The Ram's Eye - A Driver's Blog: September 2016



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Friday, 30 September 2016

Chevrolet 1LE & Grand Sport - How do they do it? Part 1




Recently, Chevrolets seem to have been punching far above their weights and a lot of people (myself included) are impressed. Sure, Corvettes have always been formidable track cars, but they're low, light, purpose-built, and didn't blow expectations - just provided excellent value. Now, all +Chevrolet  track cars, especially Camaros, seem to be overreaching and, combined with excellent chassis tuning, have been doing wonders for GM's chassis engineers' image. I decided to take the time and do some research to try and figure out what GM is doing that others aren't (or can't). Before I start, I'd like to point out that this is based only on my own understanding and research, not an interview or publication by GM, so take that for what it's worth.

Since I haven't posted about the latest of Chevy's track-focused models/trim packages, I thought I'd first take this opportunity and talk about what you get. Whether you're looking at a Camaro V6, Camaro SS, or Corvette, choosing the 1LE package or Grand Sport will not bring extra power. Instead, those packages help you make the most of what's already available. You get no extra power but better track performance and longevity. Here's what you get, as best as I could find:




Camaro (V6) 1LE
- Functional front splitter (unique design to the V6)
- Functional rear spoiler (shared by V6 and SS)
- 245/40/20 front and 275/35/20 rear tires, mounted on forged wheels
- Oil cooler, bigger engine coolant capacity, and rear differential cooler
- Upgraded fuel pump and tank from the SS
- Upgraded dampers, rear sub-frame mounts, ball-jointed rear toe links, and anti roll bar, all taken from the standard SS
- Four piston front brembo calipers. Rears are unchanged, presumably one piston sliding calipers.
- Limited slip differential (standard on all V6 Camaros with the 6-speed manual)




Camaro SS 1LE
- Functional front splitter (unique design to the SS)
- Functional rear spoiler (shared by V6 and SS)
- 285/30/20 front and 305/20/20 rear tires, mounted on forged wheels
- SS already has oil cooler, bigger engine coolant capacity, rear diff cooler, plus transmission cooler so 1LE does not provide additional cooling capacity.
- Upgraded (magnetic) shocks and springs.
- Upgraded anti roll bars, rear toe links, rear trailing arms, and rear sub-frame mounts all taken from the ZL1
- Six piston front brembo calipers clamping on two piece, aluminum hat front rotors and four piston rear brembo calipers with one piece rotors
- Electronic limited slip differential (standard SS all get mechanical limited slip differentials).

Corvette Grand Sport
- The wide body of the Z06 (in other words, wide fenders to fit fat sticky tires) along with all cooling and aero ducts and passages
- 285/30/19 front and 335/25/20 rear tires, mounted on forged wheels
- Carbon ceramic brake rotors
- Upgraded aero package - the same spec as the stage 2 aero package on the Corvette Z06 (i.e. a Z06 with the Z07 package but not the Performance aero kit or stage 3). Stage 3 brings larger end plates to the front splitter and an adjustable, transparent wicker bill/gurney flap on the rear spoiler. Chevy determined that Stage 3 brings too much drag that isn't welcome without the additional thrust that the Z06 brings to the party.
- Dry sump oiling system (you can get with Z51 package)
- Dual mode exhaust with 460 hp (you can get with the Z51 package)
- Electronic limited slip differential (you can get with the Z51 package)
- Bigger brakes (you can get with the Z51 package)
- Upgraded springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars (you can get with the Z51 package, but the Grand Sport package then turns up the suspension stiffness a notch to sit nicely between the Z51 and Z06)
- Differential and transmission cooling (you can get with the Z51 package)
- Increased engine cooling capacity (you can get with the Z51 package)

So, in summary, all three cars provide downforce, or at least reduce lift for the Camaros (I haven't found data stating downforce numbers), additional cooling where necessary, more braking power, bigger tires, and stiffer suspension tuning. Additionally, except for the V6 Camaro, the cars can put more power down thanks to the electronic limited slip differentials. But what is special about Chevys? Every manufacturer addresses the same areas, if to different extents, but they can't seem to catch up.

The Corvette Grand Sport, for example, is only one tenth behind the GT3 RS, basically a dead heat at 2:47.1 for the Vette vs 2:47 flat for the Porsche, despite the Corvette having LESS power and weighing MORE. Consider this too: both use the same Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, albeit tailored specifically for each car. The SS 1LE, at 2:54.8, is nearly tied with a Cayman GT4 (0.8 s behind), despite the GT4 being far lighter, enough to give it a superior power to weight ratio, and using even better tires - the same Pilot Sport Cup 2 vs the Camaro using Goodyear's equivalent to Michelin's Pilot Super Sport (that testing and reviews rate even lower than the Super Sport). How does Chevy do it?

Well, we can tell right off the bat that power isn't the answer. These Chevys are typically outright under-powered on raw numbers or at least power to weight ratio compared to cars they can beat or keep up with. Braking? Highly unlikely. Competitors use gigantic rotors and calipers that can (safely) be assumed to be sized properly with appropriate brake boosters and system pressure. Handling? Read a review of a Cayman GT4 or a 991 GT3 RS and tell me they're lacking. They're stable, yet neutral, handle road undulations, put power down well, etc. Could one be a little bit better than the other? Sure, but we aren't comparing a Corvette to a Beetle here. Plus, declaring them better means stating that Chevy can better design cars to handle than Porsche..

Aero? I hate making assumptions based on such superficial observations.. I really do. But I'll challenge you to this: take a gooood long look at the spoiler on the back of a Cayman GT4. Now look at the.. let's be kind and say relatively handicapped deck-lid spoiler on the trunk of a Camaro 1LE. Then tell yourself that the Camaro has more downforce than the GT4. Can you keep a straight face? I'm not saying that spoilers are the be all end all as far as downforce. There are many ways of managing air flow to change speed and create areas of relative low and high pressures to generate downforce. But it gets harder to do in a compromised car, such as the Camaro, where there are more space constraints than, say, a 2 seater mid-engine car like the Cayman. Plus, a spoiler, an airfoil one in particular, is a very effective way of generating aerodynamic forces. Planes use them (wings). Wind turbines use them (blades). You get the point.






On a side note, you should never underestimate the capability of deck lid or lip spoiler to generate downforce. While pedestal spoilers are far more common in racing, deck lid spoilers can still generate serious downforce. The one on the back of the Camaro 1LEs is simply not very large, the lip doesn't stand very tall, and angle of attack doesn't seem aggressive. Compare it to the last generation Z/28 for example. Here it is, below, with the optional wicker bill or Gurney flap, without which Randy Pobst in Motor Trend testing found the Camaro Z/28 loose and unstable, even though the spoiler alone has a much larger surface area and more aggressive angle of attack than the one on the current Camaro 1LE. So, without real test data, I am making a somewhat-educated guess that they don't have superior downforce.




A comparison of the Corvette Grand Sport vs 911 GT3 RS tells a similar story. Although, in this case, we actually do have numbers. The Corvette Z06 with the Z07 package and Performance Aero Kit (i.e. Stage 3 aero) produces 350 lbs of downforce at 150 mph, according to an article posted by Jalopnik about testing the Z06 at Spring Mountain Motorsports Park, being invited by Chevrolet (link: 2015 Corvette Z06: A 650 HP All-American Middle Finger To Euro Supercars). Meanwhile, the GT3 RS produces 772 lbs at 186 mph, 386 lbs at 93 mph, and vary linearly in between, according to Porsche’s GT division boss, and ‘Mr. GT3’, Andreas Preuninger, who was interviewed by Car Magazine (link: A guided tour of the 2015 Porsche 911 GT3 RS – by the boss). That works out to 622 lbs at 150 mph for the GT3 RS - nearly double what the Z06 makes with its most aggressive aero package, which the Grand Sport does without and makes do with stage 2, as mentioned above.






What about traction? Maybe these pesky Chevys have great traction, allowing them to put power down better and, therefore, outperform their competitors despite being relatively down on power. They could be making better use of what they have, saddling and employing every single horse coming out of their more humble power plants whereas competitors don't. Perhaps.. but there is one big problem. The humble Chevy engines also find themselves placed in cars with more humble layouts - front engine RWD cars. Whereas the GT3 RS has a whopping 62% of its weight over the rear wheels, the Corvette has a relatively measly 51% (impressive for a front engine car). Likewise, the GT4 has a far superior 56% compared to the Camaro's 46%. Without better weight distribution, more downforce, or better tires, and possibly even handling, they couldn't have more traction.. Or Could they? Here's where it gets interesting. I think that it is possible they have better traction. But it's not just traction, I think they have more grip overall, allowing every component to perform better. How do they do that, despite (probably) being relatively handicapped or equivalent at best in all aspects mentioned above? Stay tuned to find out in Part 2 (link: Chevrolet 1LE & Grand Sport - How do they do it? Part 2)!


Saturday, 24 September 2016

Car and Driver Lightning Lap 2016 - A Closer Look

Where did the time go? I unfortunately missed last year's feature. I did intend to post about it this year but haven't had the chance and it's already time for this year's feature. I thought I'd get this one done first and then go back to last year's (hopefully). The full article for this year's LL is here: Car and Driver - Lightning Lap 2016. As always, my car picks aren't necessarily very quick or slow. They simply did much better or much worse than I excepted them to. 

The Highs



BMW M2 - 3:01.9: Last year, a BMW M4 did 3:00.7. 1.2 seconds is all that separate the iconic M4 (an M3 coupe, really.. doesn't that sound better?) from this M2. And that one had the dual clutch transmission and carbon ceramic brakes. Opt for the manual, and you could very well be neck and neck. But you save *ahem* about $30,000 in the process, a little more if you're in Canada. That's what you need to get an M4 with the competition package, dual clutch auto, and carbon ceramic brakes. The M2 is also lighter and seems to be hailed as the true spiritual successor to the BMW 2002. The lack of carbon ceramic brakes is not only impressive, but will also make it much cheaper to run at the track. If you want the best BMW M track car, this is the one to get, not the M4. 




Chevy Camaro LT 1LE - 3:04.0: I don't know if I should be surprised. Year after year, the GM team has been destroying expectations of how much track performance you can get for your money. Sure, the Corvette has always been a bargain for what it offered but that's a low, lightweight, two seater, purpose-built car. 

Both 1LE Camaros are knock outs in their own rights and class, but the V6 has more of a David-and-Goliath story to tell. Both cars are huge value and underpowered compared to most of the cars they beat or run with, but the other one has an SS badge and V8 noise and power. This is "just a V6 Camaro." And it is one tenth of a second behind a 2012 Porsche Cayman R. Think about that for a bit. It beats heavy hitters like an Audi RS5, BMW M5, last generation TT RS and, embarrassingly, a current Mustang GT PP. As Car and Driver has been saying for a while now about the 6th gen Camaro; there is no longer shame in buying the V6.




Chevy Camaro SS 1LE - 2:54.8: I'm looking at this a little differently. You want phenomenal value in a track car, you buy a Camaro 1LE. Chevy will generously let you choose two engine options, depending on your thirst for power and the level of car you want to embarrass, although it'll probably really depend on how deep your pockets are. Not a single car that beat either Camaro costs less. It's not possible to go faster for less (off the showroom floor). The SS? Well, that beat the R8 V10 Plus that ran with it this year and was less than a second behind a Cayman GT4.. the GT4. That's despite the Camaro having worse power to weight ratio, weighing around 700 lbs MORE, AND having less sticky Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires vs Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2's. Swap the tires, and the Camaro is ahead, I have no doubt,  despite the weight and power to weight ratio. Unbelievable. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how GM works its track magic!



The Lows




Acura NSX -  2:50.2: Three electric motors, mid-engine layout, aluminum and carbon fibre space frame, twin turbo V6, Pirelli Trofeo R tires.. what am I missing? Oh yes, a nearly $200k price tag. The last NSX was well under $100k when it came out. After accounting for inflation, or if you compare to how much cheaper it was than other cars that are still in production (i.e. a 911 turbo, a comparable Ferrari, etc.) or more expensive (i.e. a Corvette or a Viper), this car should cost about $60k less. What do you get for the added money? It's certainly not performance. This car will get beat by a now out of production Ferrari 458 Italia. I remember reading somewhere that this was one of their benchmarks during development. I always assumed that they were referring to driving experience, not performance.. The 911 GT3 (non RS) is two tenths of a second slower. That's zero point two. And it is about $60k less. Since when does a special track edition Porsche qualify as good value? It now does, thanks to Acura.

I get this car, despite how harsh I am. It is a step in the direction of less reliance on gas. The way to look at it is that it is showing us the future can still be fast and fun, despite (some) electrification and hybridization. In day to day driving, it should be more efficient than a GT3 but you give up no performance at the track. But, because of the price, the target buyer isn't buying to save on fuel costs so you buy it because you want to make a statement or you truly care and think it will make a difference. If you are in that latter group, thank you for being the early tech adopter, even though it doesn't make sense on paper, to allow automakers to develop them. Otherwise, there are far more exciting cars for the money that give up nothing in performance, some of which also beat the Acura for far less.




BMW M4 GTS - 2:52.9: Unlike the Acura, this has no excuses. Why doesn't this match the GT350 or Z/28? Why is it over 1 second and 2 seconds slower than those cars? It has half a cage, power turned up to nearly 500 hp, big sticky Michelin Cup 2 tires, functional aero upgrades, and costs more than twice as much as a base M4. All of that adds up to the impression that BMW left no stone unturned. I'm left with only one conclusion; BMW cannot make it quicker. They either need wider tires and/or track but couldn't fit them in the fenders, more power but the transmission, axles, or diff couldn't take it, or stiffer suspension but it was determined to be too stiff for the street, or something else. I really don't like to judge a car by performance on only one track and I expected it to do better at Laguna Seca with Motor Trend, but *SPOILER ALERT* it was only slightly quicker on LS than a Z/28 (less than two tenths is the difference) but slower than a GT350R. Is this the best BMW can do?




Lexus GS F - 3:05.9: This shouldn't really be listed because I (and you should've) more or less expected it to put a time right around what it did, basically tying the RC F from last year that has basically the same drivetrain, including torque vectoring diff, and weighs basically the same. I couldn't help but shake my head, though. Forget the heavy hitters like the CTS-V and E63 AMG S, with times of 2:56.8 and 3:00.1. Why couldn't this beat a humble 2015 Mustang GT that also has a naturally aspirated 5.0 litre V8 that so happens to be more than 30 hp down on power? 

I think Lexus is hoping people compare this car to the competition from Cadillac, Mercedes, and BMW much like comparing a Cayman to a Corvette. The Cayman is supposed to be more focused on driving while the Corvette is more focused on performance. Trouble is, while the Cayman can make a huge statement for itself due to lighter weight, mid engine layout, and more direct feel, this car offers nothing for a purist beyond a naturally aspirated engine. But even that, they took and dulled by a comfort-oriented transmission tuning. No manual, DCT, or at least a more crisp and quicker shift map for the transmission.

I think this car doesn't know what to be. Lexus probably couldn't afford to delay it until they develop a boosted unit so they gave it the older N/A one (albeit, with updates). That means they couldn't compete on raw numbers so had to make sure it's more comfort oriented in suspension and transmission tuning. That isn't a cool selling point in this segment, though, so they tried to sell it off as more of a "purist" choice because of the N/A engine. It's a half-hearted attempt that only exists because they needed a GS F, in my opinion. I'm typically a sucker for a good naturally aspirated V8. Here, though, I can't help but ignore it, because the looks say it's trying (far) too hard while the rest of the car says it's not trying hard enough and the price.. that is just screaming: there are far better options!




Tesla Model S P85D - 3:17.4: A humble FWD, 4 cylinder turbo Focus ST is but two tenths of a second behind this. The Focus is more or less 3 seconds slower to 60 mph and to cover a 1/4 mile, and it's also laughably traction limited, being FWD with an open differential (and only brake-based limited slip programming) vs this mighty multi-electric-motor AWD Tesla. I admit, it's very cool to keep giving this car more power and better launch programming to see how quick it can go from 0-60 mph but the fun AND shock of it is getting old. I hope Tesla starts putting some money and effort into developing a proper battery pack with cooling that can allow the battery to function at peak despite track abuse. This slow time was even despite having part of the lap (first 40 seconds) with full power before battery protection kicked in. Imagine a second, full lap, entirely with reduced power. Tesla gave us the first long range car, charging infrastructure, and good, desirable performance, but all is moot so far for the large (and growing) market of track-day enthusiasts around the world.



Where is my car??

You might be wondering where some cars are or why they didn't make the list. A couple were close calls for me so I thought I'd mention them.




Focus RS - 3:03.9: The RS put down a blistering time and most people probably were expecting to read it in the high list or were at least surprised by the time. I, too, was very surprised at first, then I saw it was done on the optional Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. It's hard to say what those are worth but 3-5 seconds seem reasonable to me on a track of this length. Half way in the middle, 4 seconds, would give this car a time of 3:07.9 about 2.5 seconds quicker than an STI. That's very good and, as a Ford fan, I couldn't be happier that it's the quickest car in the segment, and by a large margin, but we already knew it handles better, has more power, and better power distribution bias, so that's more or less where you'd expect it.




Shelby GT350R - 2:51.8: I was disappointed when I first read this, because it couldn't beat the last generation Z/28. I was planning to put it under The Lows. Then I started to read more. The Shelby and Corvette Grand Sport have the same model Michelin tires. However, they found those on the Grand Sport to be more peaky, with great grip for a few laps, and then grips falls off slightly as they get hotter. There is nothing wrong with that. Most tires are like that. You always expect to lose some grip when the tires get hot. In fact, the ones on the Vette were actually good because the tires were very consistent after giving up some edge. The interesting thing, though, is that the Shelby-specific tires were designed to have more longevity than ultimate grip, and the tires never seemed to lose any grip as the laps piled on. This is not only very useful, but also refreshing - to see an automaker committed to something you will probably see very little promotion on (besides Ford advertising they're Shelby-specific spec) but a serious driver will appreciate. And that something could hurt lap times, the one thing most people will remember and reiterate, for the sake of having a more consistent and confident inspiring car. Moreover, as I said under the M4 GTS, when cars are this close in performance, you can't judge based on lap times on only one track and, as you may have read, Motor Trend's Best Driver's Car results are published and *SPOILER ALERT* they're different and the 350R does beat the Z/28 by about a second and a half.




Corvette Grand Sport - 2:47.1: This is more or less the same story as the Focus RS. It seems like a surprising time at first, but then you think about it, and it makes perfect sense - much bigger and stickier tires, upgraded suspension, and more downforce. It sits between the Stingray Z51 and the Z06 in terms of lap times, although it's much closer to the Z06 - 6.7 seconds faster than the Z51 and only 2.5 seconds slower than the Z06 - while being much closer in price to the former - about $11,000 more expensive than the Z51 and $18,000 less than the Z06. But it is justified because, with the Grand Sport, you only get the track performance but not the power. With that said, with apologies to the overlords of automotive power, you don't want the extra power here.. If the Z06 were still naturally aspirated, sure, but I will always prefer a naturally aspirated engine on track than otherwise. And you'll give up very little comfort, thanks to the excellent magnetic shocks and dual mode exhaust, but gain so much in performance. This is basically tying a Porsche 911 GT3. The RS one - costing two and a half times as much, producing 35 more hp, and weighing about 350 lbs less. Both have sticky track-oriented tires and real aero-improving parts. The Corvette does more with (a lot) less. And it's a V8 with a manual..


Friday, 16 September 2016

2016 Camaro SS vs 2016 Mustang GT - Road Test



If you've come here for a new instrument head-to-head test, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. Although, for the sake of those who do want numbers, here they are from the most recent Car and Driver comparison test:

2016 Camaro SS 2016 Mustang GT
0-30 mph 1.6 s 1.7 s
0-60 mph 3.9 s 4.4 s
0-100 mph 8.9 s 10.5 s
1/4 mile 12.3 s @ 116 mph 13.0 s @ 112 mph
braking 70-0 mph 147 ft 157 ft
300-ft dia.skidpad 0.98 g 0.94 g
610-ft slalom 43.9 mph 43.3 mph

For some reason, Car and Driver tested an 8-speed auto Camaro and a 6-speed manual Mustang, so figure you'll lose a tenth or two with a manual; the gap is still clear. The new Camaro SS out accelerates, out brakes, and out grips the new (now almost two years old) Mustang. And I'm not here to tell you otherwise. If you're reading this, chances are, you've already read plenty of other reviews so I will try to give a different perspective. The perspective of a guy who owns this type of car, enjoys it the way it was intended to be enjoyed, but also daily drives it.

I had an opportunity to test drive a new +Chevrolet Camaro SS the other day as well as a new +Ford Mustang GT. Both cars were manual but, while the SS was a loaded 2SS model, the GT was a no-options base model. And by no options, I mean no options - not one. The Camaro, on the other hand, had plenty of options, including, crucially, the Magnetic shocks and dual-mode performance exhaust. I decided to take this opportunity to write my impressions of both cars. Don't consider this a foregone conclusion because of the disparity in options. 


Interior


 

Let's first address the elephant in the room; Camaro visibility. I came in expecting to hate it, especially after hearing that it's worse than the last generation, which I have driven a couple of times. To be honest, it wasn't that bad. I think it is very overblown. Sure, sight lines are tight and if you like a lot of space, you will probably feel claustrophobic because you can't see as much of outside as.. uh.. normal cars. But the parts that are blocked are not typically what you need to see to drive properly. Imagine having your sun visor down and then imagine stretching it across your windshield. Rotate it and put it against the side windows too. You now have a rough idea - the Camaro is a little bit better than that. You won't see as much of the sky, but unless you plan on taking off, that shouldn't be much of a concern.




As far as seeing what you need to see, it's mostly all there. The only bad blind spot is over the shoulder but if you have your mirrors setup properly, you shouldn't need to see much anyway and most people now get blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert, etc. anyway, which is available (not that I like to rely on those features instead). The A pillar is thick but there are plenty of new cars like that now so it's no different. Point is, if you think you might get claustrophobic, it is bad. But don't dismiss it because you think you won't be able to see out of it. You can still see what you need to see. It isn't ideal but far from a deal breaker in my opinion.

With that said, the Mustang feels like a cathedral in comparison. I have never sat in a Mustang before and thought: "Look at all the space!" It feels very spacious relative to the Camaro, despite interior dimensions looking closer on paper. Although, like I said, it isn't a deal breaker for me, the Mustang interior is easily the better place to be. Interior design is nicer, too, and more cohesive. And inside and out, I feel like the Mustang manages to better capture retro design cues from classic Mustangs while looking more modern. Mustang +1.


Power

With that out of the way, the first thing you notice - assuming you're eager to start them car up like me instead of playing with gizmos - is the noise. Press the start button, and the Camaro roars into life in a way that belies a completely stock car. It's hard to miss when you startup. It's hard to miss when you get into it. It is very easy to miss, though, when you're just cruising under light load and the dual mode exhaust isn't shouting. The Mustang, on the other hand, doesn't have the same vocal range. It's more or less as quiet as the Camaro under light load so you aren't giving up much, if any, in that department but get into it, and there's a very noticeable difference. The beauty, here, is the dual mode exhaust, which means the noise will never get tiring because it quiets down when you're taking it easy. Not that V8 noise should ever get tiring...

And there is power everywhere in the rev range. In true Chevy V8 fashion, power comes on down low and stays, relentlessly, throughout the rev range. The Mustang never failed to please when you put your foot down, with plenty of power that is very linear and the noise is a little more hairy-chested-machine-gun (albeit, relatively quiet) than the Camaro, which is accompanied with a faint wail. Despite that, it doesn't quite have the same low end shove that you get at low engine speeds with the 2-valve, big displacement, Chevy small block. Camaro +1


The Drive


 

Surprisingly, driving the Camaro is where things actually disappointed. Before you curse or dismiss this review, hear me out. Based on what I've read, I feared (and was expecting) to leave feeling blown away, contemplating whether I should trade in. I had extremely high expectations. That was problem number one. Problem number two: I didn't get a chance to take the car out on a nice back road or, even better, the track, where I have no doubt the car would shine.

There was plenty to like. The noise is awesome like I said. You can't complain about the power. The car is stiff, but never punishing, and very composed. Body roll and movements in general are far better controlled compared to my '12 Boss 302, let alone the base GT I drove. It has great turn in and is very responsive. It seems to put power down really well. I tried a very aggressive throttle roll-in in 1st gear and the car executed beautifully. A lot of things seemed text book perfect during the drive. What went wrong, then?




It provided exactly no additional reward over driving the Mustang. In fact, it was a little less entertaining. The engine, for example, feels very lazy at street speeds, barely having to rev above idle to get you moving and never needing or, more importantly, feeling like it wants to. Don't get me wrong, I love a good ole' low-effort V8. But the eagerness of Ford's 5.0 litre Coyote is more fun, especially here on the street where four or four and a half seconds to 60 mph makes no difference. Both will take off with satisfying grunt, both will sound good, and both will have no trouble reaching any speed you demand with your right foot. And the Mustang isn't exactly light on mid-range power, either. The car could easily cruise around town in 5th gear at speeds of 40-50 km/h and never break a sweat (don't do it). The Camaro otherwise also feels extremely unstressed in day to day driving. You get very little sensation of speed. Body movements are extremely limited at a reasonable pace on the street. The compromised visibility doesn't help, as it dulls the sensation of speed even more by limiting feedback from outside.

On the other hand, the Mustang is noticeably more comfortable, a big advantage on the street. The engine is a lot more eager to rev, with much shorter gears. In fact, the Mustang only has one over drive gear, with 5th being 1:1, but the Camaro has two, with 4th being 1:1. The Mustang's soft suspension and airy cabin, both relative to the Camaro, make it feel quicker and, combined with the more eager engine, more entertaining. The trunk is also another huge advantage, where the Camaro has a narrow long space that's less than two thirds the size of the Mustang. Mustang +1


Conclusion

Does the Mustang win 2:1, then? Not exactly.. Although these cars have been competing for years, sell in comparable numbers, have the same number of doors, seats, engine cylinders, gears, and driven wheels, are close in performance and size, and even cost comparable amounts of money, they are very different in their current generations. The Camaro was optimized for the track. You can tell by the compromise in the trunk. The rear shock towers appear to be tilted further inward, to better transfer loads towards the centre of the car and less up/down. The battery is in the back. The engine is placed further back about 3/4 of the way behind the front axle, whereas the Mustang's engine is about 1/2 way - sitting basically on top of the axle. This is evident in the Mustang having shorter wheelbase but more interior room.

But, as a result, everything that I "complained" about would make sense on a track. The lazy engine means there is a lot of power regardless of rpm and gear. The long gears mean you don't have to shift as often. The stiffer and more buttoned down suspension means better tire wear, stability, and performance. The Mustang, on the other hand, would feel relatively heavy, low on grip, and sloppy. You may not notice if you drive the Mustang alone, as it is a very capable and composed car. But drive them back to back on a track, and I guarantee you, you will want out of the Mustang and into the Camaro. The Camaro also has coolers for all drivetrain components - engine oil, transmission, and differential. The Mustang only has an engine oil cooler.

The conclusion here is that the two cars serve very different purposes. If you just want a fun, V8 coupe for the street, storming a good back road, a nice Sunday drive, or even a couple High Performance Driving School (HPDS) or lapping days here and there, do NOT buy the test numbers (i.e. the Camaro). The airy, better looking, and more comfortable interior of the Mustang plus the relative practicality makes it a much better street car and, base cars or comparably equipped, it's cheaper to boot. Plus, the lower grip and body motions will provide a much better car to learn on. Cross country trip? I bet the Mustang would be sublime, equally comfortable cruising for hours or letting you enjoy all the back country and coastal roads you want. If you get the Camaro and you're planning to ever take a road trip in it with your better half, measure your suit cases and map out the trunk. You may be able to only fit a suitcase and a half back there..

But if you are planning on frequent track events, walk away from the Ford dealer. Go to Chevy, they'll happily give you a Camaro SS in exchange for some of your money. It's a better track car. And forget about the Mustang performance pack. It isn't enough. If you don't believe me, ask yourself this: why did Ford stop calling it the Track Pack and switched to Performance Pack (PP)? I test drove a current Mustang with the Performance Pack and it is not enough (alone) for someone who does more than a couple track days a year. Sure, if you get the Camaro, I have no doubt you'll find weak points and start planning modifications. Every car has weaknesses, even race prepped cars. The difference is that you'll find weaknesses a lot sooner in the Mustang. The PP is very good if you go drive a GT without it and think: "it's a perfect car, I just wish it had a little more edge." Or, if you're like me - a Mustang guy who wants to track the car, as it provides a great upgrade or a much better starting point. Otherwise, save yourself the premium and leave the box unchecked as it will make the Mustang a better, more comfortable street car.




I am a Mustang guy. I would take the Mustang. I wish I could leave it at that, but objectively, it isn't as track ready out of the box as the Camaro. It has an excellent chassis and provides a great starting point towards a formidable track assault vehicle, with vast aftermarket support and even great factory-backed upgrades from Ford Racing (stay tuned for a post on how I'd spec a new Mustang GT with Ford upgrades!). But if you want minimal or no modifications, the Camaro SS is the one to get. Their trim names could not have been more spot-on than they are now; the Mustang GT is truly a world class Grand Tourer but the Camaro SS is the one for Super Sport .


Sunday, 4 September 2016

Mods and Update: Focus RS vs Golf R vs WRX STI vs Evo X




Earlier this month, I introduced the cars that we'll be testing in a comparison. The cars included a Focus RS, a Mk7 Golf R, a 4th gen WRX STI and an Evo X. Unfortunately, the Evo X will not be making it, but the other three are still in, so I thought I'd take some time to post the update and shed more light on the cars. I wanted to have a 100% stock car comparison. I really did. Unfortunately, that isn't going to happen. Well, for most of the cars anyway.

The Golf R and the STI are modified, whereas the RS is stock. If you're curious, the Evo X was also modified. All have very few modifications. The Golf R went the way that seems to be very popular - tune and exhaust. It also has an intake. I asked the owner to return the tune to stock, which he agreed to do, and said he might take the intake out too. Exhaust, though, is a lot tougher to get out. He has a full turbo back exhaust so he didn't want to take it out. I can't blame him. As a result, the car will be running with it. How much performance is it worth? I don't know. I'll do some research. I suspect it will be 10-15 whp, considering the aftermarket downpipe. I don't know how much time that will be worth on the track but will try to estimate somehow.

The STI, on the other hand, has no modifications under the hood. The engine is stock, exhaust is stock, intake is stock, and it is running the stock tune. The owner only made two modifications - camber bolts and tires. Tires are Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R. They are the hot tire right now. The one to have. They have a tread wear rating of 200, making them legal tires for plenty of competition classes, yet they seem to out grip and out class every other tire in its category. Think more of a Michelin Sport Cup tire competitor than Pilot Super Sport. Everyone I have talked to who has tried these tires said they are comparable to DOT legal track tires with a tread wear rating sub 100. Hard to say how much exactly they're worth, but I hear 2 seconds on our track is more or less how much you can cut out of a lap with them. As far as camber, it's much tougher to gauge. The owner is running -2.5 deg all around. I seem to be running about 1 second faster per lap at the same pace as before getting camber plates and I am at about -2.3 deg on the front, rears are obviously zero, being a solid axle. Is it fair to say the STI would be about 3 seconds slower, stock? Don't know if it's fair, but I don't think it's far fetched.

The RS, though, as mentioned is stock.. I know, I know, it's not fair but the alternative is to not run at all. Which would you rather? I'd rather get a time, at least as a baseline for the future if another one comes our way to test and gauge modifications. Plus, if you're an RS fan, imagine it winning, stock, vs modified cars! That would be a home run. And if it loses, you can always blame on the modifications. Win-win.

Tomorrow, I will be getting some (non-official) lap times and logs in the RS and getting to know it on the track. Then, the first weekend of October, we'll have all three cars at the track, and an Evo X if we can find another, to get official lap times and see how they stack up. Stay tuned!