In the modern era there isn’t just one place to test your car’s mettle, but the first place is usually where the power meets the pavement — at the rear wheels. In our Horsepower Wars competition, a 2017 Camaro SS and a 2017 Mustang GT are squaring off on the rollers to see which one makes the most power with two points on the line in the Pony Wars competition.

The modifications and the tuning really opened up the top end of these cars giving them over 1,000 RPM of usable power. — Matt Barker, DiabloSport

If you have been following along, these two cars are fighting it out in four categories — 0-60 braking (one point), chassis-dyno testing (two points), drag racing (three points), and road racing (three points) — across two phases of modifications with $5,000 and $15,000 budgets using Summit Racing pricing.

After being treated to $5,000 in naturally aspirated bolt-ons, the 2017 Camaro SS and 2017 Mustang GT hit the Dynojet to see which one put down the most power to the rear tires.

In their respective $5K builds, the Camaro and Mustang received a number of upgrades, all focused on improving the naturally aspirated performance and applying it to the road. Before the benefits of those hardware changes could be fully realized, we needed custom calibration support to make the software and hardware play nicely together, which is where DiabloSport’s handheld flash tuner went to work.

“The iNTUNE i3 Platinum was first used to program in a baseline custom calibration that was, in a sense, a starting point based on the modifications that were made to these vehicles,” Matt Barker, Category Manager at DiabloSport, explained. “Our CMR custom tuner, Kesatie Motorsports, provided that base tune to get an idea of the air/fuel ratio and to see where the horsepower and torque curves differed as compared to the stock baselines. We also used the iNTUNE i3 as a pass-through for our DataViewer software, which allowed us to get a full datalog of all relevant parameters including the most important parameters like spark timing and knock sensors.”


With that data to review, Kesatie went to work tweaking all the expected parameters on both cars over the internet.

“The Camaro was mostly timing changes. We had to slowly work up the timing, avoiding knock, and watching the power curve to see where it liked the timing and where it didn’t. We adjusted the fuel some as well. The torque management needed to be tweaked to handle the extra power and prevent the throttle blade from closing as well,” Matt said. “The Mustang required similar timing and fueling changes as well as calibration of the intake manifold runner controls and the throttle body on the car. Torque management was also dialed in as well, along with the transmission pressures, shift maps, and converter lock-up functions.”

While the glory of modern communications facilitates this wizardry, there are some facets of the car that are less apparent when the tuner is not in person.

Be sure to check out the build stories on these two cars, but each received a well-rounded back of bolt-on improvements addressing their chassis, engines, suspensions, and transmissions. In this test, however, the focus is on those power upgrades.

“The biggest hurdle with remote tuning is always not being able to see or hear the car,” Matt explained. “In that situation, the tuner is relying on the data that is on the datalog, as well as the person that is running the car on the dyno, to be his eyes and ears. This is definitely manageable but in-person dyno tuning is typically accomplished more quickly.”

In the end, both cars picked up more power, with the Camaro gaining 10 horsepower and 9.27 lb-ft of torque over its 408 and 425 lb-ft baseline. Meanwhile, the Mustang baselined much lower at 356.27 horsepower and 357.23 lb-ft of torque, but gained 46.15 horsepower but gave up 9.11 lb-ft of torque at the wheels.


“I’m happy with how both cars turned out. The gains are very impressive on the Mustang, but right in line with where they should be. The gains on the Camaro while still impressive seemed to showcase how optimized that vehicle is from the factory,” Matt said. “The modifications and the tuning really opened up the top end of these cars giving them over 1,000 rpm of usable power on the top end that wasn’t previously available. Ultimately, we are confident that the improvements made with the hard parts that were added, and the tuning to match, will improve the performance on the other areas of the competition in addition to the dyno portion.”

In the end, the Mustang’s impressive gains were not quite enough to overtake the healthy rear-wheel head-start the Camaro had. However, it definitely closed the gap by a considerable amount, which should make the remaining competitions more interesting.

The Camaro baselined at a whopping 408.62 horsepower at the rear wheels, while the Mustang put down only 356.27 horsepower to the tire.

“I was a little bummed that the Mustang baselined so much lower than its rival. However, I also know how well the Coyote platform responds to modification,” said Steve Turner, Executive Editor of FordNXT. “With the help of the experts at Evolution Performance and Steeda, we put together a potent package that really delivered some big, chunky gains in concert with the Diablo custom tune.”

Meanwhile, the Camaro picked up some modest peak gains, but added some meat up top where the stock power curve petered out.

“It’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison with the addition of the torque converter. The car picked up some very usable power but the peak didn’t necessarily pick up as much as I expected,” added Chase Christensen, Editor of LSX Magazine. “That said, we gained horsepower and torque throughout the entire rev range and power is now roughly 30 rear-wheel horsepower up by 6,800 rpm compared to its stock configuration. While they weren’t the gains I expected, I think the car will be substantially faster at the track which is the true test of any aftermarket parts.”


How much the cars gained over their baselines was certainly interesting, but what mattered in this test was the peak power output. Where the rubber met the roller, the Mustang put down 409 rear-wheel horsepower and the Camaro produced 420 rear-wheel horsepower to take the win.

“As responsive as the Coyote is to bolt-on mods, this car had a lot of ground to make up. I am impressed that it closed the gap as much as it did given our limited budget,” Steve added. “In the end, it wasn’t quite enough to take the win in this round, but we created a solid foundation to expound upon on with our $15K mods. Plus, this extra power should really help on the drag strip and road course.”

Though the Mustang closed the gap in this round by putting down 402 horsepower at the wheels, the Camaro was able to hold its advantage and take the win with a 418-horsepower pull (left).

“I’m stoked that it won the dyno portion of the competition for $5K. I expected no less, but the Mustang really surprised me with how much power it picked up. It was much closer than I anticipated and, I’m not going to lie, it worried me a bit until the final numbers were in,” Chase concluded. “The Camaro is still making roughly 420 rear-wheel horsepower with just bolt-ons, which is definitely stout and I think it will lead to some pretty good times at the track. Hopefully, this is just the first of many wins for the Camaro.”

Of course, this is just one round of the competition. Backed by some of the biggest names in the automotive aftermarket — including ARP, BMR Suspension, COMP, Covercraft, DiabloSport, Dyna-Batt, E3 Spark Plugs, Holley Performance Parts, Mahle, Mickey Thompson, ProCharger, QA1, Royal Purple, Summit Racing, TCI, Weld Racing, BMR Suspension, Fragola, PRW, and others — this competition is beginning to get serious. To find out how it plays out, stay tuned to FordNXT, Horsepower Wars, and LSX Magazine.