WHY NOT A CAMARO?

Why did I choose the Mustang?

I didn’t bother to drive the Challenger. The base V8 was competitive in price but not performance. To get one that’s competitive, you have to get the SRT8 version for about $8000 more, so that was out of the question. I like the looks of the Challenger a lot and it has the most room and comfort, but it doesn’t fit my requirements for both performance and cost.

Banks is the dealer where I take my Buick for maintenance. I test drove a Camaro V6, which automatically was going to have better handling than the V8. I took it up Oak Hill Road in East Concord which I know extremely well. Lots of dips up and down, bigger climbs up and down hills, lots of twisties. Cool to drive on but you have to be paranoid about nailing a bike or pedestrian (rare, but you never know on that road). Most of the twisties are very blind. I ride my bike there a few times a year but am always listening for cars when I do and am prepared for everything.

It was a nice drive as far as handling was concerned. The V6 felt fine at around 305 hp like the Mustang V6. However I noticed some weird things that were a turn off.

Some of the controls facing you ahead of the center console are kinda goofy looking. They remind me of something that would’ve been designed by Mattel. Perhaps it’s significant that the Camaro was prominently featured in the Hasbro Transformer movies. The rest of the dashboard had a lot of personality, but it was a personality that didn’t do much for me. Still had too much Hasbro in it for me. Or something.

Before I drove the car I remember reviewers complaining about the steering wheel. What Chevy did was put strange notches in the wheel just above the left/right spokes. These would be where you’d have your thumbs poking forward when gripping just above 9 and 3 o’clock. Or possibly your index finger also coming back to sort of meet your thumbs.

Reviewers said this groove in the steering wheel forced your thumb to be straight instead of letting it wrap around the wheel. I also noticed a sharp angle that was odd feeling to my index fingers. Was it tolerable? Yes. Was it annoying? Yes. Was it a good idea? I have no idea why Chevy thought it was a good idea. I heard noises that since I drove the car, the steering wheel was gonna go back to “normal”, but I don’t know if they made any change for that.

I have to say that I like the look of the Camaro just fine, which is also has to be the biggest reason why it outsells the Mustang. It’s retro but with a stronger modern thrust. The angularity of the design reminds me a bit of the Cadillacs. The Mustang is also retro but with smoother lines. It’s also smaller and more nimble. The Mustang 5.0 V8 is smaller and lighter than the Camaro 6.2 V8, which also means better front end handling.

If you were to spend an awful lot of time flailing cars around jiggly bumpy turns, the independent suspension in the Camaro would be a better choice than the Mustang. However the Mustang’s solid rear axle keeps the wheels planted better on the straights and for hard acceleration. Also Ford did an exceptional job designing that solid axle to the extent you often really don’t care it’s not independent. This also kept the cost down.

What’s one of my biggest beefs with the Camaro? The visibility!

Now, I would really love to have a 1950 custom Mercury lead sled, chopped and channeled to death. You know, like the red one in American Graffiti. The windows are like gun slits in a turret. But that’s not a daily driver.

Well, the Camaro is not quite that bad, but I’ll say that the Mustang visibility is acceptable and not disconcerting. The Camaro visibility is annoying and the blind spots are terrible. When you sit in a Camaro, you sit DOWN IN the Camaro. The first impression is that the belt line or the bottoms of the windows are about level with your nose. Not really, but that’s the first thing you think of.

In the Mustang you have to be aware of a couple potential blind spots, but they are helped immensely by well done blind spot mirrors inserted in the outer upper corners of the side mirrors. Even without those, the blind spots in the Mustang are not nearly as bad as the Camaro.

When you sit in a Mustang, you sit ON the Mustang. Think of sitting on a horse, or………um, sitting on a mustang.

I can’t think of his name at the moment, but a professional driver I respect said that you feel the rear of a car with your ass and you feel the front of the car with your hands. How well all that works depends a lot on the feel you get once you’re planted in the car. Of course I’m sure I could get used to anything, but the immediate impression for driving control is better in the Mustang than it is in the Camaro.

What would give you a better feel for control? Sitting on top of a saddle with steering wheel the right size even if a bit forward, or sitting in a bathtub with an odd steering wheel that’s faintly bigger?

I decided between the visibility, the steering wheel and the Mattel dashboard, the Camaro was not for me. I also knew the front end of the Mustang would steer better than the Camaro when comparing the V8 models.