We’re living in some interesting times right now, when everyone is just as interested in fuel economy as they are in performance. Fuel prices have dropped in recent months, but with another potential hike looming over our heads like a black cloud ready to strike with lightning at any given moment, increased economy is something we all need to take seriously.
As a result, the average fuel economy standards have been raised from their 1990 level of 27.5 mpg to 37.8 mpg for model year 2016. Now remember, that’s the average economy of overall vehicles in any given manufacture’s lineup. The idea behind tiny, fuel sipping vehicles like the Spark, Volt and Cruze bring Chevrolets average fuel economy higher, allowing General Motors to continue building the supercharged CTS-Vs and Z06s that we desire.
So when the 2016 Camaro was unveiled a few weeks ago featuring a turbocharged 4-cylinder powerplant as the entry-level engine of choice for next year’s Camaro buyers, enthusiasts cried fowl! I mean I get it, if Ford wants to build a modern-day Mustang II with their 2016 4-cylinder pony car, let them have that market, right? Wrong.
There’s a few things you’ll have to consider when making your argument. First and foremost, this isn’t the first time a Camaro was offered with a 4-cylinder powerplant. If you were to rewind the clocks all the way back to 1982, then you would recall the 88hp Iron Duke that powered the barebones base model Camaro (and Firebird) for the first five model years that generation was in production. I actually knew a kid who owned one… I think riding a bicycle would have been a more logical choice for transportation.
However, today, four-cylinder Camaros are much more powerful, much more efficient, and a heck of a lot more reliable than the Iron Duke could have ever dreamed of. To top it off, it features mouth-watering technological advances such as direct-injection, turbocharging, dual-overhead camshafts, variable-valve timing and 270 hp. Before you scoff at the power level, keep in mind that the LT1 V8 F-body of ’93-95 was only good for 275hp and would lay down quarter-mile times of low-14s all day long.
We’re now talking about an eco-friendly base model Camaro for your secretary girlfriend or your 16-year old brother, here. Basically the Camaro for somebody who simply wants the look and feel of the Camaro, but without the high insurance rates or monthly payment of an SS. If you still want a base/mid-level six-shooter or the bad boy V8-powered Super Sport those are still available as well, just with more power than ever!
Another way they’re keeping musclecars and pickup trucks in production is the use of lighter materials. The aforementioned sixth-gen just went on a much-needed diet too, resulting in a 200-lb weight loss, and since the new Mustang actually got heavier than the old car, this makes the Camaro a lighter and more powerful choice over the Ford. Less weight results in a quicker, more nimble and again, more efficient automobile.
In a weird and interesting twist, Ford has ditched the steel body of the F-150 last year, to one made entirely out of aluminum. The diet resulted in a 700-lb weight loss over the 2014 model, that also included a lighter, but more rigid frame. GM, always the competitive type, has been rumored to utilize aluminum body panels for the 2016 Silverado, with the next generation truck to switch entirely to aluminum. Of course, swapping out the 6-speed automatic transmission for an 8-speed will help as well.
Now while all of this may sound like a buzkill, with auto manufactures giving in to Big Brother, this helps save you a few bucks at the pump, as well as keep our 500- 600- 700hp musclecars and sports cars in production. Although it is rumored that the V8 in itself could very well be on the way out (the new Ford GT is TT-V6 for a reason, after all), Detroit will continue to push the performance envelope. That is, after all, what we all want, right?
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of GMEFI Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.