The Chevrolet Camaro is not named after a horse. It is not named after a fish. Nor is it named after a city. Its name is not alphanumeric gobbledygook. "Camaro" is its own thing with a made-up name generated by some GM executives in mid-'60s Detroit. And nothing about that has changed with the all-new, sixth-generation 2016 Camaro.
What has changed is that this new Camaro has never before been so tautly tailored, so well-behaved and so freakishly capable.
What Is It?
The Camaro remains the same front-engine, rear-wheel-drive muscle coupe it's always been. While you might find a trace of the original in the shape and attitude, the new-for-2016 Camaro eschews the design callbacks found on the previous version, like the three phony scoop indentations on the quarter panels. Some character remains, but the new focus is increasing performance — and dramatically so.
This new Camaro is smaller in every exterior dimension than the one it replaces, while the platform underneath it makes greater use of lightweight materials. This weight loss and smaller size, combined with more powerful engines and sophisticated handling make this Camaro nimbler than we'd ever have imagined. You have a muscle car emerging from its cocoon as a sports car.
What's New Under the Hood?
Pop the hood and you'll find one of three engines. A turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder rated at 275 horsepower serves as the base engine, while an optional 3.6-liter V6 is rated at 335 hp. The 6.2-liter V8 comes straight from the Corvette and is rated at the same 455 hp. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard, while an eight-speed automatic is optional.
What Body Styles and Trims Are Available?
The Camaro is a four-seat coupe or convertible available in two trim levels: LT and SS. These trims are divided into low- and high-content versions, named 1LT, 2LT, 1SS and 2SS. The four-cylinder is standard on the LT, while all SS models get the V8. We tested two well-equipped versions, a 2LT with the V6 and a 2SS.
How Fast Does It Go, Turn And Stop?
Both Camaros deliver strong straight-line acceleration. The eight-speed automatic has a Performance Shift setting that activates in Sport or the SS-only Track mode. When enabled, the transmission shifts hard and fast, producing cracks from the exhaust on each gearchange.
The SS posted a 0-60-mph result of 3.9 seconds and reached the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds at 115.0 mph. The LT was just over a second slower, hitting 60 mph in 5.1 seconds and the quarter in 13.8 seconds. Regardless of engine, Camaro owners can take pride in that these numbers best those of similarly powered Mustangs — and by a good margin.
More aggressive tires and optional adjustable dampers give the SS an enjoyable sense of balance and control. With an average 0.97g on the skid pad, it sticks, too. Stopping distances showed repeatable and strong braking power, with a best stop from 60 mph of 101.7 feet.
The LT Camaro we tested had similar balance, but its handling and stopping trailed the SS. Its 0.88 average g on the skid pad and a best stop from 60 mph of 111 feet are the result of its less aggressive, all-season tires and standard dampers.
What's It Like Around Town?
The Camaros fire up with enthusiasm, as the optional variable exhaust plays up the timbre of both the V6 and the V8. The exhaust then quiets down for commuting, but the noise returns quickly with a solid romp on the gas pedal.
Outward visibility seems limited at first, but large side mirrors and available blind-spot monitoring, combined with the Camaro's newfound nimbleness make the car easy to place in traffic and on the road. Parking, however, demands careful attention to your surroundings. Thankfully, the back-up camera comes standard.
Some parts of the interior, like the steering wheel controls, are intuitive and easy to use. Others are real head-scratchers, like how the infotainment display sits at an awkward angle and reflects the brightwork on the center console. Or how the wireless phone charging pad is behind both front seats. Worse, there is little in the way of interior storage.
If you option the SS-only adjustable dampers, you'll find a pleasant ride quality in the Touring drive mode. The fixed shocks in the LT relay more road impacts, but the ride quality is still comfortable during daily driving. On the other hand, you'll hear more road noise in the SS than you will in the LT.
Both the V6 and V8 occasionally run on four cylinders alone to save fuel. The cylinder deactivation change-over (when the engine switches into or out of "V4" mode) is nearly imperceptible to the driver.
Is This a True Sports Car?
Forget muscle car. This new Camaro is a real sports car.
Crucial to this transformation is a significant drop in weight, which is the result of the new, lighter construction. Not only did our highly optioned SS weigh 151 pounds less than the last-generation SS we tested, it even weighs less than the last-generation V6. The weight loss is even more extreme on the new LT; it's nearly 300 pounds lighter than the new SS.
So not only are the new Camaros more powerful, their newfound power has less weight to motivate. From the driver seat, the LT benefits from this the most. Its steering feels livelier, while the car itself conveys more nimbleness and enthusiasm than the SS.
We're sure many will find that difference negligible when contrasted against the V8 Camaro's burliness. The Corvette-sourced V8, when played at full volume through the optional variable exhaust, produces the kind of raucous noises that inspire you to do very bad things to tires. The V6 is similarly loud, but the sound is an acquired taste.
These are still larger cars, mind you, but they drive with remarkable finesse at higher speeds. The SS handles in a way reminiscent of the racetrack-oriented 2015 Camaro Z/28. It doesn't have the ultimate adhesion of that car, and it rides much better, but that feeling of security and enthusiasm runs right through the steering wheel and into your hands.
While fans of that sort of driving will find much to like about the standard six-speed manual and its available rev-matching feature, each of our test cars had the optional eight-speed automatic. The transmission takes a little too long to respond to tugs on the paddle shifters, and as a result doesn't feel as engaging as some other automatic-equipped performance cars we've driven.
What's the Fuel Economy Like?
The EPA rates automatic-equipped LT and SS Camaros at 23 mpg and 20 mpg combined, respectively. While our cars performed above these ratings on our test loop, their average fuel economy over a two-week stay was lower. The SS returned 16.3 mpg over 950.7 miles, the LT 19.6 mpg. The turbocharged 2.0-liter, which we did not test, is rated by the EPA at 24 mpg combined with the manual and 25 mpg with the automatic.
What Competing Models Should You Also Consider?
Dodge Challenger — It's larger and heavier. That means it's not as fast as the optional 485-horse V8 in the R/T Scat Pack might lead you to think. But it also means the Challenger has more cargo capacity and seating space. It's priced similarly, and some might argue it's a bit more charismatic, too.
Ford Mustang — The Mustang and Camaro models line up in almost perfect parallel, from turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines through V6s and V8s. At least right now, the Camaro is more nimble and quicker. The Mustang is roomier, has a nicer interior and is easier to see out of.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
It delivers exceptional performance for the price, along with classic muscle car styling. A wide range of engines and options means there's likely one in your price range.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
This sixth-generation Camaro has a tiny trunk, a cramped backseat and limited outward visibility. If you need a performance car that's also on the practical side, there are better cars than the Camaro.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.