The longstanding rivalry between the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang has officially reached its zenith. Seriously, it's hard to imagine where it can go from here, as both automakers have released the fastest, most powerful iterations of their pony cars, ever.
In the blue corner, you have the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500, whose supercharged V8 now makes a certifiably insane 662 horsepower. That is not a typo. And in the gold corner? The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. It's also got a supercharged V8, though it makes "only" 580 horsepower. Visually and mechanically, both cars are about as subtle as a cruise-missile strike.
So, which one rules the roost?
At the dragstrip, it's the 2013 Shelby GT500
Regardless of whether it's Motor Trend, Automobile Magazine, or InsideLine.com, everybody comes to a common conclusion: the Shelby Mustang rules at the dragstrip. Both it and the Camaro ZL1 are equipped with standard launch control systems, meaning that Joe Everyman can pretty much roll up to the Christmas tree and rip off a fast quarter-mile pass. But testers say that the immensely powerful GT500 runs consistent times in the 11-second range, while the Camaro runs the quarter in a little over 12 seconds.
On the road and racetrack, it's the 2012 Camaro ZL1
Take the GT500 and ZL1 away from the dragstrip, however, and reviewers say that the tables are turned. Despite having a decisive power advantage, it's the Camaro ZL1 that delivers consistently faster laps on the racetrack, where its easier to control. Testers say the GT500 is much more of a handful to wrestle around the track. While both cars have driver-adjustable suspensions, the Camaro ZL1 benefits from the same magnetic ride control technology featured in the mighty Corvette ZR1 and Cadillac CTS-V. Based on the head-to-head reviews, this is the difference maker on the racetrack and the backroads, and the Camaro ZL1 gets the nod.
The ultimate winner? You
So, the buff books say the Camaro ZL1 edges out the Shelby GT500. In real life, where track times are less important than simply feeling great about your car, you win no matter what. Rolling into your weekly Friday-night cruise in either will make you feel like a hero. The ZL1 and the GT500 are the ultimate expressions of the American pony car.
Loud. In-your-face. Immensely powerful. With the best modern technology to harness it all.
In the days of the Cold War, the nukes the U.S. and the Soviets aimed at each other guaranteed mutually assured destruction if an apocalyptic shooting war broke out. With Ford and Chevy, the launch codes have been entered, the keys turned, the buttons pressed, and Hell unleashed.
And no matter which side you stand on, the end result is mutually assured satisfaction.
I'll be driving a Camaro ZL1 the week of Independence Day and will check back in afterward. In the meantime, the links above should give you a more comprehensive rundown of what's been said in reviews so far.