By on April 8, 2010

Back in the muscle car heyday, enthusiasts could likely have imagined that the 2011 Mustang and Camaro would make at least 300 horsepower. They might even have imagined that the pony cars would be equipped with optional flight modes, nuclear reactors, and autopilots. What they likely never imagined is that Ford and GM would revive the time-honored tradition of pony car one-upmanship for V6 models.

But sure enough, Chevy came out with a 304 horsepower V6 Camaro only to have Ford beat that number by a single horsepower with its new 2011 V6 Mustang. Chevy’s V6 got an EPA highway rating of 29 mpg? Ford’s 2011 V6 just barely beat it again with 31 MPG highway. And the V6 wars show no signs of stopping. GM has just announced that it got its Camaro V6 re-certified with (apparently) no modification, and the new V6 ponycar benchmark is now set at 312 horsepower. Why all the one-upmanship in a class of cars that not long ago were seen as secretary specials or rental queens? More importantly, where’s the SS-versus-GT animus in all this?

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60 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: How Did The Pony Car Wars Become All About The V6?...”


  • avatar
    Ion

    It was always about the V6. That’s the volume seller, the “secretary’s” choice, the all show no go car. The reason the Mustang lived while the F-bodies died is the F-bodies were made for enthusiasts and they sold to enthusiasts.

    Judging by how two thirds of the new Camaro’s sales have been V8′s unless GM figure out how to gain non-enthusiast sales history looks like it will repeat itself.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      This is all very accurate and salient, especially your last point. The Camaro, nice as it is for enthusiasts, is a real pain in the ass as a daily driver.

      It also means that either car, and especially the Mustang, could probably get away with an unblown four and still sell in reasonable numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Quite right. And the reason the V6 is the volume seller is due to its lower price, better economy, easier service, and cheaper insurance.

      And as EN alludes to, 300+ HP V6 engines are the new novelty for domestic mfrs, particularly at the $22k entry price.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      I wouldn’t exactly call the F-bodies an “enthusiast” vehicle. Unless you mean enthusiastic about something other that agility and build quality.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      All show and no go with 300HP?

      Ho wmuch HP does it take to drive to work, go to the grocery, and out for a beer and wings on the weekend???

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @ carguy.. 5th Gen F body..the “build quality” your refering to,could you be more specific?

    • 0 avatar

      The V8 Camaro sounds amazing as it drives by. The V6 engine sound just doesn’t do it for me.

      Why can’t they make a 300hp 30mpg V8?

  • avatar
    Syke

    So there’s a problem? Contrary to the usual belief, the big honking V-8 is not necessarily the be-all, end-all of motordom. I’m happy as hell watching the V-6′s take front and center stage. After all, a REAL car is about balance. You know: go, stop, handle. Not just GO!

  • avatar
    Z72_Silvy

    Simply put, if Ford tries to compete, with near equal displacement, they always lose in the V8 wars. Ford had to try a V6, but will soon lose that war. Besides, the Camaro outsells the Mustang anyway; just like it always has.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    We’ve reached the point where the marginal utility of the V8 isn’t worth the marginal cost in terms of purchase price, fuel used, and insurance premiums increased.

  • avatar
    dwford

    The V6 is the new V8. We will see 4 cylinder Mustangs and Camaros for the secretaries soon. Ford and GM could get an easy 400hp out of their V6s with no problem, so the V8s are just about the number of cylinders at this point.

    The Mustang has the non-enthusiast buyer because it is a more user friendly car – better sightlines, better trunk, more comfortable interior. All Camaro fails on the old F-body and largely continue on the current model. Once the enthusiast demand is filled for the Camaro and the upgraded Mustang goes on sale, those sales numbers will tilt back in favor of the Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      I already lived through four-banger Mustangs once. Mrs. Panhard even had one before she was Mrs. Panhard. It was horrible. We survived. The world still turns.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Times change eh? In the early 60′s the big blocks ruled. More displacement = more power,and more weight. By the late 60′s the small blocks came of age. 283 HP out of 283 CU.IN was considered cutting edge.

    In 1969 I watched in awe as a 340 Swinger blew the doors of a 440 Olds,then sqweeked by an SS 396 Chevelle. The big blocks returned to thier roots powering trucks.

    Today we got modern tech, sqweezing 300+ out of a V6. By the time CAFE comes down the pipe maybe we got 300 hp 30 mpg 4 bangers?

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Fast road cars will go electric/hybrid. Much easier to get 500 hp out of a battery than out of a gas engine if you don’t have to deliver it constantly.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @charly:

      You’re right on the hybrid from a technical point of view, except that the packaging and pricing compromises and added complexity still make hybrids uninteresting to consumers and enthusiasts alike.

      Personally, it would be hard for me to brag about my hybrid’s better 0-60 time while paying a 20% price premium.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      This are cars that cost at least $30k. $6k more in cost is something i doubt for a hybrid or it would be for front wheel electric like Porsche is doing in which case they are simply better.

      ps. And this is without the CAFE money.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Personally, it would be hard for me to brag about my hybrid’s better 0-60 time while paying a 20% price premium.

      Think about how Porsche or Ferrari (or, a few years ago, NSX) drivers feel when lined up against a Corvette half or less of the price but a third as fast.

      20%. Isn’t that what Porsche charges for metallic paint and a USB jack?

  • avatar
    chaparral66

    This is all just to make room for the turbo fours in both the mustang and Camaro.

    Also, if you read the press release, the 304hp rating was GM’s number. The 312hp rating is based on using SAE standard that is witnessed by a third party. Once again this shows you that many stated horsepower numbers can be misleading.

  • avatar
    rcdickey

    Just my personal preference. The power level of the new V6s is great. however, I like the sound of a V8. I’ve thought they ought to build a small displacement V8. I’d love to have a high revving 3.5L V8 with about the same power level as the V6s. Of course I know it’s about costs. Fewer pistons, valves and cam lobes = cheaper to build. With the V6 I’d just keep the quiet exhaust on and enjoy the drive. I’m not die hard about any particular brand but have always favored the look of the Mustang over the Camaros (except during the Mustang II era).

    • 0 avatar
      mistrernee

      I would actually like to see a comparison of engine manufacturing costs between the GM V8′s and 6′s.

      It’s actually not that cut and dry, the V6 is a DOHC 24 valve engine with direct injection as well as all the balance shafts and a fancy crank shaft that a V6 requires to not be horrible. A straight 6 would be a much simpler solution but they don’t exactly have those things kicking around anymore like their V6′s and they run into issues at high engine speeds (though BMW gets by).

      The V8 is a OHV cam in block 16 valve engine and is probably as cheap as chips to build.

      Now, Ford’s Coyote is most likely not a cheap engine to build (or the old 4.6 for that matter).

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      RCDICKEY – don’t forget the higher friction of 8 cylinders vs 6 cylinders.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Considering the old 4.6 liter (in various forms) got stuck into F150s, Crown Vics, Town Cars, Grand Marquis, Mustangs, Explorers, and E-series Vans, pretty much anything that had an engine bay that it would fit into, I’m guessing that economies of scale brought the cost down pretty low.

      Just echoing a point made by someone else in another thread, I’d love to see more I6 development. The old Jeep 4.0 straight six was a beautifully torquey and reliable engine, and even had a nice sound to it. BMW I6 engines are the stuff that dreams are made of, and are one of the major trump cards of the 3/5 series vs the C/E class or Infiniti G/M.

    • 0 avatar
      colin42

      There was an article i read at the end of last year with a quote from Lutz that the high % of Camero V8′s being sold was a benefit to GM as the V6 cost wasn’t much less than the V6 but the retail price was much higher

  • avatar
    Bancho

    This is not a GM bashing comment.

    That said, how does it help Chevy to declare that their V6, which yesterday put out 304 HP, now puts out 312 in any way except that it’s 7 bigger?

    The test MT did basically showed the Mustang outperforming the Camaro in braking, acceleration and on the skidpad.

    Declaring that all that happened while the Camaro’s motor outputs even more power than they (Chevy) originally realized due to some testing technicality makes the results even worse if you ask me (and you probably wouldn’t but that’s ok).

    I’m all for ponycar wars but they’re a lot more fun when an actual improvement gets made that forces the other team to go improve their vehicle ad infinitum. A press release shrilly declaring that we’re 7 louder than we originally thought just doesn’t cut it in my book.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      Well, it sure beats the alternative (revising downward). Just ask Mazda.

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      Fair enough. I just think if I were Chevy at this point I’d have let this round go until actual changes could be made. Instead they just said “you didn’t beat a 304HP car in every performance related category, you beat a 312HP car!”. I’m not sure how much that helped them.

      That said they’re both still plenty fast and more capable than ever.

  • avatar

    I’d like to see car manufacturers at least move to V4 configs over I4 ones.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      Why? It costs more, it’s more complicated and has more weight at the top.

    • 0 avatar
      mistrernee

      Inverted Vee Engine! You could even stuff the transmission, or a bit of the transmission, or something (driveshaft?), inside of the banks. That would quite possibly be the worst car in the world to change the spark plugs on.

      The curse of the V4 is that it has an uneven firing order and twice as many heads and camshafts as an I4. They sound neat and are nicely balanced (depending on bank angle) otherwise.

      The uneven firing order and packaging makes them perfect for motorcycles though, and MotoGP is crawling with V4′s (or I4′s pretending to be V4′s).

      The flat-4 (with better balance and even firing) is a much better solution for in a car.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    This shows that the concept of “marginal utility” is not just some academic’s pipe dream. Back in the muscle car era of the late 1960s, a street car that would hit 60 mph in under 7 seconds was considered “fast.” So the new V-6 Mustang hits 60 in less than 6 seconds (well less, according to some tests). For most people, “how much quicker do you need” is a serious question. In fact, as a friend of mine with a Porsche noticed 25 years ago (a car not nearly as quick as this Mustang), other drivers dont’ anticipate that you will be accelerating at maximum deltavee. So, you have to worry about them pulling out in front of you, because they don’t expect you to be where you are.

    The new 5-liter, impressive as it is, costs more to buy, more to operate and has the potential to generate more “police interest.” So, for all that, you get bragging rights and the lovely sound of a V-8 in full cry. Yeah, if you live in Montana or someplace like that, you can really give your 5.0 a workout . . . but not many people live in Montana.

    The V-6 does seem like the car for most of us, suitably equipped with the suspension goodies, wheels, Z-rated rubber and a re-programmed ECU to get rid of that 116 mph speed limit. And, FWIW, I thought the 3 liter V-6 in my SHO sounded pretty damn good — after I got a new exhaust system and crossover pipe. Not like a V-8, but good in its own right.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      DC Bruce – where does one exceed 116 mph without risking trouble? I was pretty alert the other night rolling along at 80 mph in a 65 mph zone on a empty country divided highway the other night. Watching for deer and TN troopers famous for patrolling that stretch hard for speeders (the perfect place to go fast without risk to anyone). Saw two other people get tickets though…

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      “other drivers dont’ anticipate that you will be accelerating at maximum deltavee. So, you have to worry about them pulling out in front of you, because they don’t expect you to be where you are.”

      Totally agree – drive any fast car in traffic and you’ll soon learn to go easy on the gas as others are simply not anticipating your acceleration.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    There are even websites and forums dedicated to V6 Mustang enthusiasts. If it’s a V6 with a manual transmission, it’s a legit sports car in my book. In fact, if I went to a ford dealer today to recreate my dad’s 1967 Mustang convertible with the 298 V8 I’d buy a V6 model in a heartbeat. It would be more in the spirit of the non-GT, loaded base model, that his car is.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      Exactly, the modern V6 puts out more hp and torque than your father’s 289 V8 or for that matter the 302 or 351 variants. Now the other side of that coin is that the modern V6 Mustang also weighs 40% to 50% more than your father’s V8 (shocking but I was looking these numbers up a few weeks ago and the 68 Mustang tipped the scales at around 2,200 lbs). this means that your V6 Mustang, while able to beat the 289 or 302, would still have trouble with the 351 equipped Mustang at the drag strip.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    It’s become about the V-6 because the power output from the small block V-8′s has gone over the top, and the power output from big block V-8′s has gone plaid.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    “How did the Pony Car Wars become all about the V6?”

    To answer the question: CAFE.

    While the ol’ Ford vs Chevy dick-measuring in the blogs and bragrags — fueled by the manufacturers themselves — get car geeks all lathered up, everyone forgets the point buried deep in the copy….

    It’s all about the 30+ mpg.

    Step one complete. The V6 is “as good as” yesterday’s V8. Step two will be the turbo-4 is as good as yesterday’s V6. And finally (as YooRope has already been taught), step three is to give us all diesels.

    You see, Congress has decided where the car market has to go in the next ten years. The car makers weren’t thrilled, and were convinced if they were forced to make small-engined vehicles, Muricans wouldn’t buy them.

    But they will. Just do it gradually. And make it seem cool and retro and all pony war (ish). With smoke. Lots of smoke. And shouting.

  • avatar

    Back in musclecar heyday, they weren’t running DOHC multi-valve DI engines.

    Now they can do 4/cyl, they Should go smaller; though chest-beating-variant insecure mulletopia just cannot divorce itself from anything smaller than a cam-in-block pushrod cross-plane-cranked cast-iron big-block V8.

    Can’t wait for ubiquitous DI and HCCI.

    • 0 avatar

      ubiquitous…

      I await the day when I can plonk down on a set of retrofit DI heads for a Boss 302 block…

      Then again, I also was dreaming the other day about some custom parts… fit a solid shaft into the cam position on an older V8 to use as a jackshaft, which would drive TWO cams placed high on the ‘valley cover’ as it would then be, with induction routed up with dual plenums/throttle bodies and sequential port injection. Modified heads would allow for the pushrods, which would at this point be about as long as your thumb and be sprung/damped themselves. Eliminate a lot of the motile weight of the valvetrain system, still allow for easy head removal, modern billet rockers on bearing shafts… spin it a LOT faster than it used to be able to go. Heck, could even go for reverse induction and feed a turbocharger sitting inbetween the heads like Ford’s new V8 diesel will have, with the intakes/injectors where the exhaust manifolds used to go. Modern CAD/CAM techniques, in-place metal sintering 3D ‘printers’….

      Ah, what glorious times these modern days are.

  • avatar
    whatsanobeen

    Here’s an idea for a great comparison test:

    The new V6 Mustang, the recertified V6 Camaro, and the Mazdaspeed 3

    All can be priced in the same range, and they’ve all got a good “bang-for-the-buck” ratio
    Any takers, TTAC?

  • avatar

    The war isn’t about the V6. GM got keyboards burning last year unveiling the 304hp V6 in the Camaro but after a week or two people stopped talking about it.

    The only reason they’re talking about it again is because Ford felt they had to answer it with their own 300hp V6 and once again keyboards are burning. It will die out again soon.

    The argument that V6s are the “volume sellers” and support these models doesn’t seem to hold water anymore either. That might have been true over ten years ago but not today.

    The majority of the retail sales for the Camaro are the SS. It was the same with the Pontiac G8 whose sales were much more the GT than the V6. That’s also the same for the Challenger, Charger, Magnum and 300. The GT take (and manual transmission) on the Mustang is way up as well.

    The cars people still want and go head-to-head over are the V8s and that isn’t going to change. They are the entire purpose and reason for being for these types of cars and a huge part of their allure.

    Yes, the V6s have big numbers on paper now but that doesn’t change their status for people who like these kind of cars. They are still V6 cars, they are still nothing special, and still nothing lustworthy or proper. Their respective manufacturer uses them to sell to fleets and paid the numbers for these models.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Your v8 argument is fine as long as fuel prices and CAFE standards remain where they are today.

      Does anybody besides me think that we might be living in a significantly different automotive world in 5 years?

      Does anyone buy a $30k vehicle without considering what the next 5 years might bring?

    • 0 avatar
      Loser

      srogers,

      I’m with you. I can’t believe all the people that still buy full sized trucks/SUV’s to drive back and forth to work. They must have very short memories.
      We are just a hurricane away from $4-$5 a gallon gas not to mention any Middle Eastern problems that may pop up.

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      @srogers

      The automotive world will suck in 5 years. I foresee that V8 engines will be for VERY expensive cars. The rest of us mortal will have to conform with V6, 4 or less cyl banger, hybrids and electrics.

      Also, having a V8 will be politically incorrect. “Polluting” will be a luxury afforded by the rich.

      In 15 years they’ll seek to move all of us into mass transportation.

      The people that can afford a V8 now should go for it. And keep it.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      It’s not just hurricanes and the Middle East. The burgeoning economies of India and China do a fine job of dramatically ratcheting up the price of oil/gas at the drop of a hat.

      That uncertainty, alone, is why fuel mileage and V6 engines are getting a whole lot more interest than V8s, even in traditional V8 strongholds like the cheap, domestic ponycar.

    • 0 avatar
      0menu0

      “The cars people still want and go head-to-head over are the V8s and that isn’t going to change. They are the entire purpose and reason for being for these types of cars and a huge part of their allure.”

      Exactly.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I’d like to see some figures on retail sales of V8s vs V6s in Camaros and Mustangs. It’s just anecdotal evidence, but I’ve sold a lot more V6 mustangs than GTs, and that’s with the current less-than-great Cologne V6.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      @NulloModo-

      Here’s an article dealing with the Camaro:

      http://www.leftlanenews.com/2-out-of-3-chevrolet-camaro-buyers-opting-for-a-v8.html

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Ajla –

      Interesting, thanks for the link. I wonder how much of the SS vs. V6 sales are due to pent up demand from Camaro fanboys though. After years of absence there were probably a lot of die-hard Camaro fans chomping at the bit to relive their SS, Z28 or IROC-Z glory days (on a side note, what’s the over/under for a new IROC-Z edition in the next few years?). I think the true test will come in the next year or two once the pent up demand has been settled (similarly we will see the abnormal set of affairs that has the Camaro outselling the Mustang rectified for the same reasons).

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I wonder how much of the SS vs. V6 sales are due to pent up demand from Camaro fanboys though.

      Probably all of it.
      -
      On a side note, what’s the over/under for a new IROC-Z edition in the next few years?

      Maybe as a retro-graphics package. However, GM is in a hard position when it comes to making a top-dog Camaro because it steps on the toes of the Corvette or Cadillac V-series. GM has killed or knee-capped vehicles in the past to protect the Vette, and I’m sure they’ll continue with it.

      With Ford, the Mustang is the top performance car, so they can pretty much do what they want.
      -
      similarly we will see the abnormal set of affairs that has the Camaro outselling the Mustang rectified for the same reasons.

      I agree. As soon as Ford dealers stop putting market adjustments on the 2011 Mustang, the Camaro is toast.

      On the plus side, Camaro prices will fall with the upgraded Mustang around, thus making my Trans Am conversion a cheaper proposition.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      “However, GM is in a hard position when it comes to making a top-dog Camaro because it steps on the toes of the Corvette or Cadillac V-series. GM has killed or knee-capped vehicles in the past to protect the Vette, and I’m sure they’ll continue with it.”This is a debatable point. While there are surely some Corvette owners and prospective owners that race right out and trade/buy a just-introduced, brand-new SS or Z28, I would think later after the newness wore off, there would be more of an opposite effect, i.e., the sentiment that rather than spending the money for a high-level Camaro, for just a few bucks more, many would move into the major-leagues with a base Corvette.

      GM plays this game a whole lot better than, say, Chrysler used to back during the musclecar heyday. A lot of Roadrunner/Super Bee/Charger sales were lost to the more cost effective/newer Duster 340/Barracuda/Challenger.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    “How ddi the Pony car wars become all about the V6?”

    Easy, the V6′s in the current Camaro and Mustang out perform the V8s from the 60′s, and fuel economy considerations have increased with increasing gas prices. the more I think about it, reading these power and economy numbers, the more I want to test drive a 2011 V6 Mustang, and the less interested I become in the V8.

  • avatar
    Loser

    I still love the sound, feel and torque of a V-8, nothing like it IMHO. That said, with today’s unstable fuel prices I would be interested in a V-6 Camaro or Mustang. Right now I’m able to squeeze 27 MPG highway/20 MPG around town out of my ’06 GTO.

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    This is all well and good, but hasn’t Nissan been producing 300+ horsepower for a while in utilitarian V6 vehicles?

  • avatar

    Miscellaneous points:

    - A late-sixties Mustang did not weigh anything close to 2,200 lb. A sparsely equipped ’69 hardtop with a small-block V8 would have a curb weight in the neighborhood of 3,000 lb. A Cobra Jet Mach 1 would be more like 3,500 lb, give or take.

    - If you’re talking about power output, displacement is more important than number of cylinders. Neither 3.6 liters (about 220 cubic inches) nor 4.0 liters (245 cubic inches) is exactly dinky by modern standards; not too many years ago, both BMW and Lexus got by quite well with V8s no bigger than that. (Chevy’s 87 hp/liter specific output is pretty good for a normally aspirated engine, though.)

    - The big enticement of the V6 over the straight six is packaging efficiency. It’s just more compact, it’s easier to squeeze into either longitudinal or transverse applications, and it allows more crush space. Straight sixes have some advantages in breathing and balance, but they take up more space, which is why they’ve become so rare.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    These 2 are going to crush the Challenger V6. Any news on the Pentastar V6 going into the 2011 Challenger?

    Another thing about these 2 V6 pony cars is the following. Yeah, they have 300+HP, 30 MPG and stuff, but, how difficult will be to put a Turbo or Supercharger to one of these things, or naaaaawwwwzzzz or more power.

    AFAIK the V8 versions don’t have direct injection. The small block in the Camaro is “easy” to modify and I bet the 5.0 will be in a couple of years.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Reports are the numbers for the Pentastar V6 are 280hp/260ft-lbs torque (significantly lagging behind both GM and Ford’s new V6s). So even if the Pentastar V6 goes into the heavier 2011 Challenger, it’s not going to help much.

      As the Challenger SE (base) doesn’t have a manual option, it’s pretty obvious it’s really targeted to the low-performance, secretary crowd more so than even the base Mustang or Camaro, i.e., a market that doesn’t really care all that much about speed.

      Frankly, I wouldn’t look for the Pentastar in the base Challenger and imagine that Fiatsler well just let it ride off into the sunset after another couple years (about the same as the original 1970 E-body) with the same, low-performance, 250hp, 3.7L V6 it started with.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    When I bought my current 25 mpg vehicle in 1999 (new) gasoline was about $1.50. Now it nears $3 per gallon. I expect when I buy my next new car which I also expect to keep another decade that gasoline will double at least to $6 per gallon. What I would not be surprised by would be competition from Europe, Russia and newcomers India and China will drive up the price of gasoline to much more than that as we all push hard for an American middle class style life and habits (driving everywhere and vacationing by car or plane). -OR- our gov’ts spending habits (this Prez and the last one if not the next one too) will catch up with us causing massive taxation to payoff debts and new reoccurring expenses.

    So I’m not saying there needs to be anything like laws against V-8 powered Pony cars but I make my purchases with the future in mind. Always have. I can have plenty of fun with a well sorted out car that has a good suspension, good revving engine and good brakes.


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