Camaro ZL1 Vs. Mustang GT350R: A Winner Is Crowned

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The battle between Camaro and Mustang has been raging for decades now—albeit with a slight hiatus when the General naively decided the Camaro wasn’t worth producing anymore. But we don’t talk about that. And over the years, there have been countless Camaro vs. Mustang shoot outs conducted by everyone under the sun–including us. However, there is one comparison we’ve been dying to see, and that’s the GT350R against the ZL1. And now, it would seem, everyone is doing it.

As you can see in the video above, Kelly Blue Book decided to pit the ZL1 and GT350R in a battle for the hearts and minds of muscle car lovers everywhere. And while both cars are exhilarating, adrenaline-inducing machines, the video comes off—well, we’ll just say a little stale. It’s not exactly the most exciting video we’ve ever seen and we don’t really find out who’s better. But if you’re reading this, you probably knew which was better in the first place.

For the real answers to who is better between the Mustang and Camaro—and by that we mean how much better the Camaro is than the Mustang—we turn to MotorTrend, who’s review of the two cars really put the battle into perspective. However, in case you don’t want to read the entire novel that is the shootout, we’ll sum up how the test went down below.

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Obviously, the powertrains on each car are as different as they come—some would argue so much that it really isn’t a fair comparison. But it’s not the Camaro’s fault that Ford brought a knife to a gun fight, so here we go.

The flat-plane crank of the Mustang’s famed Voodoo engine makes it much more exotic than the Camaro’s standard 6.2-liter mill—with it’s plebeian cross plane crank. This allows it to rev to ungodly RPM and produce a noise just this side of exotic. And while we have to give credit where credit is due with the GT350R, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the LT4, who’s 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque trounces the Voodoo’s 526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque.

Obviously the ZL1 has the Mustang beat in the power department, but that isn’t everything when it come to the road course. In fact, often times it comes down to who can use the most of their available power at any given time. For that, the attention is then turned to the suspension of each. Turns out, they are very—almost shockingly—similar. Both use magnetic ride suspension paired with a multilink setup with coils over struts. A draw here.


Images via MotorTrend

Things are eerily similar in the braking department as well with the ZL1 sporting 15.4-inch binders up front and 14.4-inch pieces in the rear—provided by Brembo, of course. However, this one of the only areas the Mustang has the advantage over the ZL1 with it’s 15.5-inch front, 15-inch rear dinner-plate sized stoppers. This perceived advantage counted for nothing, however, as the ZL1 still came to a standstill from 60 mph two feet sooner than the ‘Stang—stoping in an astonishing 97 feet. That is supercar territory. And, what’s more, the ZL1 weighs in around 200 pounds more than the GT350R. Embarrassing. Camaro wins here.

In a straight line, it’s no surprise that the Camaro was the champion. It dispatched the quarter mile in just 11.8 seconds at 123.9 mph, while the Mustang turned in a respectable 12.2 at 119 mph. Both would obviously be quite a bit quicker with an appropriate tire out back, but the outcome would be no different. Camaro takes this one, easily.

The final, and perhaps most important arena in which the two battled was around the road course at Willow Springs. But before we get to the final results, there are a few considerations to take into account. While, we’ve been waiting for this test for some time, the ZL1 is no longer Camaro’s flagship model. Those rights now belong to the ZL1 1LE. If this were a fair comparison, it would have pitted the GT350R against the ZL1 1LE, but since it isn’t available to test yet, we’re going to have to settle for this.

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Image via MotorTrend

However, it is more than likely that the 1LE would have destroyed the GT350R. It’s true that the ZL1 easily has the power advantage, but the Mustang has the weight advantage. The GT350R takes the standard GT350 one step further by ditching the rear seats, A/C, and aluminum wheels. Insanely expensive carbon fiber wheels are then added to the equation—which reduce the car’s unsprung mass exponentially.

But lets get down to the nitty gritty. The Camaro ended up turning in a 1:27.90 around Willow Springs, besting the GT350R’s 1:28.29 time. While a split of .39 seconds doesn’t sound like much, a win is a win. The ZL1 has previously posted a best of 1:26.12 with pro driver Randy Probst behind the wheel, but that’s an apples to oranges comparison.

While it may seem like the slightest of margins, the ZL1 bested the GT350R in every measurable way. It’s cheaper, it stops better, accelerates faster, and laps a road course quicker. And, in the infamous words of Dominic Torreto, “It don’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Winning’s winning.” Chalk this one up as another win for the bow tie boys. Now, lets see what the ZL1 1LE can do, shall we?

About the author

Chase Christensen

Chase Christensen hails from Salt Lake City, and grew up around high-performance GM vehicles. He took possession of his very first F-body— an ’86 Trans Am— at the age of 13 and has been wrenching ever since.
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