Muscle cars are in a class of their own, even if they are officially labeled as belonging to the sports car segment. When you consider the options for muscle cars that deliver on performance, few can compare to the iconic style and presence of the Mustang or the Camaro. Each of these vehicles has claimed territory in Americana as historic, powerful vehicles made for cruising and racing, but which one is right for you? We will compare the 2021 Ford Mustang vs 2021 Chevy Camaro to flesh out which muscle car will give you the best features for your dollar.
Few vehicles offer as many options for customization, with choices for engines, wheels, performance upgrades to the suspension and steering, and exterior styling details. With so many choices to build your muscle car to suit the specs you want, your vehicle is unlikely to look like anyone else’s when you take it out for a spin. Both the 2021 Mustang and 2021 Camaro offer the choice of coupe or convertible body styles, and both cars have the choice of four engines available within the trim levels.
Performance-oriented models can be juiced up with several different choices of upgraded brakes, suspension, and a limited-slip rear differential, many of which can be had even at entry-level if you go with the 2021 Mustang. Generous technology is found across the trim levels, with modern conveniences for connectivity and safety standard in both pony cars. However, the Mustang offers performance-related tech even in the entry-level trim.
When you purchase a muscle car, you expect to have the option of ripping out pavement with tire spins, which means your choice needs to come as a rear-wheel drive - and both the 2021 Mustang and Camaro do. Exterior style is heavy on the front end in these muscle cars, sporting large grilles for airflow with wide stances low to the ground and a spoiler option for keeping the tail end in line with what the front end is doing.
If you’re looking to purchase a pony car, you know you’re going for performance and not a family sedan that can tote people comfortably. The rear seats are cozy in these vehicles, and trunk space is virtually nonexistent if you purchase the Chevy Camaro. However, the real draw of a muscle car has little to do with practicality and everything to do with how it performs when you hit the gas.
At the entry-level, Ford and Chevy made a bold choice to include four-cylinder engines under the hood of these two venerated muscle cars. It may seem like a mistake at first, but inline-fours aren’t as wimpy as they once were. Ford’s turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost makes a surprising 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Adding the High Performance Package to this base trim gets you extra oomph with 330 hp. The 2.3-liter is paired to a six-speed manual transmission, and a ten-speed automatic with paddle shifters is optional. Impressive, for a four-cylinder.
Chevy’s entry-level turbocharged 2.0-liter engine isn’t quite as impressive, but it still packs a punch with 275 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. This engine pairs with a six-speed manual transmission with an eight-speed automatic as an option, and the automatic comes with paddle shifters as well. Though many pony car devotees would likely prefer a manual for control over down-shifting, it bears mentioning that the automatic transmissions are a bit faster on the drag strip. Either way, the Ford inline-four is clearly the more powerful engine of the two.
Moving up to other engine choices reveals that the remaining three engines in the 2021 Mustang’s lineup are all V8s. The 5.0-liter for the Mustang GT doles out 460 hp with 420 lb-ft of torque at the start of the list, and another 5.0-liter for the new Mach 1 trim delivers a powerful 480 hp with 420 lb-ft of torque. Finally, the titan of them all is the supercharged 5.2-liter for the Shelby GT500 that boasts a walloping 760 hp with 625 lb-ft of torque to leave streaks on the street in your wake. When choosing the GT or Mach 1, the manual transmission has a rev-matching function, and both offer the option of a 10-speed automatic. However, the GT500 comes with a special 7-speed dual-clutch for incredible performance.
In contrast to the Ford engines, the 2021 Camaro’s next choice in the lineup is a 3.6-liter V6 available for the LS and LT trims, which makes 335 hp with 284 lb-ft of torque, a rather significant difference in power. Next in line is the 6.2-liter V8 that comes with the SS trim, and it offers up a more sizable 455 hp with the same amount of torque. Lastly, a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 is available in the range-topping ZL1 trim, and it harnesses an impressive 650 hp with the same amount of torque. When choosing one of the V8 models, Chevy offers the same rev-matching function that Ford gives to its manual transmissions, and the upper-level V8 engines can be paired with 10-speed automatic transmissions that come with paddle shifters.
Even though the 2021 Camaro engines are formidable, in comparison to those of the 2021 Mustang, none of them offer the same amount of raw horsepower.
While we all want features that keep us connected to get through our daily driving, if you buy a muscle car, you probably care more about performance and escaping the daily grind while you enjoy blistering the pavement. Thankfully, Ford understands this rather primal desire and provides a means for keeping track of stats. Right at the entry-level, buyers of the 2021 Mustang can enjoy the Track Apps feature, which keeps tabs on your performance in terms of acceleration, g-forces, lap and acceleration times, and even gives you countdowns. You also get a line-lock feature that keeps the front wheels stationary for impressive burnouts.
Neither of these performance features is found on the Camaro at the entry-level, though Chevy does offer a performance video recorder for middle and upper trims that can capture your performance. Videos can be replayed on the infotainment screen or exported to your computer. Chevy mainly focuses on providing tech that keeps you connected, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though these features can be had in every trim of the Ford lineup as well.
If you look at traditional conveniences that will just make life easier on the road, the 2021 Mustang delivers those in spades from the start. All trims will get rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, and a push-button start, plus remote features accessed for free through FordConnect. Convenience features in the 2021 Camaro are adequate with a powered driver seat, keyless open and ignition, and Chevy Connected service. Smartphone features are more generous with the Camaro compared to the Mustang at the entry-level, but with Bluetooth and the connected services, any driver seeking thrills with a muscle car will find more satisfaction with the other tech features Ford chooses to include for the less-expensive trims.
Seeing a pony car roar pass on the street inevitably draws head turns regardless of whether you drive a 2021 Mustang or 2021 Camaro. A muscle car is impressive in any form, though the intricacies of its ornamentation can often be subjects of serious debate between owners. When it comes to style, across both lineups, you will find available leather-clad interiors, Recaro sport seats, and delicious details for exterior appearances. It inevitably looks cooler to have LED lighting now that it’s so common, and Ford once again thinks about what performance-oriented pony car aficionados are going to want. All Mustang models get LED lighting across the board, hood vents for airflow, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a decklid spoiler.
The Mustang GT gets added features like the dual exhaust with quad tips and brushed aluminum trim on the interior. With the Mach 1 trim, fun features like pony projection lights, a custom grille with a pony badge, and a magnetic blade spoiler make this a car that will probably make you grin like a fool every time you see it. Going for the range-topping Shelby GT500 will give you a leather cocoon with suede sport seats to go with all the extra power you can flaunt.
The 2021 Camaro is no slouch if you take it on its own merit, with the entry-level trim offering up a leather-wrapped steering wheel and LED daytime running lights, but the spoiler is extra. Go for the SS trim for the Camaro, and you can have a rear stanchion spoiler, but to get other appearance features, you need to buy a package. The same is true in upper trims as well, even including the ZL1. While Chevy does offer numerous options for adding body-side or center stripes in a number of colors, as well as spoilers or other exterior details, it costs extra to do much of the appearance detailing many buyers are likely to want.
Thus, the attraction of lower pricing that may initially draw buyers to choose the 2021 Camaro rapidly fizzles in the face of pricey extras to get the features that an enthusiast prefers. Ford also offers packages with options for body stripes and other exterior details if desired, but many appearance features are included standard in each trim to make the 2021 Mustang a better value for muscle car fans.