Experts have thoroughly exhausted the competition between the Mustang GT500 and the Camaro ZL1. That competition is getting so old that even we are beginning to tire of it. The results are quite crystal clear in that competition; the Mustang kicks the Camaro’s ass in a straight line, but the Camaro is a better road car that takes on twisty roads with much more grace.
One competition that has yet to be put to bed in the Mustang vs. Camaro rivalry is between two fairly even-matched opponents, the Mustang Boss 302 and the fresh-off-of-the-car-show-circuit Camaro 1LE. If you are wondering what “1LE” stands for, we’ll let you know. Back in the late 1980s – in the Camaro’s dark ages – Chevy put together a 1LE option package that included a radio and A/C delete, taller gearing for better acceleration, upgraded brakes, and an upgraded suspension. It was essentially a track-ready Camaro, which is a bit of an oxymoron for that era Camaro.
This new 1LE model is pretty similar to the one of yesteryear, sans the deletion of much-needed comfort items. We’ll get into more of the specifics in a bit.
So, how well does the Camaro 1LE stack up to the mighty Mustang Boss 302? You’ll have to click past the jump to read our full comparison to find out.
We’ll start exactly where you would start when looking at these cars, on the outside. Fortunately, Chevy just released images of the upcoming 1LE, so there is no guessing here. The 2013 Mustang Boss 302 and the Camaro 1LE are both beautiful muscle cars, but we are not shy in saying that we prefer the outward appearance of the Camaro from the word “go.” Both models go retro, but we think that Chevy just did a better job combining a retro look with a modern twist.
In addition to the Camaro beating out the Mustang in initial looks, Ford only made minor changes to make the Boss 302 look different than the Mustang GT, including: a hockey-stick decal, an applique between the taillights, Boss splitter and a Boss grille.
Chevy, on the other hand, slapped a matte black paint job on the hood, a front splitter at the base of the front fascia and a matte black rear spoiler. The splitter and spoiler are also not only good looking, but they are functional, according to Chevy. In addition to the body applications, Chevy also includes the 10-spoke wheels seen on the ZL1 and finishes them in a coat of black.
Winner: Hands down, the winner on outward appearance is the 2013 Camaro LE1. Ford just doesn’t give you anything on the outside to make the Boss 302 worth your while.
It’s What’s on the Inside That Counts
Okay, as much as we love the outward appearance of the Camaro, we really dislike its interior. The robot-eye-style gauges are simply awkward and the center stack just looks like a big mess. The Mustang, on the other hand, features a neatly appointed and equally amenity-loaded dashboard. The 1LE package doesn’t help alleviate the interior ugliness of the Camaro, but it does throw in a suede microfiber-wrapped steering wheel and shifter.
Also included in the 1LE package is a flat-bottomed steering wheel and Chevy’s MyLink, which includes a 7-inch touchscreen radio. This radio also boasts an in-dash navigation system – the first time ever in a Camaro. The radio easily streams Pandora internet radio and Stitcher SmartRadio, plus you can pair any Bluetooth phone with it.
Inside the Boss 302, there are similar amenities, like Ford Sync and Bluetooth connectivity. The Boss 302 does really come up short in one area; it lacks a navigation system. That’s not a killing point though, as you can snag up a GPS for about $150 and have all of the navigation that you could ever need. Depending on your planned use, this could be a great feature or an absolute killing point.
Winner: Chevy just can’t shake us of the horrifying image of its interior. We have to give the interior win to the Ford. With a slight revision, however, Chevy could easily overtake Ford.
Power and Delivery
Okay, this is where the rubber meets the road, literally, in any muscle car comparison. Who beats who. We’re not only talking about raw power either, we need to see it delivered effectively too. Cadillacs in the late 60s had nearly 500 horsepower, but when you’re moving a land yacht via a slushbox transmission, that 500 horsepower translates into an 11-second 0 to 60 time.
Staying true to the original 1LE package, Chevy did not mess with the engine any. It has the same 426-horsepower, 420 pound-feet, 6.2-liter V-8 engine that the Camaro SS boasts. Chevy installed a Tremec TR6060-MM6 6-speed trans in the 1LE, which is not found in any other model. Yes, you will find a version of the same transmission in the SS models, but this particular version is a close-ratio trans. This transmission links to a 3.91 rear end, which is significantly taller than the 3.45 rear end in the SS model. This will decrease overall top speed, but make much better use of the torque band, leading to quicker acceleration. While there is no estimated 0 to 60 time, we can safely estimate a 4.3-second time to 60 mph.
In a thoughtful manner, Chevy also threw in a high-capacity fuel pump from the ZL1 model. This help assure that there is plenty of fuel flow to the engine under heavy throttle. That’s one of those minor details that most car companies would simply overlook.
The Boss 302 boasts a 5.0-liter engine that pumps out 444 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque – 24 horsepower more than the GT and 10 pound-feet of torque less than the GT. Why exactly the Boss 302 loses 10 pound-feet is unexplained, but we assume it is due to fuel management or cam grind. On the outside, the Boss 302’s 5.0-liter V-8 may seem like a normal old 5.0 found in the stock GT, but there are some significant mods on the inside.
These modifications include a more aggressive “race-ready” cam grind, a revised intake system, which allows significantly more airflow into the combustion chamber and a revised exhaust system that allows the engine to exhale more effectively. As we said before, the Boss 302 loses 10 pound-feet of torque from its Mustang GT brother, but the revision s by Boss give it a flatter and more manageable torque curve. Is that enough to overcome the Camaro’s big torque advantage?
The Boss 302’s 6-speed transmission – the same found in the GT – links to a 3.73 rear end, which is shorter than the 1LE’s, meaning it has a higher top speed, but does not accelerate as well. One thing we like about the Boss 302 is the fact that Ford offers an optional 3.31 rear end – the same stock rear end in the GT model – which allows those that drive at high speeds to opt for the lower gear ratio. This offers a higher top speed and lower engine speeds when driving on the interstate. The Boss 302 has been clocked to 60 mph in as low as 4 seconds, which is a good bit faster than we expect to see from the Camaro 1LE.
Ford also upgraded the oiling system in the Boss 302’s 5.0-liter engine , installed stronger rod bearing ans main bearings, which all add to a more durable engine overall. This also allows the engine to handle the high engine speeds without thinking twice about it.
Winner: The trophy for overall engine power, delivery and design has to go to the Ford Boss 302. The Camaro is no slouch, but the additional reliability that the Boss 302’s internal revisions give us, regardless of the torque loss, are too much for the unchanged 6.2-liter GM engine to overcome. We’re not saying the 6.2-liter is an unreliable hunk of metal, but just that Ford went above and beyond with its revisions and created a better engine overall.
Suspension and Braking
Again, staying true to the original 1LE Camaro, Chevy fits the 2013 Camaro 1LE with loads of suspension upgrades. You get a 27 mm solid front stabilizer bar on the front and a 28 mm solid rear stabilizer bar to help lower body roll. The front and rear rims measure in at 20 x 10 inches and are wrapped in 285/35ZR20 Goodyear Eagle Supercar G:2 tires, which are identical to the front tires on the ZL1 model. Another easy-to-overlook item are the strengthened half-shafts to cope with the extra traction created by these grippy tires.
Also borrowed from the ZL1 are the wheel bearings, toe links and rear shock links. The 1LE’s shocks are tuned mono-tube dampers and not the ZL1’s magnetorheologiacal dampers, which were featured on the 1LE concept.
A huge bummer on the 2013 Camaro 1LE is the fact that it comes with electronic power steering, which is notoriously numb feeling.
The Boss 302 includes some nice suspension upgrades too. The Mustang GT’s coil springs were scrapped in favor of a set with a higher spring rate. Yes, this takes away from ride quality, but you’re supposed to know that you’re driving a sports car. Stiffer suspension bushings and larger stabilizer bars help reduce body roll through the corners. The Boss 302 is 11 mm lower in the front and 1 mm shorter in the rear, which brings the Mustang’s center of gravity lower and increases it cornering capabilities. Lastly, Ford slapped on a set of manual-adjust shocks – no adjustment from the cabin – and a set of large Brembo brakes to cap it all off.
Just like the Camaro, the Boss 302 features electronic power steering, which we are definitely not fans of, thought it has received some okay reviews.
Winner: The Mustang was clearly track-tuned from the factory and we have to give it a slight edge here, as the 1LE has yet to be officially tested. We have seen the Boss 302 hold 0.98 gs on the skid pad, which is pretty good for a car with a live axle, but we need to see the 1LE’s performance before calling a winner. We’ll call this one a draw for now.
Gadgets and Gizmos
The Camaro 1LE features very few gizmos to play around with. It boasts just a navigation system and OnStar. The Mustang Boss 302, on the other hand, is loaded with cool things to play with. First is the MyKey system , which allows you to put restrictions on driving styles, so you feel safe lending your car to your teenage without worrying about him smoldering the tires or wrapping it around a tree.
Track Apps is another feature on the Boss 302 that is just cool to play with. When you get to the track you can easily measure your car’s 0 to 60 time, 0 to 100 time, quarter-mile time and many other times through an interface between the speedometer and tachometer. This is particularly awesome for the amateur tuner to see what mods are actually making his car faster.
Winner: It’s pretty obvious who wins this section: the Mustang Boss 302. People like gadgets, GM, get with the program. Don’t be surprised to see a system similar to the Track App package making its way into the Camaro lineup soon.
Chevy recently released the 1LE’s pricing an we love the fact that is comes in at a wallet-friendly $37,035, which is a bargain. The Mustang Boss 302 comes in at a base MSRP of $42,200. That roughly $5,000 difference in price is enough money to get the Camaro some additional ponies to make it as fast, if not faster than the Mustang Boss 302. We have to give the advantage to the Camaro 1LE here.
Okay, let’s have a look at all of the pertinent information on these two cars side by side.
Mustang Boss 302
426 Horsepower @ 5,900 rpm
444 horsepower @ 7,400 rpm
420 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
380 lb-ft @ 4,500
0 to 60
4.3 sec (TopSpeed Est.)
3.73-to-1 (Standard), 3.31-to-1 (optional)
Drawing a conclusion in this comparison is pretty tough, as both cars are equally awesome and we would take either one in a second, but we have to pick. The Camaro simply looks better from the outside, but true track performance – not straight-line performance – is really an unknown until we get to place out butts in the driver’s seat of a 1LE. The Mustang, of course, looks much better on the inside and gives you a lot more toys to play with.
Winner? In all honesty, we could give a rat’s hind end about gadgets and gizmos. We care about who performs best on the track. On paper, it looks like the winner will almost certainly be the Mustang, but we cannot make a determination until we can get the Camaro’s true track numbers, as you cannot gauge suspension and handling just based on what you read on spec sheets.
For now, we’ll give the victory to the Mustang, but with a big asterisk next to it that reads “Pending Camaro 1LE track testing.”
2013 CHEVROLET CAMARO RANGE EXPANDS WITH TRACK-READY 1LE PACKAGE
The road-racing-inspired Camaro 1LE performance package returns for 2013 with unique gearing, suspension tuning and tires that make the model capable of more than 1 g of lateral acceleration and a sub-three minute lap time at Virginia International Raceway’s Grand Course. It is offered on Camaro SS coupes with manual transmissions.
All Camaro SS models now feature variable-effort electric power steering and an available dual-mode exhaust system on manual transmission-equipped models. Both features were introduced on the Camaro ZL1.
The 2013 Camaro lineup includes:
The 323-horsepower (241 kW) V-6-powered LS coupe and LT coupe and convertible – including the 2LS with an EPA-rated 30 mpg on the highway
The Camaro SS coupe and convertible, with a 6.2L V-8 delivering up to 426 horsepower (318 kW)
The 580-horsepower (432 kW) supercharged Camaro ZL1 coupe and convertible. (Please see the separate Camaro ZL1 release for complete details.)
In addition to the new performance features offered on the Camaro SS, all 2013 Camaro models offer a wider range of choices and enhancements that will help it remain America’s most popular sports car. New and revised content includes:
Chevrolet MyLink and color-touch radio standard on LT, SS, and ZL1 models
Chevrolet MyLink and color-touch radio with GPS map navigation (late availability)
Hill start assist now standard on all manual transmissions
ZL1-style shift knob standard on all manual transmissions
Remote vehicle start now include on 1LT and 1SS with automatic transmission
Blue Ray Metallic exterior color
Frameless inside rearview mirror
New 18-inch and 20-inch wheel designs
Mojave leather interior trim.
The 1LE package is offered on 1SS and 2SS coupe models with an exclusive Tremec TR6060-MM6 six-speed manual transmission. Paired with a numerically higher 3.91 final-drive ratio, the close-ratio gearing of the transmission is tuned for road-racing performance. As with the ZL1, the 1LE transmission features a standard air-to-liquid cooling system for track use.
The 1LE also features exclusive, monotube rear dampers instead of the twin-tube dampers on SS models. The new hardware allowed engineers to tune the 1LE suspension to focus on optimal body-motion control while preserving much of the ride quality and wheel-motion control of the Camaro SS.
Other changes to optimize the 1LE for track-day use include:
Larger, 27-mm solid front stabilizer bar, and 28-mm solid rear stabilizer bar for improved body control
Higher-capacity rear-axle half shafts to cope with increased levels of traction
Strut tower brace for improved steering feel and response
ZL1-based 20 x 10-inch front and 20 x 10-inch aluminum wheels
285/35ZR20 Goodyear Eagle Supercar G:2 tires front and rear (identical to the front tires for ZL1)
ZL1 wheel bearings, toe links and rear shock mounts for improved on-track performance
ZL1 high-capacity fuel pump and additional fuel pickups for improved fuel delivery during high-load cornering.
Visually, the 1LE package is distinguished by its matte black hood, front splitter and rear spoiler – as well as the 10-spoke ZL1-based wheels, which are finished in black. The functional front splitter and rear spoiler contribute to the car’s on-track performance by helping to reduce aerodynamic lift at high speeds.
Inside, the 1LE package incorporates the ZL1’s flat-bottom steering wheel, trimmed in sueded-microfiber and designed for easier heel-and-toe driving on the racetrack. The quick-acting, short-throw shifter from the ZL1 is also trimmed in sueded-microfiber.
In anticipation of consumers entering the 1LE in amateur-racing events, Chevrolet is pursuing SCCA approval of the 1LE package for Touring Class competition.
The Camaro 1LE package was introduced in 1988, inspired by Camaro’s involvement in Pro-Am road racing.
Chevrolet’s color touch radio with MyLink infotainment is available on 2013 Camaro LS, SS and ZL1 models. The color touch radio, with a seven-inch touch screen, also can be paired with an available in-dash GPS navigation system – a first for the Camaro.
The color touch radio with MyLink gives customers a higher level of in-vehicle wireless connectivity and customized infotainment options, while building on the safety and security of OnStar. It seamlessly integrates online services such as Pandora® internet radio and Stitcher SmartRadio® using hands-free voice and touch-screen controls via Bluetooth-enabled phones.
MyLink adds stereo audio streaming and wireless control of smartphones, building on the voice-activated Bluetooth hands-free calling capability already offered in most Chevy vehicles. The high-resolution, full-color touch screen display makes media selection easy to navigate. MyLink also retains all the capabilities of today’s entertainment functions, including AM/FM/Sirius XM tuners, auxiliary and USB inputs.
Camaro design and exterior features
Camaro’s heritage-inspired interior and exterior convey sportiness through iconic design cues. A rear spoiler is standard on all models and a variety of stripe packages offers a broad range of personalization features.
LT and SS models are available with the RS package, which adds 20-inch wheel, body-color roof moldings and antenna, as well as high-intensity discharge headlamps. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard on LS and LT model, with 20-inch wheels standard on SS.
The Camaro convertible brings top-down driving fun and style to LT and SS models. And because the architecture for the fifth-generation Camaro was designed to accommodate a convertible model, it gives the cars coupe-like driving dynamics. Four strategic reinforcements enhance the already-stiff body structure to quell the cowl and steering wheel shake common in convertibles. They include:
A tower-to-tower brace under the hood
A transmission support reinforcement brace
Underbody tunnel brace
Front "X" brace and stiffer cradle as well as rear underbody "V" braces.
All convertible models feature a standard rear vision camera system. It is also standard on 2LT and 2SS models and available on 1LT and 1SS.
Exterior colors include Summit White, Black, Crystal Red Tintcoat, Victory Red, Rally Yellow, Inferno Orange Metallic, Ashen Grey Metallic and Blue Ray Metallic. The convertible top color choices include black and beige.
Camaro interior features
Camaro’s well-executed balance of heritage and contemporary features provides a fun and comfortable environment for up to four. An ambient lighting package on 2LT and 2SS trims gives the interior a special glow with LED light pipe technology.
Driver and passenger seatsfeature six-way adjustable settings (fore/aft, up/down and tilt), with power recline front seats that are standard on LT and SS models. Heated, leather-trimmed seats are part of the 2LT and 2SS trim packages.
Additional comfort and convenienceinclude a standard driver’s foot rest (dead pedal), power windows with express up/down, an auxiliary gauge panel in the center console – standard in 2LT and 2SS – and a new ZL1-inspired shift knob for all manual transmissions. A leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel is standard on LT and SS.
A head-up display, which projects key instrument, Turn-by-Turn navigation and audio system details on the windshield, is part of the 2LT and 2SS trim packages. And complementing the new MyLink infotainment system is a six-speaker sound system on LS, 1LT and 1SS. A 245-watt, Boston Acoustic nine-speaker sounds system is standard on 2LT and 2SS – and available on 1LT and 1SS.
Interior color and trim choices include Black, Beige, Gray, Inferno Orange and Mojave. The Inferno Orange and Mojave combinations include contrast stitching and other details.
Standard in LS and LT models is the LFX-code 3.6L V-6, rated at 323 horsepower (241 kW) and enabling EPA-estimated 30-mpg highway mileage (2LS model). Many lightweight engine features contribute to that, including an integrated cylinder head/exhaust manifold design that saves about 13 pounds per engine, when compared with a conventional, non-integrated design.
Two 6.2L V-8 engines are offered in the Camaro SS, including the L99 on automatic-equipped vehicles and the LS3 on manual-equipped models. Horsepower for the L99 is 400 (298 kW) at 5,900 rpm and torque is 410 lb.-ft. (556 Nm) at 4,300 rpm. The LS3 develops 426 horsepower (318 kW) and 420 lb.-ft. (569 Nm). Output on the L99 is lower than the LS3 because of a slightly lower compression ratio (10.4:1 vs. 10.7:1) and design features of the Active Fuel Management system.
All Camaro models can be equipped with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with TapShift. Equipment and features include:
The Aisin AY6 six-speed manual is standard with the 3.6L engine, and a Hydra-Matic 6L50 six-speed automatic is optional
A Tremec TR 6060 six-speed manual is standard on the SS, and the Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic is optional
The SS model’s Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual is designed to handle the high torque characteristics of the LS3 engine and is matched with a 3.45:1 final drive ratio
A close-ratio version of the Tremec TR6060 is used with the 1LE package and is matched with a 3.91 final drive ratio
Hill start assist is standard on all manual transmissions.
A dual-mode exhaust system is available on Camaro SS models with the six-speed manual transmission. Similar to the systems found on the ZL1 and Corvette models, this vacuum-actuated system provides a quieter driving experience at low engine speeds and a more aggressive sound at when aggressive acceleration is called for.
Camaro chassis and suspension
Camaro features fully independent front and rear suspensions, with the rear suspension featuring a 4.5-link system that includes a unique, L-shaped upper control arm that attaches to the knuckle at one end and incorporates a ride bushing in the rear. A sub-frame at the rear is double-isolated to minimize vehicle body motions and dampen road imperfections. Coil-over shock absorbers are used in the rear with a decoupled, hollow stabilizer bar. The front suspension has a dual-ball strut system, with a direct-acting stabilizer bar.
Four suspension packages are offered: FE2 sport on LS and LT models; FE3 on SS Convertible models, FE4 performance on SS Coupe models and the FE6 with the 1LE Performance Package.
Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on all models – including Brembo four-piston calipers on SS – with hydraulic brake assist. StabiliTrak electronic stability control is standard on all models. Competitive/sport mode on SS models enhances on-track performance and Performance Launch Control on SS models with the manual transmission optimizes hard-acceleration launches for quicker, more consistent performance.
New for 2013, an electric power steering system developed for the ZL1 is standard on all SS. This variable ratio, variable effort system provides light efforts for easy maneuverability at parking-lot speeds as well as increased resistance at higher speeds, providing more feedback and a more direct steering feel.
Camaro safety and crash-avoidance features
The Camaro is designed to help drivers avoid crashes, while protecting occupants in the event a crash occurs. A strong body structure is designed to absorb crash energy and provide a protective "safety cage" around occupants. In fact, the 2012 Camaro was the first passenger car to receive NHTSA’s revised quadruple 5-star safety rating.
Additional features include:
Six standard air bags include side curtain air bags, which provide head protection for outboard passengers in the event of a side-impact or rollover crash
Rear Vision Package includes a rearview camera system to complement the rear park assist feature (standard on 2LT and 2SS; available on 1LT and 1SS)
StabiliTrak electronic stability control system helps reduce the risk of rollover crashes by keeping the vehicle in the driver’s intended path by applying throttle, braking or a combination of both
Standard four-wheel disc brake system featuring smooth, quiet operation, longer pad life and more resistance to brake pulsation
Pretensioners minimize forward movement during a collision, and are standard on the front safety belts. Load-limiting retractors cinch the belt more tightly
Standard tire pressure monitoring system
Standard remote keyless entry (RKE) system provides a second function for the red panic button. Drivers can use it to locate their cars without sounding the panic alarm.
Six months of OnStar Directions and Connections service is standard on all Camaro models. OnStar is the global leading provider of connected safety, security and mobility solutions and advanced information technology.
OnStar’s RemoteLink Mobile App allows smartphone users to control vehicle functions, access vehicle information and send directions directly to the vehicle. A new, opt-in service called FamilyLink allows subscribers to stay connected to loved ones by checking the location of their vehicle online or by signing up for vehicle location alerts.
Camaro also features new OnStar button icons. Drivers will notice an updated look for the Hands-Free Calling button, blue OnStar button and red Emergency button.
More information about OnStar can be found at www.onstar.com