Don't be fooled by its familiar appearance, the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro is vastly different than its iconic predecessors. It has a new chassis, a fresh engine lineup, and is loaded with clever technologies that promise to invigorate and improve the sixth generation of Chevy's legendary sports car. It was revealed Saturday before a crowd of enthusiastic Camaro revelers on Belle Isle in Detroit.
Redesigning the sports coupe was a heady task, especially as its archrivals, the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger, drive better and are more powerful than ever. But the new Camaro is aiming to be the best combination of handling and raw performance, with quick acceleration and competitive fuel economy. "Redesigning the Camaro is thrilling and challenging all at once, but the secret is to offer something more," Mark Reuss, General Motors executive vice president of product development, said in a statement.
It all began with a weight-loss plan. The new Camaro shed more than 200 pounds compared with the outgoing car, with 133 pounds coming from a lighter body-in-white. Then engineers culled weight nearly everywhere, using aluminum for the instrumental panel frame and some suspension components to trim as much fat as possible.
The slimmer body rests on new bones. The Camaro's rear-wheel-drive platform is lighter and stiffer in a bid to improve handling. It's a modified version of the underpinnings used by the Cadillac ATS, though about 70 percent of the architecture is unique to the Camaro. Chevy said structural rigidity is improved by 28 percent. As you'll see, healthy doses of Cadillac and Corvette technologies have been used to bolster the Camaro's drive character and performance. The new car is also expected to handle better thanks to a slightly smaller footprint. It is about two inches shorter in length, with most of that due to the more compact wheelbase. It's also an inch shorter in height and an inch slimmer in width.
So yes, the Camaro will be leaner, but it will still be plenty mean. The Camaro SS tops the range (for now) with the Corvette's 6.2-liter V8 pushing put 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. Known as the LT1, is has a cast aluminum block and cast aluminum cylinder heads, and it's fortified with direct injection, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation. About 20 percent of the engine's parts are said to be unique to the Camaro, including the exhaust manifolds.
Like the Mustang, the Camaro also gets a four-cylinder engine that promises to maintain performance and offer improved fuel economy. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is rated 275 hp and 295 lb-ft, with maximum torque available at 3,000 rpm. It also has direct injection, variable valve timing, and uses aluminum components. Chevy says it will hit 60 miles per hour in less than six seconds and return more than 30 miles per gallon on the highway. It's expected to be the most fuel-efficient Camaro ever, and Chevy is billing this as the standard engine for the lineup. The naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6, which is rated at 335 hp and 284 lb-ft, has direct injection, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation. It is slotted in between the four-cylinder and the V8.
All of the engines can be had with a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The four-cylinder and the V6 use General Motors Hydra-Matic 8L45 (tuned for small engines), while the SS has the 8L90. The V8's manual (a different Tremec unit than the one used by the smaller engines) also has active rev matching technology – like the Corvette – that blips the throttle during downshifts.
On the road, the new car will be mistaken for nothing other than a Camaro. The changes are subtle, but meant to call out the car's renewed attention to weight and handling. We see a tauter appearance with new proportions. The front gets a grille/head lamp aperture, which Chevy says is reminiscent of the first-generation Camaro. The roofline in the rear has a more dramatic, fastback appearance, and the SS variant gets a spoiler. The roof panel, which we saw called out in some strange spy shots, is lighter and more rigid. Loyalists will also note lightly refreshed red, white, and blue Camaro insignias on the front fenders. Though the car looks similar, it's more aerodynamic thanks to 350 hours of wind tunnel testing, and Chevy says only two pieces, the rear bow-tie emblem and the SS badge are carryover.
Inside the cabin, the Camaro gets a new instrument panel. It blends analogue elements with an available eight-inch center screen that shows performance, entertainment, and navigation information. Another eight-inch screen is in the center with the Chevy MyLink system. Designers also integrated the heating and cooling controls into the vents, and dressed things up with an available LED ambient lighting system, which can cue 24 different colors. Drivers can tailor the shifting, steering, and chassis settings via a new driver mode selector, which is mounted in the center console.
While the Camaro is different inside and out, the more significant changes continue under the skin. The car rides on a new multi-link MacPherson strut front suspension with a double-pivot design that makes the electric power steering more linear than the current car's setup. In back is a new five link independent setup. Brembo brakes are available throughout the line and are standard on the SS. The SS also gets Magnetic Ride Control for the first time, which adjusts the damper settings to improve the car's ride.
"The driving experience is significantly different," Aaron Link, lead development engineer, said in a statement. "Immediately, you will notice how much lighter and more nimble the Camaro feels. That feeling increases when you drive the Camaro harder – it brakes more powerfully, dives into corners quicker, and accelerates faster than ever."
For now, we'll have to take Link's word on that. While the Camaro was revealed on Saturday, we are among the lucky few who will get a short drive in a prototype on Sunday. Come back to Autoblog for our impressions, and to see if the Chevy delivers on the promise of a better Camaro.