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4.6 ⁄ 5 stars
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2013 Chevrolet Camaro Overview
Overall User Score
Based on 14 reviews
“There’s no replacement for displacement.” Old men with bad scars and tired eyes can be heard whispering that in proud timbres at racetracks around the world. Sadly, that piece of wisdom was recently put to rest. Cubic inches are no longer King.
And neither is the Cobra. The comparisons are as unavoidable as a sunburn in Santa Fe—we all knew the ZL1 Camaro would go up against the GT500 Mustang, but with the Bowtie Bruiser suffering from from an 80+-hp deficit as well as packing 227 extra pounds over the Mustang, things didn’t look good.
When it comes to straight-line performance—both acceleration and deceleration—the numbers don’t lie. The GT500 beat out the ZL1 Camaro in every test of gas and brake pedal. But that’s where the story stopped being predictable. When turning, suddenly weight and horsepower went out the window.
Throwing both pony cars around the track, the Mustang seemed unable to catch the Camaro, which was able to put down skidpad numbers of 1.03g—identical to hypercars like the McLaren MP4-12C and Porsche 911 GT2 RS. When pitted against the Mustang’s 0.98g performance, there’s little comparison to be made.
Were this the Mustang of old, this would be easier to swallow, but Ford has spent time and money making sure its pony can spin. So what does the Camaro have that can overcome obstacles like 80 horsepower and 227 pounds? Bowtie brethren will have no trouble answering: the power of IRS.
The Mustang has been burdened with a solid rear axle—a truck suspension—since its inception. The Camaro suffers through no such antiquated technology (unless you count its pushrod engine), dancing and darting with the help of its independent rear suspension. And this is an advantage every Camaro shares over every Mustang, not just these two ultra-performance editions. Regardless of whether you go with the Base, V6-powered LS or the new-for-2013 1LE performance package on the V8 SS, you’re getting the same tech that managed to overcome horsepower and weight. Of course, part of that magic formula is the magnetorheological suspension of the ZL1, but there’s more than just magnets to this mystery.
Even the base LS trim offers plenty to praise with a 3.6-liter V6 that serves up 323 hp—numbers that would’ve been impressive from a V8 not too long ago. But what good is a Camaro without a V8? Move to the SS trim and enjoy a 6.2-liter V8 worth 400 or 426 horses, depending on whether you decide on the automatic or manual transmission. Or if you want to repeat the aforementioned comparison tests, grab the ZL1 with its supercharged version of the same engine and 580 horses. All come with buyer’s choice of 6-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
But all of this was available in 2012. What about that 1LE performance package Chevy's been tossing around? While the Mustang has its Boss, the Camaro had to answer back with its own road-racing trim. Here Chevy takes your basic SS and paints it with some ZL1 funk. Camaro faithful will remember this option package from yesteryear, and it returns here in force, sacrificing any of the convenience features the previous iteration turned its back on. That means a close-ratio transmission and 3.91:1 final drive of the ZL1, the transmission intercooler from the ZL1 and larger 27mm and 28mm anti-roll bars front and rear. It grabs the ZL1's rear shock mounts, wheels and wheel bearings, fuel system, toe links and strut-tower brace.
When it was shown at SEMA 2012, the concept sported the magnetorheological dampers of the ZL1 as well, but here there’s no such magnetic magic. Still, we’re guessing it motivates around the corners just fine. And if excess is your thing, there’s even a convertible version of the ZL1 this year.
Camaro has certainly managed to make the mark here, at least over the Mustang. As a Ford fan of old, that’s hard to say, but numbers don’t lie. Old wisdom dies hard. I take solace in the fact that the Camaro’s 6.2-liter V8 bests the Mustang’s 5.8-liter beast by 350ccs. At least there’s still no replacement for displacement.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.
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