Motor Trend named the 2016 Camaro their Car of the Year. How on earth is that possible?
Has the 8-cylinder American muscle car finally grown up?
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
The sixth- generation Camaro has certainly accumulated some big-time accolades in its short lifetime. I’ve driven previous Camaros and have usually come away less than impressed, and so I wondered how this positive press was possible. Well, Chevrolet wasn’t messing around when they decided it was time to challenge the world with their all-new “entry-level” performance car.
You won’t notice massive changes between the last generation’s exterior and this one. Yet, while it respects its predecessor’s fastback styling, virtually every surface has been toned and chiseled to create a meaner, more aggressive, sleeker and more modern looking Camaro. It’s smaller, wider and it looks significantly more athletic. I love the changes, and little details like the angry squinty LED driving lights make me smile. The headlights are bright HIDs and the tail light signature is a slick set of LED strips.
While the Camaro benefits from its new tidier proportions, allowances were made where necessary. Witness goodies like those rear fender flares and the functional hood vents. And the spectacular black 20-inch rims.
You’ll certainly appreciate Chevrolet’s efforts inside too. The all-new styling looks modern and sports a clean, functional layout. There’s a vast expanse of plastic in front of the passenger, but who cares about them, right? Interior materials got a nice bump in quality, and it’s a nice mix of soft-touch and hard plastics. It’s not the most spacious of places though, and that high beltline makes it nearly impossible to look cool if you want to hang your elbow out of your window.
The heated and cooled leather seats are very comfortable, though they are not as aggressively bolstered as I expected – that’s surprising, considering the Camaro’s significant capabilities. I really liked the reconfigurable driver information screen between the two main gauges.
The dash is home to an 8-inch MyLink touchscreen – the screen is angled down slightly, which was cause for some glare and reflections on the screen. Otherwise the user interface is clean and intuitive, and everything works well. A very cool detail – see those huge knurled metallic rings around the two centre air vents? Yep. They’re the temperature controls for the dual-zone automatic climate control system. Awesome!
Rear Seats and The Tiny Trunk
OK, I’m going to blitz through this part because seriously, who even cares about this stuff? If you move the front seats up enough, the two rear seats could get people from point A to point B, but nobody will ever be comfortable back there. Even my kids said it was cramped back there. I’m 5’10” and I didn’t have nearly enough head room in the back. Leg room is another story altogether, but if this stuff actually matters to you on more than the rare occasion, you shouldn’t be looking at cars like the Camaro in the first place.
Yes, there are LATCH anchors for kids’ seats, and yes, the rear seatback folds down to make for more cargo space. Because it’s all about being practical.
The trunk’s capacity is rated at 258 litres, which might be the smallest trunk size I’ve seen on paper. Yet I was able to get 10 full shopping bags of groceries in there. Go figure.
OK, finally! This is what sports cars are all about. In the past, the Camaro has been a blunt weapon, a sledgehammer that you’d swing at a target. It wasn’t that capable once you started going around corners and frankly, it wasn’t much fun to drive, in my opinion. Sure, it looked and sounded the part, but unless you bumped it up to the zany Z28 or ZL1 models, the Camaro just wasn’t that special. That has all changed.
The key player in the Camaro’s transformation is the platform. It now sits on a chassis that it shares with Cadillac’s amazing ATS and it is light years ahead of the last generation. The smaller, lighter architecture allowed Chevy to save nearly 400(!) pounds. It also doesn’t hurt that there’s some new iron under the hood. Say hello to GM’s mighty LT1 – a 6.2-litre V8. It puts out a stonkin’ 455 HP and 455 lb.ft of torque here, and with the manual transmission, the Camaro SS will make the 0-100 km/h run in 4.3 seconds. 4.3!!! Should you opt for the 8-speed automatic, it will do it in 4 seconds flat. Mmmm-hmmm.
But before you start moving, you need to start it up. Push the starter button and it turns over a couple of times before barking to life. The delicious rasp of that start and the ensuing nervous rumble eventually tone down to a burble at idle. Step on it, and that builds to a frantic and raspy V8 bellow, with a flatulent snap in the background. I just want to make a mix tape of the sounds this Camaro makes.
It isn’t just a soundtrack though. Performance is tremendous. If you use first gear and are driving normally, the car invariably tries to convince you to shift from first to 4th gear to economize your use of fuel – the Camaro has plenty of power to lug the car around town in 4th. The Camaro is downright docile when you’re puttering around town. It pulls in every gear though, and the acceleration is violent when you put the hammer down. How violent? It will clear the quarter mile in 12.3 seconds doing 190 km/h by the time it gets there. Now that’s fast.
Shifting the 6-speed manual transmission is a joy. The clutch is heavy enough to feel substantial, and the tactile control is enough to make you feel connected in every situation. Shifts are never clunky and it’s a sporty transmission without sacrificing daily driveability. Quick and clean shifts on your commute are as easy to achieve as slamming it into second gear during a blast down the on-ramp. You can turn on the active rev matching too, which sets you up perfectly for every downshift.
There are four driving modes – Touring (which is the most laid-back, comfortable driving mode), Snow/Ice, Sport and finally the most aggressive – Track. The last two ramp up the vehicle’s responsiveness, make the exhaust mode more aggressive. stiffen up the suspension and make the steering tauter and more direct. Speaking of steering, the flat-bottomed steering wheel is fantastic. And it’s heated.
GM’s magnetic ride control is truly amazing. In Touring mode, the Camaro rides like a firmly-sprung European sport sedan – in other words, this thing is comfortable! In Track mode, which you’d expect to be a kidney-bashing experience at best, the vehicle remains quite comfortable and it still happily soaks up most of the road irregularities. Yet the immediate turn-in and the car’s flat entry into, through and out of corners make it clear that your new and improved Camaro in Track mode will happily play along – at the race track. The Camaro is incredibly competent and capable, and inspires a remarkable amount of confidence and the limited slip differential bumps up the incredible amount of grip and traction even more. And those weight savings are immediately noticeable in how nimble and truly responsive this car has become – it’s a perfect balance between feeling light and agile and still coming across as substantial.
When it’s time to scrub off some speed, the standard 4-piston Brembo brakes have got your back. Stopping distances of 150 feet from 70 mpg (113 km/h) to a full stop have been measured, which puts the Camaro into some very elite territory in terms of braking performance.
Shoulder checking is an exercise in fear due to the huge rear pillars and visibility out of the back is very poor no thanks to the high trunk and the low roofline. I appreciated the backup camera with rear parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert and the blind spot monitoring system, both of which probably saved me a few times. I already talked about how delicious the engine sounds. Road noise is present quite often, likely due to the tires, but wind noise was very well controlled even at highway speeds.
I am thrilled to say that virtually all the previous Camaro shortcomings have been put out to pasture. The 2016 introduces us to a Camaro with a truly precision driving experience. It’s an American muscle car that is wickedly fast and yet connected, sophisticated and comfortable. Its limits are extreme, and I never even approached them.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was low. She thought it was too yellow, too loud and too fast. I didn’t offer her a second ride.
Is this car easy to live with on a daily basis? Absolutely. But could you take this car to the track? Without a doubt. Not only that, but it excels in both worlds. And that makes the 2016 Camaro a world-class sports car in my opinion. With the finest sound track playing in the background.
I absolutely loved this car, and it’s one of the few cars that I would be happy driving all day long. This is a car I want to own. Just not in yellow.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Don Wheaton.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.
Pricing: 2016 Chevrolet Camaro
Base price (2SS trim): $47,150
Options: $585 black metallic rally stripes; $1195 power sunroof; $1895 magnetic ride control; $455 bright yellow paint; $795 MyLink audio with touch nav; $940 dual mode performance exhaust; $160 black front and rear bowties; $80 black wheel centre caps; $330 20″ 5-spoke wheels;
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $55,335