• I was fortunate enough to have the day off work, so I decided to go test drive a couple cars. Namely the Camaro SS and Mustang GT.

I’d like to replace my Sonic with something more naturally sporty this year, and while I’ve considered a new Camaro with the Turbo or V6, lately I’ve been giving more thought to sacrificing handling for V8 noise and power. Previous generation Camaros and Mustangs can be had for under $25,000, so I’m intrigued.

I went out to a dealer with a Camaro on their lot: 2011 2SS with 18,000 miles on it. Manual of course. It happened to be parked next to a 2014 Mustang GT, also with a manual, so I had a great opportunity for an immediate back to back drive.

The Camaro was first. Upon sitting down in the Camaro I made a few observations:

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  • The windshield is hilariously small. It’s kinda adorable.
  • The seats are stupid comfortable. Supportive? Eh, not really. They feel very similar to my seats in that they hug you a bit but will totally give way under cornering
  • The gauge cluster is big and really easy to read, and the HUD is awesome.
  • The steering wheel sucks. I could get used to it, but the 9-3 spokes are so tall

We set out on the road and a few more things became quickly apparent. LS motors sound amazing. This had the stock exhaust, and it sounded so good. Deep rumble, growling revs. I was in love with the motor immediately. Wichita has no curvy roads so I couldn’t exactly throw it at corners but the steering felt responsive. The ride was surprisingly comfortable and the road noise was surprisingly quiet, which will be important later. Power was great, plenty of torque anywhere but if you’ve driven anything with an LS you know what your getting. I really liked the way this thing drove. It didn’t really fill as big as it is and felt really good to drive, and the motor was so sweet.

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But what about the visibility, you ask? Honestly, it’s not that bad. Sonic it is not, but despite the windows being small I frankly didn’t feel like it was hard to see out of. Front and side was fine, back and over the shoulder was a joke. With the mirrors adjusted properly I never really felt like I was constricted. The cabin is a bit dark, especially compared to the Mustang, but for all the jokes and complaints I just didn’t feel like it was nearly as bad as people act like it is.

We got back in the Camaro and switched to the mustang. Just as with the Camaro, I had a few initial impressions:

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  • The cabin feels airy compared to the Camaro. This is where I think the visibility comparisons fail to capture the reality. Was the Mustang easier to operate because of the bigger windows? No, but it felt more open than the Camaro.
  • The seats are terrible. On their own I’m sure they’re fine, but back to back with the Camaro they suck. These were leather but not recaros. No bolstering and it felt like sitting on a plank. The salesman agreed with me, in fact I stated to him that I didn’t like the seats and then he made the plank observation on his own.
  • The gauge cluster is a bit hard to read. Like the seats I don’t know that I would have made this observation without the immediate back-to-back comparision
  • Car makers, for the love of god stop putting metal on steering wheels and shifters. The 9-3 spokes of the Mustang had metal bits and the shifter was a metal knob. That shit gets really cold when it’s below freezing! Otherwise I vastly preferred the Mustang’s steering wheel.

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Setting off in the Mustang I immediately observed that the Camaro sounded better. This one even had an aftermarket exhaust. The Coyote motor just sounds tinnier than the LS. It doesn’t sound bad, but I preferred the Camaro. Down low the Mustang didn’t quite match the Camaro’s grunt. And the road noise? Awful. Just awful. Again the salesman confirmed the observation and said, as I did, that back to back the Mustang made significantly more road noise.

How did it feel compared to the Camaro? I’m not sure I have the words to describe it. The Mustang just feels like a car. It didn’t really feel special. Maybe that’s just my subconscious bias, but driving the Mustang just felt like driving any other car down the road while the Camaro felt like driving a sports car. The Camaro just felt better. Is the Mustang nicer inside? Yeah, absolutely. The Camaro isn’t bad but it’s a bit bland, the Mustang felt more refined. But the Camaro felt better to drive, and overall was a better experience.

I had a moment of wanting to buy the Camaro on the spot, but it’s the first one I looked at. Who knows, I might go back next week and buy it if it’s still there, but it was silver and I’d rather not get a silver one. I also think I’d rather have a newer one, with the better (IMO) steering wheel and a little more mileage for the same money. After today I’m fairly confident a Camaro SS is in my future.