*Photos and captions courtesy of General Motors
It’s time to stir up the hornet’s nest. The day we’ve been waiting for anxiously finally arrived. After much head scratching, roundtable discussions, heavily camouflaged spy shots, and debates as to what we’d see, the 2016 Camaro, first model of the new 6th-Generation Camaro has finally been revealed.
But have all these months of waiting and anticipation been worth it?
For yours truly, watching things unfold via social media, my first reaction was a mix of ambivalence and disappointment. After all the pre-unveiling hubbub, and the accidental release by MSNBC of some pictures, I was expecting more from the new 6th-Gen. The new car appears to share the center body shell, quarters, and front fenders from the previous design with a few minor changes. The often frustratingly small trunk opening looks to still be there (haven’t seen a photo that confirms this concretely yet), and the front end styling, while revised, isn’t that much different from the 2015 model.
Are the fairly mild styling changes a good thing? Overall the previous Camaro was a hit styling wise, visually striking and definitely stood out when next to most cars on the road. But in the Camaro’s history, every time a new Generation has been released, the styling changes from the previous Generation were pretty significant and gave each Generation its own style and presence. Looking at the new 2016 Camaro, I almost want to call this the “5th-Gen Mark II” Camaro.
I’m going to address the individual aspects of this new Camaro breed, and let fly with what my mind is thinking.
For the first time since 1986, the Camaro has a four cylinder engine option. The 2.0L turbocharged four banger is rated at a healthy (for a four banger) 275 horsepower, and 295 pound feet of torque. It bothers me that the official release doesn’t state what specific RPM these peaks happen at, but this being a turbocharged four cylinder, I’ll guess both are well above 5,000 rpm. (Although the official release doesn’t specify the peak RPM horsepower, it does specify the torque output here. -Ed.)
This engine option has two very obvious main purposes. One, having the four cylinder makes selling the Camaro in the European market much easier. Ok, that makes sense, especially in countries that add expensive penalties and taxes to cars with engines over 2.0 liters. This makes the Camaro much more marketable overseas. And why shouldn’t Europe enjoy such a fine vehicle?
The second purpose, the estimated 30+ mpg rating will help Chevrolet to meet the upcoming and much more stringent new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) requirements for fuel economy. Nothing much Chevrolet/GM can do about this one, and if it means keeping the Camaro in lineup and still having a V-8 option, we can all live with it.
But beyond those reasons, I can’t help but feel this engine option is going to be fairly pointless, at least in the American market. To start with, it has 60 less horsepower than the also new 3.6L V-6. That’s a lot fewer ponies. Torque output is more than the V6 by 11 foot-pounds (295 versus 284) but I can’t help but wonder what kind of affect all those lost ponies will have on drivability? The other guys have a similar engine in their new pony car, and the consistent comments seem to be that unless the turbo is spooled up and making boost, the car feels a bit lethargic and not as sporty as with the V-6 and V-8 engines.
GM’s release says “For power on demand, it offers a wide torque band with 90 percent of peak torque available from 2,100 rpm to 3,000 rpm, and maximum torque from 3,000 to 4,500 rpm. The 2.0L turbo will deliver 0-60 mph acceleration in less than six seconds, and offer more than 30 mpg on the highway (GM-estimated), making it the most fuel-efficient Camaro ever.”
I praise the engineers for tweaking the turbo system so most of the engine’s peak torque is available in the rpm range where it’s needed the most, and addressing one of the biggest weaknesses of a four cylinder engine, poor bottom end torque output. Still, though, I’m interested to see how this feels in the real world, and what it will be like with an automatic transmission behind it. And being a turbo, will the real world mpg results come close to the estimated with drivers hitting the throttle hard enough to feel the turbo all the time? And when it comes to sticker price, will buyers be paying more for 60 less horsepower?
Now, the nice thing here is that turbo does open an interesting window for performance enthusiasts and the aftermarket. Typically, factory turbos are quite small, and installing a larger turbo unit could raise this engine’s output significantly, similar to guys are doing with the turbo four cylinder in the Mustang. HOWEVER, that raises the question of how much more power this new four cylinder can actually take? Sure, a bigger turbo could get horsepower up above 400 with more boost, but will it significantly harm overall engine longevity? Guess we’ll have to wait and see. But I can’t help but wonder if this engine will be ultimately pointless for your average American Camaro buyer?
The all new V6 has marginally more horsepower than the previous one, so its real headline makers are constant variable valve timing to optimize the power its got across the whole power band, and displacement on demand so the V-6 becomes a V-4 to squeeze more miles per gallon out of the engine for the previously mentioned CAFE requirements. Both good things that will help the base Camaro feel like a good car to buyers, and when paired with the six-speed manual should be a fun car to drive without spending the money on an SS.
Now, the real fun, and what we all expected, is that the 2016 will have the new LT1 V8 that’s been giving C7 Corvette owners giant smiles. And Camaro owners get the same 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque that Corvette owners get too. Unlike the 5th-Gen, the same V8 will be used on manual trans and automatic transmission equipped Camaros. Previously the six-speed automatic Camaros had the 400 horsepower L99 with VVT (Variable Valve Timing) and displacement on demand/active fuel management (V8 to V6 at steady throttle cruise). Now auto trans-equipped Camaros get the same amount of horsepower and torque, but will still have exclusive rights to active fuel management.
All great news for Camaro fans. The LT1 is a magnificent engine, and continues the performance tradition of the previous Generation of modern V-8s. Honestly, nothing negative to say here, and we can’t wait to see if the 6th-Generation Z/28 will be LT4 powered, or perhaps a new ZL1 model. Let the speculation begin!
Transmission wise, all three engine options will have six-speed manual options. This is fantastic, and hopefully random production that feeds typical dealer stock will give dealers manual trans equipped cars to put on their lots along with auto equipped ones. Especially with the less powerful engines, the manual trans is the best way to go with the Camaro for the truly superior driving experience. Nothing beats shifting gears yourself, and with the high winding I4 and V6, being able to control the rpm before you shift yourself will make both engines feel much better. Not being a seven-speed like the Corvette doesn’t go as a negative for me, and we all know it will be in the car, at least for the SS, in 2017 or 2018.
Now, on the automatic front, the Camaro gets the new 8L90 eight-speed auto trans that just came out in the C7 for the SS model. So far the reviews on this transmission have been overwhelmingly positive, and performance at the track puts it on par with anything from Europe when it comes to the transmission.
For the V-6 and four banger, an eight speed auto derived from the 8L90, the 8L45, is the available automatic transmission. If it’s anything like the V-8 automatic, it will be a definite upgrade over the previous Generation’s automatic, though it will be interesting to see how performance will be when paired with the turbo four.
All 6th-Gen Camaros will ride on the new IRS-equipped chassis that boasts increased rigidity with lighter overall weight and other suspension refinements. The previous Generation Camaro had superb handling, both on the street and at the track, so the new 6th-Gen Camaro should be even better with the refinements the new chassis brings to the car. Nothing to debate on this one.
On this front the 6th-Gen brings a hearty helping of changes. A whole new dash, instrument cluster, touchscreen interface, and center console greet people climbing into the twin cockpit design. Overall this appears to be improved over the 5th-Generation, in both ergonomics, style and design.
Digging deeper though, the loss of a physical e-brake handle to a electronic button operated affair is a bit of a downer. No more hand brake turns or other hooligan activities thanks to modern technology. Most people probably won’t care about this one, but for more enthusiastic Camaro owners, it is a bummer.
Gone for the 6th-Gen are the console mounted optional gauges, with all readouts moved to the newly designed main gauge cluster. Not a bad thing there, as those gauges were fairly useless being out of the driver’s main vision. But in the new cluster the oil pressure gauge and voltmeter are both gone. Put simply, this just sucks. Aside from the coolness of having a full array of active accessory gauges with definitive readouts and the extra feel of sportiness they provide, for enthusiast Camaro owners and drivers who plan on enjoying the 6th Gen in various realms of motorsports, losing the oil pressure gauge and its critical indicator of engine health and potential trouble in favor of a digitally displayed readout in the center data screen is a loss in this writer’s opinion.
If you have the option screen set to track mode or one of the other many features/modes, you have to fall back on a warning light and what is assumed to be some sort of screen displayed warning. I think I’d rather have a dedicated gauge monitoring this at all times in front of the driver.
The new center console and touchscreen dash interface look great, and judging by the pictures ergonomics and functionality are improved over the previous Generation. Aesthetically the new shifter looks great, hopefully in actual use it will prove to be better than the limp noodle feeling 5th-Gen shifter.
Overall, I give the engineers a thumbs up on the changes here, and they do feel like a major departure from the previous Generation.
Once the official pictures were released, the physical appearance of the new Camaro was a bit anti-climactic. No, it was more than a bit anti-climactic, it flat out didn’t do anything to blow my skirt up. Overall, it’s a great looking car, and most of the design changes are very complimentary, and quite frankly make this a better looking car than the new Mustang. BUT, some of the shortcomings of the 5th-Gen body and styling are still there.
You can still see a lot of the 5th-Gen’s shape in this car. While the sides and bumper covers have more sculpting, overall, it doesn’t look like that major a change from the 5th-Gen (more evolutionary than revolutionary). This could have been easily released in 2014 as an update to the 5th-Gen along with the revised grille and taillights, and no one would’ve called for it to be a new Generation. Does the car look good overall? Yes, it is a very good looking car without a doubt. But when you start to dissect things and critique them in detail, the result feels like more head scratching and questioning of things.
First, I’m going to start with a pet peeve I’ve had since the 5th Gen came out. The RS and SS badges are far too small and sedate looking. If I’m a Camaro buyer and spending the extra dough on either, or both options, I want it instantly visible to anyone I’m driving more than a base Camaro, without having to scrutinize the grille styling or squint to see a relatively tiny emblem. And speaking of the emblems, the placement on the new Camaro is puzzling, and quite frankly not attractive. Really, it feels like the designers stuck them on as an afterthought when they finished designing the grille. Would it have really been that hard for a more prominent emblem design and better thought out placement?
And speaking of emblems, the new Camaro fender emblem, while it looks good, is so freaking tiny it gets swallowed up by the body scalloping. The person who actually designed the emblem, you get two thumbs up, job well done. Whoever decided upon the size of the emblem, you will wear ribbons of shame! And yet again, no side fender callouts for the RS or SS option. That’s a FAIL guys. Why is it a problem to have something tastefully calling out with pride the car’s owner opted to spend more and get a better equipped Camaro?
Already the new rear fascia and taillights are a focus of debate and opinion. On that front, I think the new design looks good, better than the update on the 2014-15 Camaros. What does bug me looking at the back of this car is the rearward visibility shortcomings of the 5th-Gen are still there, with a massive blind spot B-pillar left unchanged from the 5th-Gen. The rear window is also [seemingly] unchanged. It would’ve been nice to see this area revised and visibility opened up more. There’s only so much a backup camera can do, and that’s if that particular option is installed.
Also, it appears the 5th-Gen’s relatively small trunk opening is still hidden underneath the decklid. None of the released photos so far prove/disprove this, so I’m hoping there is an improved and larger trunk opening hiding there. If not, I’ve got to ask why the designers didn’t address this commonly commented and complained about design feature from the 5th-Gen?
While there are undoubtedly more options to come, another thing that caught my attention in the pics released so far is the new Camaro’s wheel designs. They seems pretty unimaginative, just another five spoke wheel design that, while not looking bad, doesn’t exactly scream “Damn I look good!” either. Hopefully when everything comes out, there will be some other wheel options that stand out and show some of the aforementioned design creativity.
Overall, the new 2016 Camaro is a good looking car with obvious performance capability and potential. As a whole it’s a better car than the new Mustang. There is no denying the LT1 is a superior engine to the latest iteration of the Ford modular V8 in the Mustang. And unlike the Mustang that failed to deliver on the promise of a lighter car (it actually gained weight – Ed.), the Camaro brings the goods with 200+ pound lighter vehicle, which will definitely translate to performance gains.
But still, I look at all the pictures of this new Camaro, and I just can’t shake the question of “Is this it?” I think we all expected that with a new Generation of Camaro there would be more to set it apart from the previous Generation. And the little
sh*t stuff that was talked about on the 5th-Gen is still there, things that could’ve been easily changed.
What do you guys think?
Patrick Hill has grown up around the automotive aftermarket, and carries a lifelong passion for performance, racing and automotive nostalgia that spans from the Tri-Five era to the current modern performance market.