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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Comparison: Hot Wheels 2016 Pony Car Wars

It's been a while since the Mattel brands have produced the trio of modern pony cars: late 2006/2007 was the starting point as replica's of the 2006 Chevy Camaro concept and Dodge Challenger concept arrived to take on the 2005 Ford Mustang GT, and this was at least three years before the real cars do battle on the streets.  In fact, by the time the real cars arrived there has been several variation shifts of Mustang's, Camaro's, and Challenger's from the Hot Wheels and Matchbox brand that at least half a dozen comparison tests can be made.  Nowadays that has subsided as the Challenger gets less-often updates, and even the Camaro models have slowed a bit while the Mustang comes back with more after the 2015 new model.  This year all three align up again with new variations that include welcome updates and even more insane speed.  The newcomer, and odd duck of the group, is the new 2016 Chevy Camaro SS in blue: it may look like the same-old Camaro as the prior generation, but this is all-new underneath with a new Alpha platform shared with the Cadillac ATS.  This means that the new Camaro is now lighter and more refined than the previous-generation Zeta platform, which was used in larger cars like the Holden Commodore/Chevrolet SS sedan.  Starting as a standard, V8-powered SS is the usual but up against two powerhouses seems like a disadvantage: The Dodge ring brings the Challenger SRT Hellcat introduced last year as a much-needed upgrade to the Challenger casting.  Here it arrives in the Sublime Green from the Kmart recolor special back in February.  The other side is the 2016 Shelby GT350R Mustang that greatly improves the look of the somewhat-controversial 2015 Mustang GT with edgier bodywork and more power.  Let's see how the three stack up.

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The new 2016 Camaro does not look much different, but up against the 2010 example in orange it is indeed quite different.  The front has larger headlights with integrated LED and turn signal lamps connected to a smaller upper grille with bowtie logo, while the lower grille is larger (and part of the base) with LED running lights to the sides.  The beltline is much thicker and the width is a bit narrower, while the hood has more curves and relocated vents (gone is that goofy mail slot).  Also the side vents at the rear fenders are gone as the fenders now kick up a bit higher.  Also note the new Camaro badges on the front fenders and despite the slightly improved visibility the rear window is actually smaller.  The rear is a big improvement with Corvette taillights that now integrate the reverse lamps, new rear spoiler, and fantastic quad exhaust from the previous-generation ZL1.  It looks impressive, but without lighting details, the white stripes overlaying the body, and without a 2010 Camaro side-by-side it still looks rather plain.

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The Dodge Challenger Hellcat looks great in sublime green and the improved details front and rear are very impressive, but it is still the largest car of the group.  The better looker is the Shelby GT350R where the Shelby's revised front and rear bumpers, rear spoiler, larger grilles up front, and quad exhaust at the rear drastically changes the look of the 2015 GT from controversial (the blocky front to the sleek rear-end) to fierce, sharp, wild.  It just looks that good!

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The new Camaro has an improved interior while still having the basic outline and low visibility.  The center stack is revised with a new touch screen for radio and MyLink, while the AC controls are relocated to smaller buttons with the two round air vents doubling as the temperature and fan speed controls.  The gauges also now have a digital screen while a new 3-spoke steering wheel design is up front.  The seats are more supportive, the interior has a more rich feel, and finally the shifter is at a normal position now that the auxiliary gauges that were housed on the console on the 2010 version (and pushed the shifter far back) is now gone.  The Challenger is a big improvement over the plasticky interior of the pre-2015 versions.  The dashboard now sweeps toward the driver, the materials are much better, the seats even better, and more digital screens as well.  The Shelby GT350R also has an improved interior, buuut with the R package you get no rear seat, no sound-deadening material, no radio, and A/C is optional, so you get what you pay for.

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The Camaro arrives with a 6.2L V8 that is shared with the Corvette, as usual.  It produces 455 hp through a six-speed manual transmission.  The other two are beasts of their own as the Shelby uses a 5.2L DOHC V8 with flat-plane crank to produce 526 hp. through a six-speed manual transmission.  The Challenger has the Hellcat power of the 6.2L supercharged Hemi V8 that produces 707 hp through a 6-speed manual, or 8-speed automatic if you can't handle all that power.

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Acceleration and Braking

As usual the Ford and Dodge dominate the Chevy in the acceleration part with more power, yet even so the Camaro is still quite strong and as comptent as the 2010 Camaro.  The Dodge is powerful, but too much power can make launches tricky, which is why the Shelby is the better of the two with more power and control.  Braking was a Camaro strong suit coming in the middle of the pack as the Challenger's weight and size (and power) has the longest stopping distance.  The Shelby?  Supercar short stopping power!

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Even though its the slowest the new 2016 Camaro does feel lighter and better composed than the 2010 as it feels more balanced and poised than the 2010 even though the new and old are pretty much neck-and-neck.  The Challenger suffers from its large size and power as the car tries to keep up with the other two.  For a change all three cars now have independent rear suspension's, including all Mustang models so the Shelby is not only up there in terms of handling but with the R package it's even more better with insane grip and reflexes that can only be matched to a supercar.  You do pay for it on the road with the stiff suspension and lack of sound deadening inside; the Camaro would be the better suited one for the open road.

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The Camaro has improved handing, styling, and interior, but it still feels like the same-old 2010 Camaro, so it doesn't look that much different.  The Challenger is the most powerful with improved interior and upgraded styling, but it is still saddled with a large sedan's platform.  The Shelby may not have many interior creature comforts, but it is the best looking car of the bunch, it is powerful, and its got handling that is far beyond the typical pony car realm.

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This is where the Camaro wins as the SS is a lower-price point at around $30 grand, while the other two are the top-level performance models that skyrocket to the $70 grand range.

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The Camaro might not be the most powerful one of the bunch, but at least it handles quite well and has an improved interior that moves it to the second-place spot.  Just imagine what it would do as the 2017 ZL1!  Third place went to the Dodge Challenger Hellcat: Yes, we love power, but we also love a car that can handle the power and itself and the Challenger just has too much bulk to carry.  The first-place winner is the Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang because it not only looks good but has the power and the handling that is far superior than any car of the group.  While things might not change for a while with these three, frequent updates means that the Mustang and Camaro will always be dukeing it out, so stay tuned for more Pony Car Wars in the future!

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