by Jason Giacchino
It’s a wonderful time to be a muscle car enthusiast. Case in point? Renewed fighting between arch rivals Ford and Chevy. The Mustang might have invented the pony car class, but in 1967, Chevy crashed the party and a beef was born.
When it announced the 2012 Camaro ZL1 last year, it appeared the General would become king of the mountain. And the heart of the ZL1’s power–a supercharged 6.2L engine rated at 580 horsepower and 556 pound-feet of torque–is certainly cause to pause. With a zero to 60 time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 184 mph, the Chevy not so subtely asked whether Ford would be content with second place.
The answer, as it turns out, was no way. The Blue Oval was just playing its cards close to the vest.
Ford selected the LA Auto Show as the venue to unveil it’s latest Camaro fighter, and it didn’t disappoint. With a blistering 650HP on tap, Ford claims its latest top-dog Mustang will top 200MPH–Bone stock. That impressive output is accomplished with the help of an aluminum 5.8L V8 engine mated to a new Eaton TVS Series 2300 supercharger, and ironically, that’s the same supercharger GM uses on its LS9 engine. Other changes, like the cross-drilled block and heads, updated cam profile, and beefier intercooler components contribute to the GT500’s bone-crushing numbers.
So how did the General respond to Ford’s latest salvo in the horsepower wars? Well, given that they couldn’t just ask the guys on the line to add another 70 ponies, Chief ZL1 engineer Al Oppenheiser went with this: “For Mustang fans, you’re welcome. Clearly the Camaro has encouraged Ford to throw everything they can at us.” But it was far from an admission of failure, as he points out here:
“Our approach was to make every Camaro ZL1 fully track-capable, from the factory. As we announced today, the ZL1 Coupe will start at $54,995 with standard Magnetic Ride Control, standard Performance Traction Management, and standard track-capable equipment such as a rear-differential cooler, brake cooling ducts, and an engine and transmission cooler.
None of our customers will have to buy extra options – or modify their ZL1 – for track-day usage. That is not the case for the current GT500, or their new car.”
And he’s right, as Ford will offering two upgrade packages for the already pricey Pony. The Performance Package will add a Torsen limited-slip differential, and an SVT-designed Bilstein suspension system with electronically adjustable dampers. An additional Track Package adds an external engine cooler, a rear diff cooler, and a tranny cooler for those intent on turning hot laps. Obviously, both will also add extra cost.
We’ll have to wait to see a head-to-head battle on the track, but for now, it’s clear Ford has retained it’s top dog status. The x-factor is pricing, as it’s yet to be finalized for the GT500. But since performance typically comes at a premium, it’s a good bet the SVT will trump the ZL1 in all categories–including the Camaro’s $54,995 price tag. Stay tuned…
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