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The Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang have a long and storied history as rivals. Throughout their lifetime, these muscle cars have always existed as two of the cheapest options for consumers wanting that level of performance. The current generations of the Mustang and Camaro exist in much the same capacity, their performance offer is unparalleled for the money. In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report, the Camaro and Mustang are among the fastest new cars under $50,000.

What do you get for under 50k?

The 6th generation Mustang GT and Camaro SS offer incredible performance starting at $39,420 and $38,895, respectively. What does a sub $40,000 Mustang or Camaro get you? To start, both are optioned with naturally aspirated V8s. Now, 20 years ago, that may not have been especially notable, but in a world where large displacement V8’s—especially naturally aspirated V8’s—are on a sharp decline, this is an exciting option for enthusiasts. Perhaps even more exciting is the power these V8s pump out. 

The Mustang puts out a whopping 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque from its DOHC 5.0-liter Coyote that revs to 7500 rpm! This allows the Mustang to propel itself to 60 mph in only 3.9 seconds with Ford’s excellent 10-speed automatic transmission, reports MotorTrend. The Camaro makes a bit less power with 455 horsepower but a significant bump in torque with 455 lb-ft from its 6.2L LT1 pushrod engine. According to MotorTrend, the Camaro makes its way to 60 mph in 4 seconds flat if equipped with GM’s version of the jointly developed 10-speed automatic, just a tenth of a second behind the Mustang. 

The Camaro is faster with a manual transmission

Blissfully, both cars come standard with 6-speed manuals. The Mustang comes standard with the unloved Getrag MT-82-D4 6 speed, while the Camaro comes standard with the Tremec TR-3160 6 speed that has been well received both in the Camaro as well as the Shelby GT350 and Mustang Mach 1. 

Interestingly, when equipped with manual transmissions, the Mustang GT falls a tenth short of the Camaro, which can be hustled to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds as compared to the Mustang’s 4.4. 

You want more performance?

Both the Mustang GT and Camaro SS are exceptional cars with respect to straight-line speed and cornering. That said, if you really want a more track-focused spec, opting for the Mustang’s Performance Pack or the Camaro’s 1LE package can be fitted, all while keeping the price under $50,000. 

The Performance Pack for the Mustang will cost you an extra $6,700, while the 1LE package will cost $7,000. This still keeps the MSRP well under $50,000 but provides a whole host of goodies, including bigger brakes, better cooling, limited slip differential, along with some cosmetic upgrades inside and out. 

The big bonus of the Camaro SS equipped with the 1LE package is magnetic ride control. The Mustang can be fitted with MagneRide, but that is an additional $1,695 option. These packages make these cars absolute track weapons for a minimal extra cost. 

Nothing competes for the price

For sheer performance, there isn’t much that competes for the price, making it no surprise that U.S. News tapped these vehicles as the fastest new cars under $50,000. However, there are other great options for less money, like the Golf GTi, Veloster N, and JCW Mini Cooper. They fall far short of the American Pony cars with respect to power and performance but are still quite fast and fun. 

If you wanted to go for an EV, the Polestar 2 (with the dual motor) is good for a 4.5 second 0-60 time, but that’ll cost you just shy of $50,000. If you just wanted a good ol’ fashion American V8, you could spend $45,845 on a Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack. That’ll get you a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 that makes 485 horsepower along with a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic, but the Scat Pack weighs nearly 600 lbs more than the Mustang or Camaro and simply can’t compete in the corners. 

The Camaro SS and Mustang GT are simply the best value

A blue 2022 Ford Mustang GT California Special parked
2022 Ford Mustang GT California Special | Ford

The only car for under $50,000 that comes close is the Golf R. The Golf R is an incredible performer. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder makes 315 horsepower and rockets the little hatch to 60 mph anywhere from 4.1-4.6 seconds—depending on your choice of transmission. That said, the Golf R starts at $44,090—nearly $5,000 more than the Camaro SS and Mustang GT— and that’s with the significantly slower 6-speed manual. 

They may not be as economical or practical as some of the other cars they beat out, but it’s hard to beat their performance for the money. Not to mention—V8, manual, and RWD. Who could deny that combo?   


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