The Chevrolet Camaro clearly deserved to win our 2016 Car of the Year accolade. Why’s that? Because the sixth-generation Camaro is based on General Motor’s awesome Alpha platform architecture, the same structure that underpins the Cadillac ATS and CTS, the latter being our 2014 Car of the Year. Additionally, we’ve long felt that the ATS has been a burbling V-8, a smart transmission, and an interior upgrade away from KO-ing the BMW 3 Series. Especially as you can absolutely make the argument that GM’s core competency is the small-block. Long story short, we have a history of loving the wondrous-to-drive, lightweight, aluminum- and high-strength-steel intensive Alpha platform. But man, have we been waiting for the General to offer a small-block with a manual transmission.
Advancement in Design
Obviously, the sixth-gen Camaro looks closely related to the fifth-gen version. Since Chevy sells more than 80,000 Camaros a year, we understand why the automaker went for evolution as opposed to a revolutionary design. That said, the new Camaro design is excellent. “The surface handling is fresh, and the line work is great,” Gale, our legendary guest design judge, said. “The biggest area of visual change is likely the C-pillar and quarter window area for most people. Wheel to body, gesture, and overall graphics add to a very nimble appearance, especially the rear three-quarter view.”
A legend in his own right, Theodore noted that the new Camaro’s wheelbase is 1.4 inches longer than the Cadillac ATS’, which helps with dash-to-axle, but he’d like to see the beltline dropped by an inch or two to de-chunk the sides. “An exterior design with more reach might have been able to attract new buyers to the Camaro ranks,” he said. A fair point. We all agreed that in terms of the interior, the new car is hugely improved compared to the cockpit it replaces. Perfect? No. For instance, while we almost all loved the, to quote Burgess, “smart and creative” central vents with integrated HVAC controls, they should be located 6 inches higher on the dash. However, if you only wear kilts, Chevy has you covered.
If there’s a single criteria the Camaro doesn’t ace, it’s efficiency. That’s the nature of the beast, to a certain extent. However, compared to equivalent Mustangs, we’d be willing to bet that the Camaro V-6 bests the EcoBoosted Ford in the real world. Now, the SS is rated at 14/26 mpg to the GT’s 15/25. However, according to our Real MPG tests, the Camaro SS gets 16.1/25.2/19.2 mpg city/highway/combined compared to the Mustang GT’s 15.9/24.1/18.8. The less said about the two-ton-plus Dodge Challenger’s fuel economy, the better.
As the 2016 Camaro is brand-new, neither the IIHS nor NHTSA has crashed one yet. However, both the Cadillac ATS and CTS received 5-Star ratings in every single category from NHTSA, and IIHS has the CTS rated Good (the highest mark) in each of the five tests of crashworthiness. In front crash prevention it’s ranked Superior. (Crash avoidance and mitigation is ranked on a different scale; Superior is the top mark.) We have no reason to believe a further evolution of the Alpha platform will be any less safe.
Here’s another criteria the Camaro utterly nails. A 275-hp turbo for $27K, 335 horsepower for $28.5K, or 455 hp for $37K? This isn’t rocket science, people.
Chevy hit this one out of the park. When new for 2015, the Ford Mustang GT gained 196 pounds. The new Camaro SS is down more than 200 pounds compared with the car it replaces, 3,672 pounds versus 3,908 for the V-8. The V-6 comes in at only 3,461 pounds, with an automatic! Weight is the enemy of performance, and you can easily see this when you note that the new SS is nearly as quick in a straight line (0-60 mph in 4 seconds flat, quarter mile in 12.4 seconds) as the outgoing and more powerful Z/28. Lower weight plus the superlative Alpha bones make handling measurably mega; the SS runs our figure-eight track in 24.1 seconds, two-tenths off a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S.
Performance of Intended Function
Here’s one where the new Camaro might actually transcend the criteria. Is this the best production ponycar the world has ever seen? Without hesitation, yes. What was interesting to me is that we judge types weren’t talking about the Camaro in relation to the Mustang GT that we brought along as a benchmark. We were talking about future Camaro comparison tests against BMWs, Audis, and AMGs. I’d even throw Porsche into that mix. MacKenzie sums up our feelings: “A revelation. Absolutely world-class sports car performance and dynamics from an American icon. The new Camaro is one of the finest driver’s cars in the world. And that’s before you even talk about the price.” It’s also absolutely bitchin’, and it’s the 2016 Motor Trend Car of the Year.