No matter which side of the Atlantic you’re on, you’ll find muscle cars. And though the basic formula—big engine, relatively-small car—still works, the latest models put the classics to shame. Here in the US, the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE is arguably the best muscle car available right now. But how does it compare to one of Germany’s best, the Mercedes-AMG C63S coupe? YouTube team The Straight Pipes aim to find out.
2020 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE vs. Mercedes-AMG C63S: the numbers
In terms of similarities, both the 2020 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE and Mercedes-AMG C63S are coupes with V8s. But that’s about where they start to differ.
The Camaro ZL1 1LE is powered by a 6.2-liter supercharged V8, rated at 650 hp and 650 lb-ft. The ZL1 1LE used to be manual-only, Car and Driver reports, but it’s now also available with a 10-speed automatic. With the former, Chevy’s ultimate muscle car can go 0-60 in 3.6 seconds, Motor Trend reports. The automatic, though, is even faster. With it, the heavier non-1LE Camaro ZL1 goes 0-60 in 3.4 seconds, Car and Driver reports.
In contrast, the Mercedes-AMG C63S uses a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8, which produces 503 hp and 516 lb-ft. Like the Camaro ZL1 1LE, it’s a rear-wheel-drive car, though it comes exclusively with a 9-speed automatic. With less power, and roughly 200 extra pounds, it’s not quite as fast as the Camaro, Car and Driver reports. Still, a 0-60 of 3.7 seconds isn’t exactly slow.
In terms of features, the Camaro ZL1 1LE has a few things in common with the C63S. Both come standard with heated front seats, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a heads-up display. Both muscle cars also come standard with blind-spot monitoring and forward-collision warning.
However, while the Mercedes-AMG C63S offers ventilated front seats and navigation as an option, on the ZL1 1LE they’re standard, Car and Driver reports. But the C63S has leather upholstery, and the Camaro doesn’t. Also, the Mercedes coupe comes standard with automatic emergency braking, Car and Driver reports. That’s not even an option on the ZL1 1LE.
But then, the C63S doesn’t have all the Camaro ZL1 1LE’s track features. True, it does have adjustable traction control, stability control, and adaptive dampers. It also comes with multiple driving modes, including ones for track driving and snowy conditions, Car and Driver reports.
But the ZL1 1LE is the first GM car to offer a carbon-fiber wing, Road & Track reports. It also has a functional front splitter, an adjustable anti-roll bar, and Multimatic spool-valve dampers. These dampers are typically only found on Formula 1 cars and hypercars like the Aston-Martin Vulcan and Ford GT.
Camaro ZL1 1LE vs. C63S: the different approaches to muscle
On paper, the Camaro ZL1 1LE is faster than the Mercedes-AMG C63S. However, The Straight Pipes found that, even with wide tires and traction control, the Camaro had a tough time putting its power to the ground. As a result, in a real-world straight-line stoplight race, the less-powerful AMG would likely win. Plus, if you do want to use launch control, the C63S’ is easier to access.
However, in terms of passing power, the Camaro ZL1 1LE claws ahead. For one, its 10-speed shifts faster than the AMG’s 9-speed. And with its added power, the Camaro’s 5-60 time is about 0.5 seconds faster than the C63S’, in Car and Driver’s testing.
Also, with its trick suspension, sticky tires, lighter weight, and functional aero, Chevrolet’s muscle car out-paces Mercedes’ on-track. In Car and Driver’s Lightning Lap, the automatic-equipped Camaro ZL1 1LE beat the Mercedes-AMG C63S by 12.1 seconds. And the manual car was only 0.7 seconds slower.
But once you move away from the track, the C63S again wins out over the ZL1 1LE. It’s quieter, with a more comfortable ride and better interior materials. Though the Camaro has comfier front seats, the AMG’s rear seats are usable by adults. Both muscle cars are fun on a twisty road, but the C63S feels smaller.
Which is the better buy?
Value-wise, the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE is a bit better than the Mercedes-AMG C63S. With the 6-speed manual, the former starts at $73,195; the automatic adds about $2000. The C63S starts at $77,500. But equipping it to the ZL1 1LE’s level means spending close to $85,000.
Ultimately, choosing between these two muscle cars depends on what you value and how you drive. The AMG is the better choice for comfortable daily driving. But if you want a muscle car that you can drive to and from the track, the Camaro ZL1 1LE is the better choice. And if you want its speed with a bit more refinement, the standard ZL1 is $7500 cheaper. Plus, you can have it as a convertible.
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