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A black 2021 Chevy Camaro is parked on the race track after winning the 2021 Chevy Camaro vs 2021 Ford Mustang performance showndown.

Performance Car Showdown: 2021 Chevy Camaro vs 2021 Ford Mustang

Chevy and Ford have a longtime rivalry when it comes to the Camaro and Mustang. New challengers for the title of best performance car are the 2021 Chevy Camaro vs 2021 Ford Mustang. These two automakers are doing their best to refine and improve their models every year, trying to gain a leg up on the competition with redesigns and power upgrades. Regardless of which model is the current leader, the real winner is the car-buying public because the healthy competition and ongoing rivalry keep both manufacturers invested in continuous improvement.

A Surprising 2021 Update

For 2021, Ford is making quite a few daring moves with the Mustang. First, Ford is pushing the envelope and releasing an all-new electric version of the Mustang: the Mach-E. This move seems like a great idea, but we worry that longtime fans of the brand will be dissatisfied with the massive change. If the power behind the electric engine holds up, however, we think die-hard fans will still be pleased. Things still look promising for fans, though, as Ford has also announced the return of a Limited-Edition Mach 1.

Over at Chevrolet, the 2021 Camaro stays true to its roots, delivering an impressive line of performance engines wrapped in their classic styling. We think Camaro drivers will be thrilled with the sleek and sporty look of the 2021 model, and the affordable starting price is nothing to overlook either. Four engines, five trims, and a whole bunch of special editions to spice up the style are what make this classic Chevy one of the best in the business.

Who’s doing it right? Who’s doing it wrong? The sports car segment is shrinking, but those who want something in this category are purists. We think the classic Chevy Camaro is still going to hold up for purists everywhere. However, only time will tell if the classic Mach-1 will be able to satisfy plans. Plus, the ground is a little unsteady when it comes to how well an electric performance car will do on the market.

We wonder if Chevy will follow suit eventually with creating a full-electric Camaro, but we’re pretty sure it won’t be until they can match the power level behind their fan favorite. Chevy has entered the EV category with the compact bolt, and several other Chevy models are peppered with hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology. However, Ford’s bold move toward trusting the car-buying public to embrace EV technology in a performance vehicle from what is arguably its most beloved nameplate – the Mustang – is a big gamble.

Sales Rivalry

In the second quarter of 2020, Chevy saw Camaro sales drop nearly 50% due to unforeseen challenges in the market; however, so did its competition. We expect to see these numbers rise again in the coming years, and it looks like Ford may be trying to jump out in front with the release of the electric Mustang. However, the $42,895 price tag may end up setting the Mustang back behind the more affordable $25,000 Camaro.

Ford is still releasing the Mustang sports car lineup in early 2021, but rumors indicate that it is mostly unchanged from the 2020 model year. That checks out since Ford’s engineers were busy entering the Mustang in the EV category. We are estimating the entry price for the new Mustang Mach-1 will be more affordable than the Mach-E, but it looks like it will still be more expensive than the Camaro. The 2020 Mustang had an MSRP of $26,670, so we estimate the new one will be priced to match.

We like how Chevy has maintained the integrity of the Camaro nameplate throughout the model’s history because it shows a commitment to the classic sports car segment. In other words, it’s good for Chevy to continue building very fast sports cars. It shows a commitment to performance, which benefits the entire lineup, and they’ve done all of this while keeping the model affordable.

Ford first launched the Mustang in 1964, and Chevy answered in 1967 with the Camaro. Since then, the two nameplates have battled mightily for first place in sales and in the hearts of American muscle car buyers. Since the Camaro’s re-release in 2010, sales have trended first in Chevy’s favor, with nearly 130,000 Camaros sold in its launch year vs just a hair over 80,000 Mustangs, to a dead-even race until 2014, when the Mustang pulled ahead. Since then, Ford has gained market share steadily. When sales spiked for one or the other, it usually correlated with a special body or trim launch, like the convertible Camaro in 2011.

A close up is showing a man with one hand on the wheel and one on the shift knob of a 2021 Chevy Camaro.

2021 Chevy Camaro Highlights

We love Chevy’s focus on the Camaro’s sports car heritage. For 2021, the Camaro starts at a very affordable $25,000. This base Camaro isn’t going to blow the doors off other performance sports cars, but it does use a 2.0-liter turbo motor to deliver a respectable 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The base LS is perfect for those that just want to dip their toes into the performance car world. If you want slammed-back-in-your-seat off-the-line performance, just focus your attention on the Camaro ZL1.

The ZL1 starts at $63,000 and comes with Chevy’s powerhouse 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine that puts out a ridiculous 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. Paired with either a standard six-speed manual or 10-speed automatic, you’ll go from 0-60 in just 3.5 seconds, which is astoundingly fast. This power is the reason that the Camaro continues to race ahead in the performance car market.

If you’re in the market for a sports car, we’re steering you toward the Camaro lineup. If you don’t want to fork over $65,000 for the ultimate speed demon, take a look at the lineup’s mid-range trim, the LT1. You’re looking at a much less anxiety-provoking $34,000 starting MSRP and still getting a high-performance powertrain that includes a 6.2 liter V8 (no supercharger) that puts out 455 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque. You’ll still have the option of a standard six-speed manual, which we appreciate, or you can opt for a 10-speed automatic.

A close up is showing the front grille and headlights of an orange 2021 Ford Mustang with tire marks next to it.

2021 Ford Mustang Highlights

Ford issued a press release in June 2020, announcing the return of its Mach 1 trim, and the entire Mustang car lineup is banking on it carrying the whole trim lineup in 2021. We know that Ford is equipping the Mach 1 with a 5.0-liter V8 engine that delivers 480 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. It’s a limited edition model, so we’re not sure how many Ford plans to build, but it’s the first Mach 1 in over 17 years, so Ford fans will be keen to see how it stacks up.

As this will be the pinnacle of the Mustang lineup from a performance standpoint, we expect that if buyers take the time to revisit the Chevy Camaro, they’ll think twice about picking the Mustang. Why? There are more performance-oriented trims and packages available on the Camaro, and performance is the goal in this category. The Mach 1 sits at the mid-price range, so you’re still getting a far better price with the Camaro LT1, which has a comparable powertrain. Even if your heart is set on a Mustang, we think it’s worth a trip to your local Chevy dealer to test drive the Camaro.

At the low end, Ford endeavors to get entry-level buyers into the Mustang with an estimated base MSRP of $28,350 for the EcoBoost. It’s still higher than the Camaro’s $25,000 base, but it beats the Camaro’s performance specifications, delivering 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque via an intercooler turbo premium four-cylinder engine. We’re not sure the extra little bit of performance is worth $3,350, but it’s advantageous for buyers looking to squeeze as much performance out of a base model as possible.

Our Verdict

We choose the Camaro for value at the low end of the trim lineup and the Camaro for performance at the high end. With that said, we cannot tell a lie – the all-electric Mustang Mach E has us intrigued, but not as a comparable alternative to the Camaro. It’s apples and oranges, so a comparison-based review isn’t practical or helpful. Instead, we’re sticking with our recommendation of the 2021 Chevy Camaro at all price and trim levels when compared with the 2021 Ford Mustang line. Price and performance tell the story, and the winner in both categories for 2021 is the Chevy Camaro.

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