More than a half-century has passed since the Ford Mustang essentially launched the “pony car” class, representing a new breed of sporty coupes and muscle cars. Since then, numerous challengers have arisen, but none can claim the staying power of the Mustang. Just the same, there are Ford Mustang alternatives worth exploring, including two direct competitors and a host of other models that may also merit your consideration.
Chevrolet is Ford’s archival and ever since the Mustang was introduced, General Motors’ mainstream brand has sought to fight back and has done so with its Camaro. That battle began in 1967 and lasted until 2002 when it appeared GM had thrown in the towel and canceled the Camaro and the similar Pontiac Firebird.
Beginning in 2010, an all-new Camaro was launched, and quickly overtook the Mustang in sales, at least in some years. The fifth-generation Camaro, produced from 2010 to 2015, includes both coupe and convertible body styles. A standard 3.6-liter V6, available V8 engines and manual transmissions make this model a top performer.
Beginning in 2016, the sixth-generation Camaro debuts, coming in slightly smaller and lighter than the outgoing 2015 model. It also offers a variety of engine choices ranging from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder to a beefy 6.2-liter V8.
The old Chrysler Corporation and its related companies have produced multiple muscle cars, including the Dodge Charger, Plymouth ‘Cuda and the AMC Javelin, the latter company acquired by Chrysler in 1987.
The original Dodge Challenger, produced from 1970 to 1974, was a midsize pony car. It was followed a few years later by a forgettable subcompact car produced by Mitsubishi that also sported the Challenger name.
It wasn’t until 2008 when the Challenger made its return as a large rear-wheel drive sports car that’s based on the same platform underpinning the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300. While the Challenger has long sat in the shadows of both the Mustang and the Camaro, in recent years, it has received a lot of attention for its high-performance SRT editions, including the very well-known supercharged Challenger SRT Hellcat, which makes 707 horsepower.
The Logical Alternatives
Not everyone wants a sport coupe of the size, weight and stature of the Ford Mustang and its chief competitors. There are several models that are worthwhile alternatives, ranging from luxury coupes to more mainstream models.
Among the luxury brands, the Lexus RC F, BMW 4 Series, Cadillac ATS Coupe, Infiniti Q60 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe merit consideration. Each model offers standard rear-wheel drive and with the exception of the RC F you can choose all-wheel drive or a manual transmission.
Furthermore, the base price for each model starts near what Ford charges for the Mustang GT Premium. Moreover, when you place a model such as the Lexus RC F next to the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R, both offer high performance for a similar price. The Lexus adds a high-end interior and what some would say is a better overall driving experience than the Mustang and its traditional competitors.
Among mainstream models there are a few rear-wheel drive sports cars that shouldn’t be overlooked.
One such model is the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, which is a handsome sport coupe powered by a responsive V6 engine. Proportionately smaller than traditional pony cars, the Genesis Coupe makes 306 horsepower and comes with a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission. Older models — from 2009 to 2012 — also offered a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
Another model to consider includes the Nissan 370Z. While this Nissan does not have a rear seat, the 370Z is also smaller than any coupe mentioned so far, and that means reconsidering what may be more important to you — size or speed. Happily, the 370Z lights up the performance quotient with a 3.7-liter V6 engine making 332 horsepower. Nissan pairs this engine with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmission. You can choose coupe or convertible body styles too.
Best of the Rest
The alternatives to the Ford Mustang can be extended even further out, especially if your tastes, body styles and budget allow or require that.
Just as the Dodge Charger presents a four-door alternative to the Dodge Challenger, the Chevrolet SS does likewise for the Chevrolet Camaro. Ford’s own Mustang alternative is the large, all-wheel drive Ford Taurus SHO.
For enthusiasts just getting started or simply wanting a small package, the Subaru WRX, Scion FR-S, Hyundai Veloster, Volkswagen Golf R, Honda Civic Si and Subaru BRZ might also be considered. Ford’s own Fiesta ST and Focus ST shouldn’t be overlooked, and come 2016 the Focus RS may poach Mustang customers who are looking for all-wheel drive and 350 horsepower in a small package.