We're about to get some seat time in the newest muscle car on the Detroit horsepower scene, the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro.
It was just yesterday that we joined over a thousand Camaro owners at Detroit's historic Belle Isle Park to witness the introduction of the all-new, fully redesigned sixth generation of the legendary Chevy Camaro. The crowds are gone now, but the new Camaro is still here and we have an empty road course at our disposal.
Actually, the Camaros on hand today are preproduction hand-built prototypes of the new muscle coupe. They're even still wearing the camouflage used to foil spy photographers during the car's development. But that's close enough; we don't care about panel gaps right now.
All-New From Top to Bottom
Don't let its looks fool you. The sixth-generation Camaro may look similar to the current car, but the only parts that carried over from the soon-to-be-departing 2015 model are the rear bowtie badge and SS emblems.
It rides on an all-new rear-wheel-drive chassis shared with the Cadillac ATS. It uses aluminum components throughout the chassis, frame and interior, which results in a 200-pound weight reduction compared to the current car.
The new five-link rear suspension system alone knocked 26 pounds off the overall suspension weight. The dimensions have been revised to go hand-in-hand with the diet plan but also to improve handling.
Since the fifth generation of the Camaro debuted in 2010 it has been seen by some as too big and heavy, especially when compared to its rival the Ford Mustang. This time around Chevy made it smaller. The new Camaro is 2.3 inches shorter (188.3 inches), almost an inch narrower (74.7 inches), and its wheelbase has shrunk almost 2 inches (110.7 inches).
Strangely it's an inch taller, however.
Chevy's engineers also narrowed both the Camaro's front and rear tracks and spent a lot of time working on the car's balance, trying to get as close to that magical and elusive 50/50 weight distribution as they could.
A Firsthand Look at the Cabin
As soon as a car rolls up to the pit lane, we hop in to take a look. Despite being a test mule that's missing some interior bits and pieces, the new interior is a major step in the right direction for the Camaro.
The new instrument panel and dash have a slight hint of retro, but if you're old enough to catch these styling cues, maybe you're not the intended buyer. The front, side and rear visibility are about the same as before, which is no surprise as this is a sport coupe, not a family hauler.
Wide Range of Engines
The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro will be powered by one of three engines: a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, which is also used in the Cadillac ATS; a 3.6-liter V6; and the brawny LT1 V8 borrowed from the Corvette Stingray. All offer variable valve timing and direct injection.
Rated at 275 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, the 2.0-liter engine will deliver 0-60-mph acceleration in less than 6.0 seconds according to Chevrolet. All while delivering more than 30 mpg on the highway. Now GM can claim the most fuel-efficient Camaro ever with performance stats that would leave some of its ancestors in the weeds.
Next up is what will most likely prove to be the most popular engine ordered: the new 3.6-liter V6 rated at 335 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque. Chevy claims it's the highest specific output of any naturally aspirated V6 in production.
At the top of the pecking order sits the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS, which will come standard with the 6.2-liter LT1 V8 that will smoke a set of tires at will thanks to 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque. And that makes this the second most powerful normally aspirated Camaro ever, behind the limited-production 2015 Camaro Z28, and the most powerful Camaro SS ever.
All three engines will be available with a new eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission, and of course all Camaros are rear-wheel drive. Although there were some rumors of an all-wheel-drive option with the turbocharged four-cylinder, Chevy hasn't mentioned it?yet.
It's V6 or Nothing Today
All the prototypes on hand are powered by the midgrade V6, which makes more power than the optional L36 big-block 396 offered in 1969. Amazing. This unit also has the new eight-speed automatic, so we immediately put it into manual-shift mode.
Turns out we don't need it. Leaving the shifter in Drive does the job just fine as the transmission bangs off gears at the 6,200-rpm redline and gets plenty of motivation out of the powerful V6. Around the corners, downshifting is dependent on engine speed and how hard we were on the brakes. This is a nice combination that feels right even in this harsh, hammer-down environment.
Speaking of brakes, Brembos are now available on all 2016 Camaro trim levels and we're glad they're on our test cars.
The new 3.6-liter V6 has plenty of power, and despite having a much improved exhaust note, it sounds like a V6. For most buyers, it won't be a deal breaker, but for power-hungry buyers looking to rattle Mustang and Challenger owners, the 6.2-liter LT1 V8 in the Camaro SS will be a necessary upgrade.
The biggest improvement is the weight reduction and handling improvements. According to Chevrolet, the 2016 Camaro SS is faster around a road course than the tricked-out 2015 Camaro SS with the 1LE handling package. We don't doubt it.
With the six-speed manual, the 3.6L V6 feels like a totally different animal and is much more fun to drive. The 3.27 final-drive ratio helps it accelerate out of the corners much more quickly than the 2015 model, and plants us hard into the seat.
Plenty More To Come
Maybe it's just as well we don't drive the 6.2L LT1 at the track; there might have been some carnage. Actually there was carnage, but it wasn't us. Other journalists actually bent a couple of the priceless prototypes.
Our drives were short and the street course was little more than a concrete-lined tunnel, so we didn't exactly push it to the limit. That's for another day.
But our takeaway from the weekend is that the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro has gotten back to its roots as an affordable, lightweight, fun, sporty car to drive — regardless of what's under the hood.
We can't wait to drive it again. And we're looking forward to seeing the convertible.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.