angry pipes when you stand on it. Like the ZL1, the 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca does allow for ride quality and handling adjustment, but the big difference is the Camaro is adjusted by a smarter-and-faster-than-you computer -- different performance modes are summoned with an index finger through a console-mounted button -- while the Mustang is dialed in using a screwdriver and your spare time.

After getting a suggested setup from Ford for the Boss and instructions on what buttons to push on the Camaro, we took both cars to Inde Motorsports Ranch located in the Arizona Desert just a few short miles from absolutely nothing. We brought along professional hot-shoe Randy Pobst and enough data-acquisition equipment to choke a space shuttle. We not only wanted to take each car to its absolute limit on the track, but also record stats to enable maximum geeking out for weeks to come back at the office. And I got to drive.

The knee-jerk reaction is to assume these cars will feel very different from the specs on paper. Sometimes gut reactions are correct, as they do feel night and day different on the racetrack. The Mustang is a very raw experience: loud engine and the steering is coarse and communicates every patch, bump, and crack in the road. Delivering near-Vulcan Mind Meld levels of communication with the driver, the Boss also requires anti-matter engineer levels of attention. Conversely, GM engineers have a more economical view of feedback. The Camaro doesn't give you the constant feedback of the Mustang, but talks to you when it counts. Think of the Camaro as being a good friend and the Mustang a girlfriend.

The Camaro's electrically assisted steering rack uses a base level of force depending on the driving mode. The more aggressive modes get more assist and less damping effect. The assist has the ability to identify whether input forces have originated at the road or the steering wheel and can adjust appropriately. The Mustang also has variable assist, but approaches the technology in a more simplistic manner, offering three levels of assist: comfort, normal, and sport. The Boss's rack does back off assist at speed and ramp it up at parking-lot pace, but the assistance levels don't feel as though they are adjusted as often or offer as large a range as with the Camaro system. At the end of the day, the Mustang's steering feels closer to a traditional hydraulically assisted rack, while the Camaro feels closer to something you will find in the current crop of supercars and high-end GTs.

The suspension follows the same theme. The ZL1 has magnetorheological damping, as on the CTS-V and higher-end Corvettes and Ferraris; however, this is next-generation. Thus, there are two coils within the ZL1's dampers, allowing for faster adjustment -- 1000 times per second, in fact -- and finer levels of tuning. By electrically varying the viscosity of the metallic particle-laced fluid within each damper, both compression and rebound rates can be adjusted on the fly.

Track Showdown
The Boss is hundreds of pounds lighter, but the ZL1 has 136 more ponies and that independent rear suspension.

Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/coupes/1203_2012_chevrolet_camaro_zl1_vs_2012_ford_mustan g_boss_302_laguna_seca/viewall.html#ixzz1pBvykpbf

15th March 2012, 11:39 PM
Good write-up. Click on the link for more pics and a video on the Camaro.

It appears the ZL1 has the wood of the Boss in nearly all areas, most notable though is it's Magnetic Ride technology.

A 6.2 litre BLOWN v8 up against an atmo 5.0... hmmm...

I think this guy might object to his little brother getting pushed around like that... what say you?


18th March 2012, 01:54 PM
Great article but yeah I think a blown 6.2 vs a na 5lt is a tad uneven. The lsa in the camaro is more of a match for the s/c 5.0.

How similar is the camaro suspension setup to current hsv with mrc? Interesting if some of that trickles down to hsv. The steering setup sounds interesting too.