If the Porsche 911 can go hybrid anything is possible.
A few days ago we learned that the Camaro’s head engineer, Al Oppenheiser, was against making the iconic muscle car a diesel or hybrid. Oh, and he also didn’t want anything to do with all-wheel drive. While purists undoubtedly celebrated that news, I wondered if Oppenheiser and GM could stick to such a stance. Specifically, I wondered what would happen if the next-generation Mustang—or maybe even the current gen—were to offer a hybrid option. Would the Camaro stand tall and remain old school or would it be forced into the future by Ford?
Now I know a hybrid Mustang is crazy talk, but know that I’m not just spit balling here. Back in 2013 Ford’s powertrain chief, Bob Fascetti, told Australian outlet GoAuto that nontraditional powertrain options were being considered for future Mustangs. "We’re not looking at diesel at the moment, but given where we need to go with fuel consumption we are looking at all of our options. And diesel is one of those options, along with hybrids and electric." Nothing more was said on the subject and we haven’t heard anything from the American automaker about a diesel, hybrid or electric since. But what we do know is that Ford is taking a deep dive into electrification, promising an investment of $4.5 billion for electric vehicles by 2020.
That will amount to 13 new electrified vehicles, with that number also including hybrids. Already a hybrid F-150 has been confirmed by CEO Mark Fields. If America’s top truck can go hybrid than why not one of its most iconic muscle cars? The canary in the coal mine seems to be turbocharging. Both the Camaro and Mustang offer turbo-fours. On that front it seems like Ford pulled the trigger first with its EcoBoost engine. This might simply be due to the development timelines of each car, with the newest Mustang breaking cover years before the sixth-gen Camaro did. Timelines aside, is it crazy to think Chevy gauged reaction to the Mustang EcoBoost before deciding to offer the Camaro with a 2.0-liter turbo-four? I don’t think so.
Of course Mustangs and Camaros with turbo-fours are nothing new, but with regard to today’s market it seems that Ford was willing to take the risk first with Chevy following suit once the waters proved calm. If Ford decides that one of its new hybrids needs to be a Mustang could the story be the same five or so years down the road? A hybrid muscle car sounds sacrilegious, but so did a plug-in Porsche 911 at one point. I’ve ignored the possibility of a diesel Mustang or Camaro because I don’t see the performance and mpg increases as substantial enough to sway consumers. Besides, diesel was given a pretty big black eye recently from Volkswagen and that wound might take a while to heal.
With regard to all-wheel drive, well that’s just too sacred a line to cross. People are OK with turbo-four muscle cars so long as power still goes to the rear wheels. Any hybrid system on an American muscle car would have to be a mild one, as in something like the Ferrari LaFerrari’s system. If any of America’s Big Three have the guts to pull this move I think it’s Ford. As for Dodge and the Challenger, well I hope the big muscle boat never changes. Purists and old timers need at least one life raft to float on.