Comparison: Chevrolet Camaro 1LE vs. Ford Mustang Boss 302
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.
Beauty is Skin Deep
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.
|Camaro 1LE||Mustang Boss 302|
|Engine||6.2-liter V-8||5.0-liter V-8|
|Horsepower||426 Horsepower @ 5,900 rpm||444 horsepower @ 7,400 rpm|
|Torque||420 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm||380 lb-ft @ 4,500|
|0 to 60||4.3 sec (TopSpeed Est.)||4.0 sec|
|Axle Ratio||3.91-to-1||3.73-to-1 (Standard), 3.31-to-1 (optional)|
|Transmission||6-speed manual||6-speed manual|
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.”