One of the most anticipated new cars has been this new Camaro, and it’s because pony cars will forever be part of popular motoring culture. While the previous generation represented a sequel of sorts, the 2016 model is a proper reboot. It’s all-new from the ground up, having been given a thorough reworking in every conceivable way, and yet it’s unmistakably a Camaro.
Evolution is often slow and gradual, but the jump from fifth to sixth generation is profound here. The Camaro is now smaller, but it’s also lighter and leaner, and because those engineers are clever, the only interior volume that’s been sacrificed is the bit you don’t really need.
While I haven’t seen the 2015 and 2016 Camaros side by side, the new one is about two inches smaller in each dimension – length, width and height. Let that sink in for a minute while you look at these images. Whether you look carefully or casually, you can’t mistake this car for anything else but a Camaro.
Indeed, the only place it’s smaller is in rear legroom, but that’s all – and who carries passengers in a Camaro anyway? Indeed, this design is a modern Camaro and perhaps a step ahead of the times. The smaller dimensions are by design and originate from the change in platform. Gone is the Aussie-derived architecture of the old Zeta platform in favour of the impressive Alpha platform, which is the same one Cadillac uses for the ATS and CTS. While the smaller dimensions predictably lead to some weight savings, it’s actually a concerted program to rid the Camaro of some mass, one of the leading complaints of the previous model. Comparing old and new V6 models – the volume Camaro in each generation – the big news is that the 2016 car is nearly 100 kilograms lighter than before.
It’s only fitting that it’s the manual V6 we tested at the launch event. Of course, the car we wanted to get our hands on – the SS, with the 6.2-litre V8 straight out of the Corvette – wasn’t in the offing. You see, Chevy had us randomly select a key and ours matched a V6 model. Initially, you’d think that would be a disappointment, but it turned out to be the opposite. Still, watch for a full test of the SS in an upcoming issue of Ignition Magazine.
The RS we grabbed had some of the right options – the manual transmission, of course, 20-inch wheels, as well as Chevy’s MyLink infotainment unit with Apple CarPlay and OnStar with 4G LTE WiFi. These two features alone place the Camaro head and shoulders above the competition. While I’m not one for gadgets, CarPlay integration is brilliant, seamlessly connecting my iPhone to the car, leaving a simple interface for selecting music or a podcast, but also getting Siri to do the dirty work of sending and reading text messages, if so desired.
Sure, the gadgets are impressive, but not as impressive as the drive. For starters, the seating position is light years ahead of the old car. The seat sits as low to the floor as you like, which is the way I prefer it, and even with the Camaro’s trademark low roofline, sightlines are actually improved. There’s no more bending over to check on traffic lights.
Beyond the seats and the wheel, the new interior is thoroughly modern and remarkably straightforward. The steering wheel is the right size and shape so that you can get down to business enjoying your time in the Camaro. It’s slightly more vertically oriented than before and, with the adjustment in the steering column, you can set the wheel perfectly. Rim thickness and the overall feel of the wheel in your hand is impeccable – so good, in fact, that I’m willing to forgive the trendy flat-bottom design. Pedal placement is brilliant as well, particularly for those who like to heel-and-toe.
From the electric-assisted steering to the brake pedal and shifter atop that Tremec six-speed manual, control weights are consistent, which is exactly what you want in a performance car. It’s that predictable, dependable feel across all of the controls that gives the driver confidence to have fun and explore the potential in a car like this. This Camaro is that kind of confidence-inspiring machine, perhaps a little more sports car and a little less pony car than ever before.
You see, there’s also refinement in its handling. Even though this V6 doesn’t have the sophisticated Magnetic Ride dampers that are available on the SS, the wheel and body control are exceptional and, from the driver’s seat, it’s easy to discern what’s going on at each contact patch.
With two blokes, luggage and piles of camera gear aboard, you’d think the V6 would be overtaxed, but that’s far from the case. Sure, these days 355 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque aren’t impressive numbers, but in the real world, it’s more than adequate. Acceleration, from a stop and highway speeds, in this V6 model is more than enough to entertain the thought that you might not need the V8.
Well, enthusiasts like us can never have enough power, but a well-equipped RS will make many, many Camaro buyers happy. The new chassis, modern design, impressive drivetrains and cutting-edge technology place the Camaro at the forefront of the pony car wars. While its character remains unmistakably pony car, its sophistication and confidence-inspiring performance give it legitimate sports car swagger. Mustang, you’ve been warned.
BY THE NUMBERS
$84.3 /HP (CALCULATED W/ BASE MSRP)
2016 Chevrolet Camaro RS
BASE PRICE: $28,245
AS TESTED: $34,665
ENGINE: 3.6L V6
HORSEPOWER: 335 hp @ 6,800 rpm
TORQUE: 284 lb-ft @ 5,300 rpm
DRY WEIGHT: 1,564 kg
CONFIGURATION: Front engine, rear-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
TIRES: 245/40 R20 (front and rear)
FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 13.2 / 8.7 / 11.2 L/100 km
WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36 / 60,000 km
ALTERNATIVES: Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang