The name given to mid-size cars with long hoods and short rear-ends, the “pony car” class, originated with the Ford Mustang. It was not long before GM’s Chevrolet Camaro and Chrysler’s Dodge Challenger were in the mix. As these cars evolved, they were equipped with monster engines and eventually these muscle cars, as they were also known, went the way of the dinosaur when the gas crisis of 1971 happened.
Of the many features and qualities which typify a modern muscle car, appearance, ride and performance draw the most appreciation from car enthusiasts. To satisfy the muscle car aficionado, the vehicle in question should capture some aspect of its predecessor’s retro design. Keeping true to the original concept of a mid-size car with a long hood and shortened rear section, equipped with a large V8 engine will place the vehicle in the muscle car or pony car category. Suspension, steering and weight should allow cornering without much lean and absorb shocks of uneven road surfaces without being too forgiving.
The interiors of the original coupes were fairly austere, without much in the way of technological flair; even tachometers were an extra often added to the steering column or above the dash. Today’s iterations of the Camaro, Mustang and Challenger are replete with instrumentation, sophisticated safety features, and state-of-the-art entertainment and GPS.
2010 Dodge Challenger
Praised as holding most authentic to its original design, the Dodge Challenger has been on hiatus since 1974. The new Challenger is a big, wide bruiser of a car which comes in three trim levels, the SE, R/T, and SRT8. The popular R/T weighs a robust 4100 pounds; 600 pounds more than the Mustang GT and 300 pounds more than the Camaro SS.
The base model SE sells for an MSRP of $37,320 and ships with a 250-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine with a 5-speed automatic transmission and packs plenty of power and driving enjoyment. An optimal hookup for the R/T is a 376-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with a 6-speed manual transmission. The SRT8 flagship will please the crowds with the 425-hp 6.1-liter Hemi V8 and 6-speed manual combo.
Despite its weight, the R/T does 0-60-mpg in 5.1 sec and the quarter mile in 13.6 sec at 104.9-mph and , 60-0 in 135-ft.
Cornering in the Challenger is surprisingly good at 0.83g lateral acceleration, but it does lack the poise and sharpness of the Camaro or Mustang. Challenger is a great highway cruiser, with all the power you need. Cabin noise levels are consistent with the high performance engine and exhaust note.
Accounting for the added mass of the vehicle a hill-holder clutch which engages for three seconds will keep the vehicle from rolling back. The usual list of suspects include: ABS, traction control, antiskid system, and curtain side airbags. Keyless, wireless and a big hard drive for storing all your mp3s will be embraced by all.
Base trims emphasize the use of plastic while the R/T and SRT8 accent with chrome and satin textured composites. There is more head room and overall passenger space, as well as cargo storage. Nicely bolstered seats give support during long drives.
The 2010 Dodge Challenger is a very capable performance vehicle which stands tall along side Camaro and Mustang. It is an excellent highway cruiser which responds to the driver’s commands with vigor and effortlessness.
2010 Chevrolet Camaro
Ever since its discontinuation in 1981, car buffs have been waiting for the reappearance of the Chevrolet Camaro with the anticipation of that first kiss, high school graduation and Christmas morning all rolled into one. Shipping with 5 trim levels, LS, 1LT, 2LT, 1SS, and 2SS, the flagship Camaro SS starts at $30,995.
LS and LT versions ship with a 304-hp3.6 liter V6. SS versions with a 6-speed manual transmission get the benefit of a 426-hp 6.2-liter V8 while the SS variant with the automatic makes smoke with a 400-hp version. This model gets better fuel economy through its use of GM’s Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation.
The middleweight of the trio at 3859-lb, the Camaro SS tears it up doing 0-60 in 4.7 sec, the quarter mile 13.0 sec 111.0 mph, and 60-0 in 105-feet thanks to its big Brembo brakes. With the manual transmission, you feel every ounce of thrust from that 426-horsepower engine.
Entering driveways and navigating potholes in the LS trim is smooth and quiet, as opposed to the stiffer suspension in the SS, which is a bit more jarring. Taking curves in the SS occurs with minimal body lean; with 0.9 g lateral acceleration you are riding a set of virtual rails.
No Camaro would be without ABS, traction control, antiskid system, front side airbags, and curtain side airbags. All Camaros can opt for 21-inch wheels. Technology abounds with a Wi-Fi cell-phone link, USB port, and satellite radio.
The retro influences of the original Camaro do not impede the convenience of modern ergonomically designed instrumentation and controls. The materials used in the dash and seat upholstery vary with the trim, but are not Camaro’s strong suit. It’s true that you don’t buy a Camaro for its back seat headroom or cargo capacity, so these shortcomings may be excusable. Blind spots to the rear on both sides require a second glance before changing lanes.
With great power, admirable road manners, and eye-popping good looks, the 2010 Camaro does justice to its return to the road and was worth the wait. Even the V6 version is a well-engineered and road-worthy sporty car.
2010 Ford Mustang
The Ford Mustang has not missed a beat for 45 years and despite the opportunity for its competition to successfully deconstruct Mustang’s design and performance magic, nobody has yet jumped ahead. With a model for all tastes, the Mustang is available in10 trims including 2-door coupes, a convertible and the Shelby GT500. Priced for a wide range of budgets, dealer invoice pricing ranges from $19,471 – $46,250.
Like all of the muscle cars we have described, base models of the Mustang come with an available V6 which pumps out 210-hp from its 4.0-liter displacement. The GT has a 315-hp 4.6-liter V8 with a 5-speed manual or automatic transmission. The Shelby GT500 coupe or convertible is in class by itself with its 540-hp supercharged 5.4-liter V8 and 6-speed manual transmission.
As light as it is, 600-lb lighter than Challenger the GT clocks a 0-60 in 4.9 sec., a quarter mile in 13.5 sec. at 104.2 mph, and 60-0 in 108-feet.
Endowed with an awesome road presence, the Ford Mustang for 2010 will be available with a factory-installed Track Pack handling package which, for $1495 gets you:
19-inch Pirelli P Zero P255/40ZR-19
Reinforced struts and supports
Back to front stabilizers
13 percent roll ramp reduction
Stress mitigation increased 12 percent in the front and 8 percent in the rear
Performance Friction brake pads
With the aforementioned handling package, hold onto your teeth when you experience a 0.95g lateral acceleration. Even without this option, Mustang is receiving praise for its road handling agility.
The 2010 Ford Mustang comes with ABS, traction control, front side airbags, and introducing a new antiskid system. A capless fuel filler adds to the race-inspired styling.
Perhaps to a greater degree in the Mustang, interior amenities add comfort and styling. Order your new Mustang with ambient interior lighting and voice control via Ford’s Sync feature. The new GPS is as technologically advanced as anything else out there. Aluminum trim accents and extra padding give a more luxurious feel. Instruments are large and easy to read. Ford made sure Mustang came with plenty of head and leg room.
Not all Mustangs are born the same, as the handling characteristics of the different models confirm. You are more likely to experience more sway and lean in turns with the base models than in the GT models which have excellent grip and stability. Steering is crisp and lively, yet can get a little loose on rough curves. Mustang’s live rear axle as compared with the independent rear suspension on the Camaro and Challenger is not a detriment.
With the upgrades for 2010, the Ford Mustang is a treat for the eyes and the driver’s sensibilities. Poised and powerful, the Mustang continues to bring it year after year.
A few words about the 2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
There is not much need for hyperbole when describing the 2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500; its performance specs tell it all. The GT500 is powered by a supercharged and intercooled 5.4-liter DOHC V8 at 540 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque. Let the g-forces roll when the GT500 screams from 0-60 in barely more than 4.0 seconds. The tradeoff for all of this horsepower is an unenviable ride which translates every irregularity in the road and high-speed turn into Richter-sized jolts to the driver’s innards. The monthly car loan payments for a GT500 are more affordable than you might think at a low base price of $45,000.
Performance car aficionados indulge in the forbidden pleasure of enjoying the sound of a thundering V8 despite the environmental insult the existence of that niche of automotive technology represents. While the auto industry struggles to right itself profit-wise by marketing fuel-efficient mini cars, hybrids and other alternative fuel vehicles, its leaders in Detroit also recognize that today’s automobile evolved from a unique American blood-line, a manifestation of which the public insists keep its place on the American road: the muscle car.
For 2010, these three contenders bring all the boys to the yard; and all three shine brightest in certain areas. With their high performance V8 engines begging to be raced, none of our contenders will qualify for anything less than specialty muscle car insurance unless you plan to encase your Camaro in Lucite. The Challenger, with its extra mass and retro appeal is best suited for cruisin’ and laying down the power in comfort and style. The 2010 Ford Mustang is the quintessential muscle car, with a range of performance engines and trims to please all drivers. Beating Camaro’s 0-60-mph at under 4 seconds, the 2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 dominates the track. The Camaro is one of the finest products to roll out of GM production lines. They got it right. From pure curbside appeal to lively performance and handling specs, the Camaro jumps ahead. If you need proof, watch the You Tube video of the Camaro smoking its wheels on the test track.