Words & Photos: Kevin C. Limjoco
Let’s Flex Those Muscles
There is still much naughty fun to be had until 2020 when both the Energy Independence and Security Act and the Clean Power Plan targets are met in the US and in Europe the set legally-binding targets for new cars to emit 95g/km also by 2020. While all car manufacturers are working diligently on meeting, or better exceeding, the global clean air and fuel efficiency measures, ironically it is the Americans who are still producing for the remaining time period, some of their old school muscle until the curtain is finally dropped on such cars. To be fair, despite the soulful mechanical rumbling from all three muscle cars, they are all at their most efficient, so the exercise is not just a blatant rebellion against humanity and the establishment.
This gathering of muscle cars is certainly not equal even if they do share some characteristics that link them all. They all three have varying degrees of grit and reward. Each is an expression of superlatives in their sub-categories. I certainly have a favorite, but I will recognize what each delivers to their prospective buyers. There are always compromises, even ultra-hyper supercars have their shortcomings depending on perspective and needs.
Let us begin with the lone two-door ragtop: the Competition Orange 2016 Ford Mustang GT Premium Convertible with the California Special package and a 6-speed manual transmission. I had both Launch Control and the 15-second tire-obliterating Electronic Line Lock in the Track Apps system to enjoy like a fool. Essentially, aside from the distinguishing stripes, badging, some unique trim treatment like the black upper and lower grills with tri-bar Pony logo and red-contrast stitching on the center console lid and shifter boot, Black Miko® suede seat inserts with red contrast stitching, bespoke black 19” alloys, and the small animal road-killing front lip spoiler, the only two additional upgrades from last year are the additional hood scoops that have LED signal lights for you and air traffic cops to know where you intend to go when engaged, and the SYNC®3 infotainment system upgrade. The new SYNC®3 capacitive screen brings a more heightened, quicker reacting version used last year with extended Google™ interaction, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto capability through the 12-speaker 390-Watt Shaker Pro Audio System and 8” central touch screen. So now you can use the system mirroring your smartphone with familiar functionality such as the convenient swipe, and navigation pinch-to-zoom functionality along with a myriad of voice controls to keep you safely focused on the road ahead.
The second test car is the all-new silver ice metallic colored 2016 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS muscle car coupé also mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. Now the Camaro is a complete reboot, thankfully so as I had quite a list of issues with the previous model that enjoyed its most success with the Transformer movie franchise and rental car companies. The new car is a huge evolution from the model it replaced. Our test unit lacked only the optional MR (magnetorheological) dampers which would have made a great car a touch better. But even without the adaptive suspension, the new Camaro drove wonderfully better than before with significant gains throughout. The Camaro uses the same 6.2-liter LT1 V8 engine used in the current Corvette Stingray sans an extra 5 bhp and trick 7-speed manual gearbox in a smaller, lighter, and yet more rigid (stiffer by 28%) Alpha chassis shared with the Cadillac ATS when compared to the outgoing Camaro which has 2.3 inches more wheelbase and roughly 230 pounds more ballast. Compared to the last Corvette we tested, the Camaro feels and drives more like a luxury 2+2 sports coupé, which it is precisely, and gives up just .3 of a second from naught to 100 km/h, has a 37 km/h slower top speed, and is less frugal given its larger capacity, weighs almost 400 pounds more and has a different performance focus. Yet it is almost as wholly entertaining and actually more exploitable being more forgiving.
The third car is actually a full size four-door sedan that can outgun many supercars and sports cars costing way more money, a redline-red tri-coat pearl 2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat with a ferocious supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI with 707 bhp and a warship-pulling 650 lb-ft of torque through a ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox. A little neat personal and emotional note for me: the Dodge was inspired and named after the iconic World War II fighter plane, the Grumman F6F Hellcat, which my grandfather, USAF Colonel Ramon A. Limjoco, flew along with the North American Aviation P51 Mustang during the war, which is quite awesome to say the least. How surreal that my heroic grandfather, who is the very last living pilot from his elite fighting squadron and a member of the “Greatest Generation” who gallantly fought for our freedom in a brutal conventional war, naturally contributed to my existence and ability to test these same vehicles that were inspired by great men and the planes they flew!
Each car explodes to life at a press of a button, and their collective rumble on idle is truly exciting in a very soulful way. There are ultimately faster/quicker cars on the road, but they wouldn’t have the individual balance of emotions and ability that these cars possess in an automotive world quickly being taken over by inert, synthetic and robotic traveling appliances. The Mustang and the Camaro definitely sell very well under a multitude of model permutations, but given the higher cost and outrageous power generation, the Hellcat is more specialized and will be picked up by nostalgic fanatics like myself which is a smaller demographic.
The Mustang GT convertible was the easiest car to get familiar with from the group, especially with the top down, which takes less than 10 seconds to accomplish and secure. It still flexes and creaks more than I would hope, but it’s forgivable. The California Special packaging did not appeal to me; it in fact cheapened the experience. There is certainly a big market for such a car, but I think Ford makes the Mustang best as a GT coupé with the full sport packaging that includes even better brakes, mixed alloys, and the necessary additional rigidity to secure the car. Its biggest weakness is actually its tiny fuel tank which is absurd. The Mustang GT can be quite fuel efficient to be sure, but that limitation is a real problem. The Camaro’s fuel tank carries only 3 gallons more, but that alone yields over 120 kilometers more fuel range. I also hope that future Mustang model updates will allow covering the rest of the vast sea of exposed plastics, at least on the pillars, doors, and center tunnel. The rear seats are also still passible for baby car seats at best unless they exist purely to help acoustics. Having said that, the GT convertible is still the best of its type to be built by Ford.
The Camaro’s interior, on the other hand, is a quantum leap ahead of its predecessor in every way. The individually customizable instrumentation is very similar to the Corvette too. The cabin is definitely more intimate than in the Mustang but the materials, design and layout are very good. The visibility is better than before but not by much, thankfully it drives smaller than it is though, which helps compensate for the feeling of pseudo claustrophobia.
My only tangible annoyance with the Camaro manifested itself when I decided to break rank and head out to Sonoma county to meet up with the PACE team who were halfway through their epic Tour de California journey (watch for their incredible story in a near future issue only in C!). I had never been to the Carneros Bistro at the Lodge so I pulled over to punch in the address on the 8” MyLink touchscreen which also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. To my shock, there was navigation, but there was no map or anyway to input the address to set the destination, instead the car forces you to conjure up a physical voice via OnStar! I went through the motions and dictated the address to the lovely lady who answered my call who promptly sent the directions to the car. I expected to see the route on a navigational map on the crisp new center monitor or on the excellent HUD, but instead I got physical directions prompted by voice and arrows. Yes it works, and maybe it is safer, but why can’t we have both? The system is actually acceptable, but I would want to see my journey plotted on screen with the details signifying distance, estimated time of arrival and so forth. It is definitely a step back if you don’t want to use your smartphone and get international charges.
Aside from that, the Camaro was a revelation to drive, dare I say that I would even take it over a BMW M2, which costs $14,000.00 more in the US and is in fact smaller and actually slower! Keep in mind that our test unit also had the rocking Bose® audio, a limited slip differential, HUD, Rev-matching, and the optional barking dual-mode performance exhaust system which may not increase power but it does create a brilliant voice which you can suppress with a button. I was so shocked at how behaved the handling is without adaptive management on 20” alloys. And the steering feel and eagerness to react are also exemplary, at these points alone, the Camaro distances itself from the Ford. The Chevy feels, sounds, looks, stops, goes and drives better than even a fully tricked out Ford Mustang GT coupé short of the GT350! All in small measures, yes, but all still better. Lucky for Ford Philippines that Chevrolet can’t seem to manage their pricing locally even on the outgoing Camaro models where the entry level V6 is priced more than a fully loaded V8 GT coupé!
As great as the all-new Camaro is though, once you step into the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, all else fades in the background. Both the Mustang and the Camaro are at their very finest ever; the very best of each breed by a long shot, but they both cannot come close to the Hellcat in any performance measure. The Hellcat is not only the greatest car that the Chrysler/Dodge group has ever built, it is actually the very best performance car that America has ever built and that is even comparing against the Viper and the previous Ford GT supercar! At this point, only the upcoming all-new Ford GT has a shot of taking out the Hellcat at ultimate performance figures, but at what cost, and it cannot seat five adults with luggage!
Admittedly, since 2005 when the first LX platform Chrysler 300C was born with the V8 HEMI, I have had a soft spot for the car because of its presence and value. So much so that as C! Magazine, we have had seven (7) Chrysler 300C models in our C! Fastfleet in varying engine sizes from V6 to V8 SRT including the wagon, but we were always upfront with its limitations and compromises. Two of them are still in the fleet, a sedan and wagon both with HEMI’s. BUT the Hellcat is different; it is practically in a whole new galaxy and it must be in its Charger form and not in the two-door Challenger version, which is actually slower and more compromised. In the Hellcat, the LX platform is at its absolute best and completely optimized. Forget the two key colors that it comes with, the mighty red one is all you need since you can dial down the power to the black keys’ 500 bhp through the SRT button on the dash that prompts a healthy menu on the 8.4-inch central touchscreen where you can adjust everything from drive modes, damping, power adjustment, traction, launch control and so much more that includes Dodge’s own version of Ford’s Track Apps called Performance Pages. There is even an eco-mode which I used to extend fuel economy to 27 mpg but at a great cost to the car’s innate behavior. It felt like punishment.
I would like to think that the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is your last full-featured do-everything performance car that is actually financially attainable and enjoyable on a daily basis before traffic and progress kills cars like this completely to make room for fully automated non-engaging modes of transportation. It is the car that I would buy OVER what I recognize as still the most complete, premium high-performance sedan currently available on earth: the BMW M5.
Specification – 2016 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Coupé
Engine: V8 90°
Location: Front, Longitudinal
Displacement: 6162 cc
Cylinder block: Aluminum
Cylinder head: Aluminum, OHV, 2 valves per cylinder, Variable Valve Timing
Fuel Injection: Direct Fuel Injection
Max power: 455 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Max torque: 455 lb ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual, Rear Wheel Drive, Active Rev Matching, Limited Slip Differential with Dual-Mode Exhaust
Drag Coefficient: .34 cd
Front suspension: Independent aluminum Performance MacPherson strut, twin-tube shocks, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Rear suspension: Independent aluminum Performance multi-link, twin-tube shocks, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Fuel Capacity: 72 liters (19 gallons)
L x W x H: 4783 mm x 1897 mm x 1349 mm
Wheelbase: 2812 mm
Brakes: Front 13.6” (345 mm) ventilated discs with 4-piston Brembo® aluminum fixed calipers / Rear 13.3” (338 mm) vented discs with 4-piston Brembo® aluminum fixed calipers, ABS, BA, Torque Vectoring, Stabilitrak Traction & Stability Controls.
Wheels: 8.5J x 20” Front & 9.5J x 20” Rear Aluminum Alloy
Tires: P245/40ZR-20 95Y Front & P275/35ZR-20 98Y Rear Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 RunOnFlat
Weight: (kerb) 1675 kg. (3685 lbs.)
Weight Distribution: 53.7% Front: 46.3% Rear
Quarter Mile: 12.2 seconds @ 192 km/h (120 mph)
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 4.2 seconds
Top Speed (mph): 270 km/h (168 mph)
112 km/h-0: 147 feet
Lateral Acceleration: .98g
Fuel Mileage: 16 mpg City / 25 mpg Highway
Price as tested: US$ 43,205.00
C! RATING 10/10
+The finest and best balanced Camaro ever, handsome, refined, very potent, more pace for less money than a BMW M2
-Only that the imported domestic prices may still be restrictive when the time comes that it is offered in our market.
Specification – 2016 Ford Mustang GT Convertible California Special
Engine: V8 90°
Location: Front, Longitudinal
Displacement: 4951 cc
Cylinder block: Aluminum
Cylinder head: Aluminum, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing
Fuel Injection: Sequential MPI
Max power: 435 bhp @ 6500 rpm
Max torque: 400 lb ft @ 4250 rpm
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual, Rear Wheel Drive, Limited Slip Differential
Drag Coefficient: .35 cd
Front suspension: Independent aluminum MacPherson strut, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Rear suspension: Independent aluminum multi-link, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Fuel Capacity: 60 liters (16 gallons)
L x W x H: 4783 mm x 1915 mm x 1394 mm
Wheelbase: 2720 mm
Brakes: Front 14” (355 mm) ventilated discs with 4-piston calipers / Rear 13” (330 mm) vented discs with 1-piston calipers, ABS, BA, AdvanceTrac Traction & Stability Controls.
Wheels: 9J x 19” Aluminum Alloy
Tires: P255/40ZR-19 96W Pirelli P Zero Nero
Weight: (kerb) 1794 kg. (3948 lbs.)
Weight Distribution: 53% Front: 47% Rear
Quarter Mile: 13.1 seconds @ 179 km/h (112 mph)
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 4.8 seconds
Top Speed (mph): 250 km/h (155 mph) Governed
112 km/h-0: 156 feet
Lateral Acceleration: .90g
Fuel Mileage: 15 mpg City / 25 mpg Highway
Price as tested: US$ 47,380.00
C! RATING 9.5/10
+The California Special packaging is not for everyone but the exuberant GT convertible is a genuine performer
-The fuel tank is too small, despite the additional structural reinforcements it still flexes more than it should
Specification – 2016 Dodge Charger SRT® Hellcat
Engine: V8 90°
Location: Front, Longitudinal
Displacement: 6166 cc
Cylinder block: Iron
Cylinder head: Aluminum, OHV, 2 valves per cylinder, Variable Valve Timing, HEMI®
Fuel Injection: Port Injection, Intercooled and sealed-for-life, 2.4 liter Lysholm-type twin-screw IHI Supercharger, 11.6 psi Max Boost up to 14,600 rpm.
Max power: 707 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Max torque: 650 lb ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: TorqueFlite 8-Speed Automatic ZF HP90 (160 milliseconds), Rear Wheel Drive, Limited Slip Differential
Drag Coefficient: .33 cd
Front suspension: Independent adaptive SRT® Tuned Bilstein® 3-Mode Competition short-long-arm, lateral and diagonal lower links, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Rear suspension: Independent adaptive SRT® Tuned Bilstein® 3-Mode Competition 5-link, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Fuel Capacity: 70 liters (18.5 gallons)
L x W x H: 5088 mm x 1885 mm x 1478 mm
Wheelbase: 3053 mm
Brakes: Front 15.4” (390 mm) two-piece vented/slotted discs with 6-piston Brembo® aluminum fixed calipers / Rear 13.8” (350 mm) vented/slotted discs with 4-piston Brembo® aluminum fixed calipers, ABS, BA, 3-Mode Electronic Stability Control.
Wheels: 9.5J x 20” Forged Aluminum Alloy
Tires: P275/40ZR-20 106Y Pirelli P Zero
Weight: (kerb) 2077 kg. (4570 lbs.)
Weight Distribution: 57% Front: 43% Rear
Quarter Mile: 11.5 seconds @ 206 km/h (129 mph)
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 3.8 seconds
Top Speed (mph): 326 km/h (204 mph)
112 km/h-0: 149 feet
Lateral Acceleration: .94g
Fuel Mileage: 13 mpg City / 22 mpg Highway
Price as tested: US$ 71,730.00
C! RATING 10/10
+The very best car that the Dodge/Chrysler group has ever built by a long shot, monstrous power, magnificent performer, supercar slayer
-Of course it is a very thirsty beast with 707 bhp, but it can be trimmed and driven with surprisingly good fuel results, undertired