The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro has arrived, and it looks trim and toned—and thirsty for Ford Mustang blood.
Yes, we’ve already mentioned that car. There’s simply no way to avoid the Mustang when you discuss the Camaro, just as there’s no denying that the Ford largely overshadowed the Chevy for five decades. Consider that the first 1967 Camaro was a two-year-late response to the Blue Oval’s original pony. Or that, until recently, the Mustang traditionally outsold the Camaro. Or that the Camaro nameplate was scuttled from 2003 through 2009, an indignity never suffered by the Mustang. (To be fair, that the front-drive Probe was intended to be a Mustang might be the bigger humiliation.) Or, perhaps worst of all for bow-tie fans, that the Camaro has usually lost to the Mustang in our comparison tests.
But the slate has been wiped clean; the road course, drag strip, and Woodward Avenue freshly prepared for battle; and the Camaro reinvigorated with more muscle and a plethora of new technologies. This should be good.
Laying the Groundwork
The most potent weapon in the new, sixth-gen Camaro’s arsenal is its platform. The new car sits on GM’s Alpha architecture, the foundation on which the Cadillac ATS and CTS have built their reputations for kick-ass dynamics. Chevrolet says that the new car is 28 percent more structurally rigid than the last one, and that some 70 percent of its Alpha component set is unique to the 2016 Camaro. (This seems like a good point to drop in the fact that the only carry-over part numbers are said to be the bow tie on the decklid and the SS badge.) The Alpha bones make for a slightly smaller Camaro in every dimension; the 2016 is 2.3 inches shorter overall, 0.8 inch narrower, and 1.1 inch shorter in height. The wheelbase is down by 1.6 inches, and the track measurements, front and rear, are reduced by between 0.4 and 1.1 inch, depending on trim level.
All the decimal shaving results in a car that, depending on the trim level, is more than 200 pounds lighter at the curb, according to Chevrolet; the body-in-white alone is down by 133 pounds. Even before we dive into the rest of the chassis and powertrain details, that’s already promising—weight is the enemy of performance, after all. Rendering the cross-dash beam in aluminum instead of steel saved 9.2 pounds, while 26 pounds were pulled from the suspension by using aluminum links up front and punching holes into the steel links fitted out back. Once again, the front end is suspended via struts while the rear gets a multilink arrangement; GM’s sublime Magnetic Ride Control active dampers will be available for the first time on the Camaro SS.
Every Camaro can be equipped with Brembo brakes, and the branding is standard—and the pieces beefier—on the SS. Non-SS models get 12.6-inch rotors squeezed by four-piston calipers at the front and 12.4-inch discs and single-piston calipers out back, while the SS upgrades to four-piston fixed calipers all around and 13.6- and 13.3-inch rotors. Eighteen-inch wheels and Goodyear Eagle Sport all-seasons are stock on non-SS models, and they can be upgraded to 20-inchers with Eagle F1 Asymmetric run-flats. The SS will roll off the Lansing, Michigan, assembly line with 20-inch wheels wrapped in Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 run-flats (you know, for twice the eagle-ness).
The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro engine lineup is very similar to the Mustang’s, as it features a turbocharged four-cylinder and naturally aspirated V-6 and V-8 options, but the blown four will serve as the base motor in the Chevy. The two smaller engines will be available in both LT and 2LT guise (they’re the only two trims with those engines), while the eight-cylinder is again SS-exclusive. In contrast, the V-6 Mustang is the bottom feeder and available with very little in the way of options.
The four—the first in a Camaro in 30 years—and the six can be ordered bolted to a Tremec TR3160 six-speed manual transmission or GM’s 8L45 eight-speed automatic. The SS gets the same transmission types and gear counts, but the manual is the familiar Tremec TR6060 (now with active rev-matching) and the automatic is the 8L90 that’s also available in the latest Corvette.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine makes 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, just about equal with its output in the Cadillac ATS and CTS. Chevy says it’ll return more than 30 mpg on the highway and hustle the Camaro to 60 mph in less than six seconds, although the company doesn’t specify which transmission achieves those numbers. For reference, we’ve tested the EcoBoost Mustang and achieved zero to 60 mph in 5.5 (manual) and 5.2 seconds (automatic). GM’s 2.0-liter is too coarse and uneven in its Cadillac applications, but hopefully the Camaro wizards have found a way to smooth out the power delivery. We also wouldn’t mind if they made it rev a little more freely.
The V-6 may seem familiar—it displaces 3.6 liters and features direct injection like the one already offered in plenty of GM’s finest wares—but it’s a thoroughly redesigned unit that has a wider spread between its banks, features a one-millimeter larger bore (adding 76 cc’s to the six’s displacement), and can now shut down cylinders in light-load situations to conserve fuel. It makes a healthy 335 horsepower and 284 lb-ft.
The Mustang GT–fighting SS gets the 6.2-liter LT1 V-8 that debuted in the Corvette Stingray, albeit with 20 percent Camaro-specific parts, includingtri-Y-shaped exhaust manifolds. (We hope that some of the new bits sort out the LT1’s woes; an allegedly bad oil filter caused our long-term Corvette’s engine to die a premature death, and our Vette has also experienced starter-motor problems.) Unlike in the fifth-gen car, where manual-transmission versions offered more muscle, every Camaro SS will pack the same heavy—and Corvette-matching—punch, in this case 455 horses and 455 lb-ft. That’s up 29 horsepower and 35 lb-ft on manual models and 55 horsepower and 45 lb-ft on automatics. (Listen to the Camaro’s LT1 here.)
Yes, like the Mustang and a billion German cars, the Camaro will feature engine-audio enhancement. The 2.0T models all will have active noise cancellation and will even pump fake noise into the cabin if you get the upgraded Bose stereo. Chevrolet makes a point to note that the aural fake-itude can be switched off, though, which is nice. Camaros equipped with the two larger engines get induction-noise resonators—pipes that feed intake noise directly to the interior—and offer dual-mode active exhausts that can be set to “stealth” mode to avoid pissing off any neighbors you might actually like.
Finally, a Drive Mode Selector tailors up to eight variables through Snow/Ice, Tour, Sport, and Track (SS only) programs, including launch control, shift mapping in automatic models, throttle sensitivity, exhaust sound, steering weight, the stability control, magnetic shocks, and interior lighting.
The exterior styling is more evolutionary than anything, although that’s by—ahem—design; the company felt that the previous car was an aesthetic success and, having outsold the Mustang every year since 2010, didn’t want to change very much. The car looks leaner and more athletic, but it pretty much speaks the same visual language, albeit with fewer fussy details and more LED lighting elements on RS and SS models. Speaking of the SS, it has a unique decklid spoiler, its own hood with functional vents, and a fascia featuring brake-cooling ducts. Oh, and the tri-bar Camaro badge has been resurrected and applied to the front fenders on all 2016 Camaros. You’ll have your choice of 10 exterior paint colors, and your local Chevy dealer will be well stocked with accessory wheels, stripes, and body bits at launch.
Inside, the materials are said to be improved—we’ll reserve judgment until we see a production model—and there’s also a new flat-bottom steering wheel and, if you pay for them, dual eight-inch displays. (Chevy swears the one in the dash measures eight inches diagonally, even if it doesn’t look like it.) In a neat touch, the rings around the central air vents are used to adjust fan speed and temperature. Inductive phone charging is available, as are five color combinations and customizable interior lighting with 24 colors (and a gimmicky-sounding “theatrical ‘car show’ ” mode that cycles through them when the car is parked). An electronic parking brake also has been fitted.
You may notice there’s been no mention of the brimstone-breathing ZL1 or Z/28 models, or of the scalpel-precise SS 1LE that served as the new base SS’s benchmark, but we have a feeling we’ll be hearing from them soon, along with convertible versions. In the meantime, we’ll busy ourselves waiting for the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro LT and SS coupes to hit the streets in the fourth quarter of this year—you can busy yourself reading our prototype drive—and for the inevitable comparison-test showdowns with their mortal enemies from Dearborn.