Platform sharing. Gotta love it. Car companies spread the cost of developing a crash structure or a suspension system or powertrain over a number of different models that theoretically will appeal to different paying customers. It's economies of scale, as the guys wearing the suits like to call it.
Yeah, cool. But the real benefit of platform sharing is that it allows Inside Line to conduct a comparison test of two vehicles that we have not yet actually tested. In fact, we have not even seen the production version of one of the two combatants, the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro. We have driven a 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8, which you might think would give the reborn Mopar something of an advantage over the reborn bowtie. You, however, would be wrong.
Since we will be using data from the 2008 Pontiac G8 GT we just track-tested and the Dodge Charger SRT8 that we've tested on a couple of occasions to draw some conclusions about the Camaro and Challenger, you could call this a comparison test by proxy. Or you could call it silly. But you cannot call our conclusions invalid. And if you did, we probably wouldn't listen anyway.
So, let's get the make-believe motors running and head out onto the hypothetical highway.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road (or Soon Will) First, let's take a moment to thank the folks at Chrysler, LLC and its SRT division for making this part of the comparison such a total gimme. So, thank you and good luck with that whole "future" thing.
For all the hoopla and the car's unique bitchin'-ness, the Challenger SRT8 that the company introduced at February's Chicago auto show is essentially a two-door version of the Charger SRT8. Both carry the identical 6.1-liter Hemi V8 — a bored-out version of the standard 5.7-liter motor. Both run the same 10.3:1 compression ratio. Both gulp 91-octane gasoline. Both make the same 425 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 420 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. And the coolant capacity? The same 14 quarts. Possibly, you're getting our drift.
Both send all that power through the same five-speed shiftable automatic transmission that carries the same gear ratios and on to the rear axle, which carries the same ratio. Both cars are held off the ground by the same dual control-arm front and five-link independent rear suspensions. Both use Bilstein monotube dampers, front and rear. They carry identical Brembo-designed brakes and are fitted with Goodyear three-season tires of the same size, 245/45/20 front and 255/45/20 rear.
And although the Challenger's wheelbase is 4 inches shorter than the Charger's, Chrysler claims the Challenger is only 20 pounds lighter than the big-brother sedan. At 4,140 pounds and 4,160 pounds, both are heavyweights.
Dodge claims that the Charger SRT8 thunders to 60 mph in "the low-5-second range" and on to a "quarter-mile time under 14 seconds." When last we tested a Charger SRT8, we came away with a 60-mph sprint of 5.3 seconds and a quarter-mile run of 13.6 seconds at 105.8 mph.
Unless Dodge has something very tricky up its sleeve (unlikely), the Challenger isn't going to be much quicker. The company claimed at its Chicago auto show press conference that the Challenger SRT8 could get to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. We're going to guess something more on the order of 5.1 seconds. This all depends on how strong the particular test engine is and on what surface the acceleration run is conducted.
No matter, for as impressive as its acceleration is, we can't help but think it could be faster if both cars weren't so heavy and didn't wear those big old 20-inchers.
Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Lie Them The 2010 Camaro is a little harder to figure because Chevy won't release official specifications on the production car for some time. But it's not like the car is going to have a four-cylinder turbodiesel and a third row of seats. The Camaro shares its basic component set and family of engines with the Pontiac G8. It will, in fact, be built on the same production line in Australia as the Pontiac and its Holden-branded brethren.
Rated at 400 hp, a 6.0-liter LS2 engine was under the hood of the 2006 Camaro concept That engine has been replaced in GM's lineup by the 6.2-liter LS3 engine, which makes 436 hp in the Corvette. We expect that this will be the main V8 option for the Camaro, which will carry a 3.6-liter V6 standard. We expect that it will be detuned to right around 400 hp to prevent it from challenging the Corvette. We also expect GM to cite plumbing restrictions for the car's intake and exhaust systems for the drop in power.
The G8 GT carries the so-called L76 6.0-liter rated at 361 hp. The benefit of that particular small-block is that it allows the car to squeak into the market without carrying a gas-guzzler tax — at least while bolted to the mandatory automatic transmission. Should Chevy decide to use this motor for the same reason, it still won't be at as much of a disadvantage to the 425-hp Challenger SRT8 as you might think.
Drag Queen Consider that the Pontiac G8 we just tested ran to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and made it through the quarter in 13.7 seconds at 104.1 mph. And, yes, that was accomplished with the 6L80 six-speed automatic, which will likely be the Camaro's optional transmission. Those figures are essentially identical to the Charger SRT8's numbers.
And the G8 GT does that with ridiculously tall 2.92:1 rear axle gears. Chevy will probably shorten those up a bit in the Camaro, which would make the car even quicker.
Either way, the Camaro's available six-speed manual transmission should nudge it ahead of the more powerful Dodge. This assumes that the General doesn't do anything silly like mount 21-inch iron rims and fill the backseat with lead. Of course, the crystal ball says there will be a Challenger SRT8 with a six-speed manual in 2009 and that might even things up.
Or will it? Rumor is Pontiac will get a version of the Corvette's LS3 making about 400 hp for a GXP model. If that's the motor the V8 version of the Camaro carries, it should be able to pull a 0-60-mph run in the high 4-second range. And we expect the Camaro will be somewhat lighter than the G8 sedan's 4,100 pounds. Figure Chevy will claim a curb weight somewhere around 3,800 pounds. God help Dodge should Chevy decide to do a limited higher-performance SS model with the 505-hp LS7 from the Corvette Z06 or the 620-hp supercharged LS9 from the Corvette ZR1.
A 0-60-mph run in the high 4s and a quarter-mile in the low 13s would put the Camaro LS3 way ahead of the Mopars, but still behind the Shelby GT500 Mustang, which our radar gun clocked at 12.8 seconds in the quarter-mile. A Z06-powered Camaro, however, could take the crown.
That Other Stuff Handling is a stickier issue to figure. It's worth noting that the G8 GT and Charger SRT8 are remarkably close in terms of lateral grip (0.85g G8 and 0.84g Charger) and slalom speeds (65.7 mph G8 and 66 mph Charger). We therefore expect that the Camaro SS and Challenger SRT8, which share the same basic suspensions with their sedan brethren, will be a near dead heat in terms of quantifiable handling traits.
And if the performance of the sedans is as predictive as we expect it to be, the Camaro will trounce the Challenger under braking. Despite big Brembo brakes, the Charger SRT8s we tested stopped from 60 mph in 120 feet and 135 feet. The Pontiac G8 halted from the same speed in a world-class 109 feet. For perspective, a Shelby GT500 does it in 120 feet and a Porsche 911 Carrera S stops in just 103 feet.
If you're having trouble accepting our conclusion that the 2010 Chevy Camaro wins a comparison test simply because we haven't "tested" them, then perhaps it would help if you imagine, as we are right now, that we're hammering the two cars at our double-top-secret location where all the roads are twisty, all the cops have wooden legs and a man and his muscle cars may lay rubber with total impunity. This would be right next to the beer springs.
Now, if you'll excuse us, we must be off to a victory party for the next U.S. president.
The manufacturers will eventually provide Edmunds these vehicles for the purposes of evaluation.