2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 vs. 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Comparison Test

2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Coupe

(5.8L V8 Supercharger 6-speed Manual)
  • 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 vs. 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Track Test Video

    The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 vs. 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. Gratuitous Excess vs. Unwarranted Exorbitance. 1,242 combined horsepower goes to the track. | June 11, 2012

1 Video , 87 Photos

  • Comparison Test
  • 2012 Chevrolet Camaro Specs and Performance
  • 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Specs and Performance

With pony cars, it's all about horsepower.

So it's possible there's never been a greater case for dual-overhead-cam engine architecture than the 98-wheel-horsepower chasm between the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and 2013 Ford Shelby GT500. The Shelby, with a displacement some 350cc less than the Camaro, still manages to crank out enough horsepower to lay claim to having the most powerful production V8 ever built. Indeed, its massive potency alone makes a good case for choosing the GT500 over the pushrod-motivated Camaro.

But it gets worse for the Chevy.

The über Mustang is also 227 pounds lighter than the Camaro. Combine that with its massive power advantage and it looks like curtains for the Camaro.

It probably would be if the ZL1 didn't have a couple trump cards of its own. And by that we're referring to its independent rear suspension and magnetorheological dampers. They're interesting high-tech features, but it's hard to imagine they would be enough to overcome a serious horsepower-to-weight deficiency, right?

The Basics
In case you've been sleeping under a big block for the last 45 years, here are the facts: Camaro and Mustang comparison tests are to enthusiasts what ice is to hockey, what minivans are to soccer moms and what cheese is to tacos. This is the foundational bedrock of our passion for performance, and when two pony cars as epic as these arrive at the same time the awesomeness is arresting.

And so are the numbers.

Power figures like this, not long ago, were the realm of hydroelectric plants. Rivers, not cars, produce this kind of mechanical energy. And as different as their output might be, some similarities exist under their hoods. They're both powered by port fuel-injected, Eaton supercharged, aluminum-block V8s. Ford rates the GT500's output at 662 horsepower and 631 pound-feet of torque. Chevy says the ZL1 pumps out 580 hp and 556 lb-ft. Although you'd never know it from behind the wheel, both utilize Tremec's TR6060 six-speed manual transmission.

And if we have to tell you the power goes to the rear wheels, you're reading the wrong comparison test.

Did That Just Happen?
Nothing is more humbling than watching a car with 100 fewer horses and the extra weight of an NFL running back disappear into the distance on a back road. But that's exactly what happened when we brought the two cars together to establish which is the best-driving pony car ever. The answer, as improbable as it seemed, was as obvious as the Camaro's shrinking taillights.

The angriest Mustang in history, the car that had face-punched the ZL1 for months at auto shows and in Web forums was being systematically annihilated by that exact car. Every corner was another opportunity for the Camaro to drop trou and wave its giant bowtie-emblazoned butt in the GT500's face.

Driver swaps ensued to ensure impartiality, but a repeat performance sealed the deal. There wasn't anything to do but appreciate the stunning piece of work that is the 2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1. As one tester bluntly put it, "This might just be the best performance car General Motors has ever produced." A bold statement, for sure. But one for which there's much support.

How It Happened
Here's the amazing part about the ZL1's Shelby-stomping back road performance: It's not as if the GT500 makes no nod to handling. Plenty of effort was made to raise the Shelby's cornering ability to match the level of stupefying speed its engine can deliver.

Sure, it's saddled with a solid rear axle, but Ford has, in the last five years, refined the Mustang to the extent that, in GT form, we prefer it over the Camaro SS. And with the 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, the handling efforts are bigger than ever. Two-mode electrically adjustable Bilstein dampers coupled with unique spring and stabilizer bars are optionally available and fitted to our test car. Its Goodyear's Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 tires are as sticky as they are costly. Three-mode adjustable steering assist doesn't hurt, either.

Even so, there's a level of at-the-limit comfort in the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that you don't get in the GT500. On the road, the Camaro will rotate as commanded when its wheel is turned. In other words, there's less understeer in the ZL1 which, coupled with better steering feel, makes it more trustworthy. Perhaps most significant is that, in the real world, where bumps too often occur in less-than-ideal locations, the Camaro is more confident. The tables might turn marginally on a smooth road course, but the ZL1 will always be the more rewarding — and easier — car to drive.

Its Performance Traction Management (PTM) system, which doles out power at a level precisely metered to match available grip, makes the Shelby's "sport" stability control feel archaic in comparison. PTM eliminates the throttle-chopping punishment common to the Shelby and replaces it with rewarding acceleration at corner exit. And if you insist on measuring your manhood by switching both systems off completely, you'll live longer in the Camaro.

What the Instruments Say
If this were a contest of power plants alone, it should be obvious that the Shelby is the clear choice. Its modern motor snaps to attention with every touch of the throttle, revs higher (up to 7,000 rpm for brief periods) and, to our ears, sounds better. Put the two on a drag strip and physics predictably delivers the lighter, more powerful GT500 to the traps half a second and 7.4 mph ahead of the ZL1.

Specifically, that's an 11.9-second pass at 123.5 mph — an impressive number, but not an easy one to achieve. Our best run was made using the GT500's adjustable launch control set to only 3,000 rpm to accommodate our low-grip launch surface. Also, the GT500's shifter protested aggressive 1-2 shifts, sometimes rejecting 2nd gear altogether — a problem we've had when testing previous versions of the Ford Shelby GT500.

For its part, the ZL1 proved easier to drive in every measure. Its shifter snaps rapidly from gate to gate, encouraging the flat shifts Chevy engineers programmed its engine calibration to accommodate. By keeping the supercharger's bypass valve closed for 0.2 second when the clutch is depressed, boost remains peaked as the next gear is engaged, improving acceleration. What's more, its shorter 3.73 rear-end gear is less likely to produce the bog-or-boil scenario to which the Shelby is prone when not using launch control. The Camaro's clutch is also more easily modulated leaving the line.

But it's still slower. Our best pass was 12.4 seconds at 116.1 mph.

We managed, after several runs, to beat the ZL1's launch control, but only by about a tenth of a second to 60 mph, which arrived in 4.4 seconds (4.1 seconds with a 1-foot rollout as at a drag strip). At 4.0 seconds (3.7 seconds with rollout) the Shelby, again, was quicker.

Sit Down, Brace Yourself
Then, just as we were convinced the GT500's power was utterly untouchable, we moved on to handling tests and things changed. Our first hint that there's something truly special about Chevy's ZL1 came when it calmly circled the skid pad at 1.03g — a number higher than the last Chevy Corvette ZR1 we tested and matching the McLaren MP4-12C and Porsche 911 GT2 RS for the highest lateral acceleration we've ever recorded for a production car.

Wait. Isn't this a Camaro? Yes, yes it is. The best Camaro ever.

At 70.8 mph it was also quicker through the slalom than the GT500, which managed a still respectable 69.1 mph.

One hundred and ten feet are required to bring the ZL1 to a halt from 60 mph — 1 foot longer than the GT500. Both cars suffer from a too-soft middle pedal when driven with purpose — hardly surprising given the road-crushing mass and power at work here.

Practical Matters
When it comes to the ZL1, Chevy rejects the notion that cars this capable need to reflect those abilities in their ride quality. This was evident as we drove the Camaro 2,300 miles across the country to clash with the GT500 in Southern California. Never once during the journey did our backside lose consciousness. Calling the Camaro comfortable is a stretch because its ride is taut even in Tour mode, but it's still a wholly worthy long-distance car. In fairness, the Shelby, too, manages a decent ride on the highway, but it lacks the latitude provided by the Camaro's magnetic dampers.

Some fundamental problems still persist in the Camaro. It remains only a periscope away from rivaling a Virginia class submarine's forward visibility. As a result, placing the Camaro in a corner precisely is consistently frustrating. Even after three full days behind the wheel we were incapable of discerning exactly where the Camaro ended and empty space began. Chevy somewhat mitigates the problem in Reverse by installing a back-up camera that displays in the rearview mirror. Submarine commanders would be proud.

The Ford answers back with better visibility and more supportive seats if you order the optional Recaros. It's still not possible to see the edges of the Shelby from behind the wheel, but being smaller in every dimension except height helps.

What the Ford gains in perception, it loses in drivability thanks to a tall 3.31 rear-end gear that allows it to reach 60 mph in 1st gear and claim a top speed over 200 mph. This gearing is purely a marketing tool designed to achieve stunning 0-60 numbers and a headline-worthy top speed. The trade-off is overcoming that tall ratio every time you pull away from a stop in the Shelby. Ample torque makes this manageable, but it still requires considerable attention to an area where the ZL1 is utterly seamless in comparison.

It's a similar, although much less drastic difference, when it comes to their respective shifters. They're both rowing the same gearbox, but the linkage in the Camaro has far less resistance. It makes every shift a non-event while the Mustang often pushes back against aggressive shifts. And let's face it: In cars like this, ripping gears is their stock in trade, so the Camaro's superiority here is a big deal.

How and Why
There was a time when a $63,080 Mustang (OK, Shelby) was as laughable an enterprise as gold-plated diapers. But a 662-hp Mustang that rings up such a tally somehow seems like a genuinely good value. The 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, outfitted with the SVT Performance package, SVT Track Pack and the Recaro seats has $8,085 in options pumping up its $54,995 base price.

At $56,295 (including the mandatory gas-guzzler tax) the ZL1's cost of entry is similar. This car's $500 Interior Microfiber package, $470 bright forged wheels and $600 carbon-fiber hood insert (a no-cost option on 2012 models) brought the total to $57,265.

But it's not the $5,815 cost advantage that wins the comparison test for the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. It's this car's ability to fight above its weight class that makes it undeniably more attractive. It's virtually unprecedented that a car with such a dramatic power deficit and weight disadvantage could come out ahead.

So in other words, we were wrong. When it comes to pony cars, it's not always about horsepower. At least not anymore.

The manufacturers provided Edmunds these vehicles for the purposes of evaluation.

Vehicle
Model year2012
MakeChevrolet
ModelCamaro
StyleZL1 2dr Coupe (6.2L 8cyl S/C 6M)
Vehicle TypeRWD 2dr 4-passenger Coupe
Base MSRP$56,295 (including mandatory $1,300 gas-guzzler tax)
Options on test vehicleInterior Sueded Microfiber Package ($500 --includes sueded microfiber-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and shift boot); 20-by-10-Inch Front and 20-by-11-Inch Rear Bright Five-Spoke Forged Aluminum Wheels ($470); Carbon-Fiber Hood ($600 --no-cost option on 2012 models).
As-tested MSRP$57,265
Assembly locationOshawa, Ontario Canada
Drivetrain
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine typeSupercharged, port-injected V8, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)6,162/376
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainPushrod, two valves per cylinder
Compression ratio (x:1)9.1
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)580 @ 6,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)556 @ 4,200
Fuel typePremium unleaded (required)
Transmission typeSix-speed manual
Transmission ratios (x:1)I=2.66, II=1.78, III=1.30, IV=1.00, V=0.80, VI=0.63
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.73
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts with dual lower ball joints, coil springs, driver-adjustable two-mode magnetorheological dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, driver-adjustable 2-mode magnetorheological dampers, stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric speed-proportional power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)16.1
Tire make and modelGoodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2
Tire typePerformance front and rear
Tire size, frontP285/35ZR20
Tire size, rearP305/35ZR20
Wheel size, front20-by-10 inches
Wheel size, rear20-by-11 inches
Wheel materialPolished alloy
Brakes, front14.6-inch two-piece ventilated steel discs with 6-piston fixed calipers
Brakes, rear14.4-inch one-piece ventilated steel discs with 4-piston fixed calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.0
0-45 mph (sec.)3.0
0-60 mph (sec.)4.4
0-75 mph (sec.)5.8
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)12.4 @ 116.1
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)4.1
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)2.3
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.3
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)4.8
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)6.3
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)12.7 @ 114.7
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)4.5
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)26
60-0 mph (ft.)110
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)70.8
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON68.6
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)1.03
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.99
Sound level @ idle (dB)51.3
@ Full throttle (dB)82.3
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)69.6
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)2,000
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsLaunch control is both highly effective and easy to access. Managed to beat it after several runs but only because the Camaro is relatively easy to launch. Shifter is awesome and encourages the flat shifting this car is designed for (engine calibration keeps bypass valve closed for 0.2 second when LC is activated, which maintains boost between shifts).
Braking commentsPedal is somewhat soft considering the hardware at work here. Still, this car had been driven hard for a short time before our test, which may have contributed. Consistent stopping distances.
Handling commentsStable and quick through slalom, but visibility still inhibits ability to place the car as precisely as I might be able to in a Mustang. Steering is precise, well-weighted and honest. Quickest run in Sport, but there?s better mid-corner bump compliance in Tour. Skid pad proves how little this car understeers. It?s truly amazing. Balance and feedback here are unlike any pony car ever built. The best in the segment by a wide margin.
Testing Conditions
Test date6/5/2012
Test locationCalifornia Speedway
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)68.6
Relative humidity (%)48.5
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.73
Wind (mph, direction)5.4 headwind
Odometer (mi.)3,677
Fuel used for test91-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)32/32
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)14 city/19 highway/16 combined
Edmunds observed (mpg)17.7 (includes 2,300-mile highway drive)
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)19.0
Driving range (mi.)361
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo descriptionAM/FM/XM tuner, CD, MP3
iPod/digital media compatibilityStandard iPod via USB jack, auxiliary input
Satellite radioStandard XM
Bluetooth phone connectivityStandard
Navigation systemOptional
Telematics (OnStar, etc.)Standard six months trial subscription
Parking aidsStandard parking sonar. rear back-up camera
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)NA
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)4,096
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)53/47
Length (in.)190.4
Width (in.)75.5
Height (in.)54.2
Wheelbase (in.)112.3
Track, front (in.)63.7
Track, rear (in.)63.7
Turning circle (ft.)37.7
Legroom, front (in.)42.4
Legroom, rear (in.)29.9
Headroom, front (in.)37.4
Headroom, rear (in.)35.3
Shoulder room, front (in.)56.9
Shoulder room, rear (in.)50.4
Seating capacity4
Trunk volume (cu-ft)11.3
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/100,000 miles
Corrosion6 years/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance5 years/100,000 miles
Vehicle
Model year2013
MakeFord
ModelShelby GT500
Style2dr Coupe (5.8L 8cyl S/C 6M)
Vehicle TypeRWD 2dr 4-passenger Coupe
Base MSRP$54,995
Options on test vehicleEquipment Group 821A -- SVT Performance Package ($3,495 -- includes torsen differential with 3.31 axle ratio, 19-by-9.5-inch front and 20-by-9.5-inch rear "Tarnish" painted aluminum forged wheels, upgraded springs and stabilizer bars, unique gearshift knob, SVT engineered Bilstein cockpit-selectable dampers, rear spoiler with Gurney Flap); SVT Track Pack ($2,995 -- includes external engine oil cooler; transmission cooler with pump, differential cooler with pump); Recaro Leather Sport Seats ($1,595).
As-tested MSRP$63,080
Assembly locationFlat Rock, Michigan
Drivetrain
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine typeSupercharged, port-injected V8, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)5,821/355
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio (x:1)9.0
Redline, indicated (rpm)7,000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)662 @ 6,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)631 @ 4,200
Fuel type93-octane recommended, 91-octane required
Transmission typeSix-speed manual
Transmission ratios (x:1)I = 2.66; II = 1.82; III = 1.30; IV = 1.00; V = 0.77; VI = 0.50
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.31
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts, driver-adjustable two-mode variable dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearNon-independent solid axle, coil springs, driver-adjustable two-mode variable dampers, trailing links, panhard rod, stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)15.7
Tire make and modelGoodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2
Tire typeSummer performance front and rear
Tire size, frontP265/40ZR19
Tire size, rearP285/35ZR20
Wheel size, front19-by-9.5 inches front
Wheel size, rear20-by-9.5 inches rear
Wheel materialForged aluminum
Brakes, front15-inch ventilated discs with 6-piston fixed aluminum calipers
Brakes, rear13.8-inch ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.2
0-45 mph (sec.)3.1
0-60 mph (sec.)4.4
0-75 mph (sec.)5.7
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)12.1 @ 121.2
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)4.0
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)2.1 (launch control)
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.0 (launch control)
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)4.0 (launch control)
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)5.5 (launch control)
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)11.9 @ 123.5 (launch control)
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)3.7 (launch control)
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)27
60-0 mph (ft.)109
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)69.1
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON67.0
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.98
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.95
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsBest launch came from using launch control from 3,000 rpm. Adjustable launch control requires trial and error to produce best time -- just like driving the car would. Still, it manages wheelspin more effectively and more consistently than a human. Best times without launch control were several tenths slower. Not an easy car to launch. Combination of massive torque, tall 1st gearing and relatively small tires make it tough to get out of the hole. Shifter is slow and awkward. Doesn't like being rushed for 1-2 shift.
Braking commentsThis car had been driven somewhat hard before our test, which diminished the urgency of its brake pedal some. Still, brake feel was too soft given the braking hardware at work here. Regardless, braking distances were short and consistent.
Handling commentsSkid pad: Good steady-state cornering feedback through steering wheel. Equally good balance in both directions and easy to hang on to a small slip angle around the whole pad. Throttle steering is so easy it's ridiculous. This car could benefit from more/stickier rubber. Slalom: Adjustable dampers give multiple personalities here. Fastest run in Sport but Normal mode provides less urgency and better compliance over midcorner bumps. Timing and restraint are critical when rolling into the throttle at the end of the slalom. Very easy to get big oversteer at 70 mph if you're not truly careful with throttle application. Sport stability control is too restrictive to produce best time in either handling test, as it punishes ambition with heavy reductions in throttle position.
Testing Conditions
Test date6/5/2012
Test locationCalifornia Speedway
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)69.5
Relative humidity (%)46.3
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.7
Wind (mph, direction)3.5, head/cross
Fuel used for test91-octane gasoline
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)15 city/24 highway/18 combined
Edmunds observed (mpg)19.9 (includes 3,269 mile highway drive)
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)16.0
Driving range (mi.)384
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,852
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,869
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)57/43
Length (in.)188.2
Width (in.)73.9
Height (in.)54.8
Wheelbase (in.)107.1
Track, front (in.)61.9
Track, rear (in.)62.5
Legroom, front (in.)42.4
Legroom, rear (in.)29.8
Headroom, front (in.)38.5
Headroom, rear (in.)34.7
Shoulder room, front (in.)55.3
Shoulder room, rear (in.)51.6
Seating capacity4
Trunk volume (cu-ft)13.4
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/60,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance5 years/60,000 miles
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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 in WA is:

$172 per month*
* Explanation
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