We drive from Bozeman, MT to Seattle, WA in Chevy's sixth-generation Camaro.In a world of automated this and self-driving that, it's rare to find a car with bona fide attitude. The 2016 Camaro SS, friends, is a middle finger on four wheels.
While it seems that every new vehicle generation gets bigger, softer and more user-friendly, the 2016 Camaro takes a decidedly different approach. Chevy engineers apparently took all of the complaints about the last Camaro's lack of space and poor visibility and stuffed them in a drawer somewhere, and then threw away the drawer.
What they focused on instead was all the stuff car people care about — handling, acceleration and braking. And boy did they nail it.
Light and lean
Before we get into the driving details, let's cover the basics.
The 2016 Chevy Camaro rides on a new Alpha platform borrowed from the Cadillac ATS. Like before the Camaro is rear wheel drive with four-wheel independent suspension, but its footprint has shrunk slightly — overall length has been clipped by about 2-inches while width is down by an inch. The new Camaro is also an inch lower than the last iteration of the car.
While those tighter proportions obviously lend to a sportier look, the biggest takeaway from the new Alpha platform is weight, or rather lack thereof. In an apples-to-apples comparison, the 2016 Camaro SS is 223 pounds lighter than last year's model. The result of that weight shedding is a much more nimble car with improved economy.
Buyers will eventually be able to pick from three different powertrains — a 2.0L turbo-four, a 3.6L V6 and a 6.2L V8. The former is obviously new to the Camaro lineup, but the latter engines are also fresh for 2016. Both naturally aspirated mills now feature direct-injection and variable valve timing, bringing power up to 335 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque in the case of the V6 and 455 horsepower and an equal amount of torque in the V8. The I4, which will be available early next year, is no slouch either, with 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque on tap.
All three engines can be hooked to a six-speed manual or a new eight-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Styling is also new, but not radically so; the 2016 version of Chevy's muscle car should still be recognizable as a Camaro to anyone on the street. Although familiar, the 2016 Camaro is much more chiseled than before, with body work that looks like it was form fitted over the chassis. LED lights, both front and rear, and a deck lid spoiler complete the Camaro's new look.
The interior of the Camaro is also a case of evolution rather than revolution. That being said, there are plenty of new styling cues to be found, including a much improved gauge cluster. Now housed in a single unit rather than two separate binnacles, the 2016 Camaro uses twin analog gauges for engine and ground speed with an eight-inch, reconfigurable LCD screen nestled in-between for everything else. That readout can display things like navigation and performance information.
A second eight-inch screen sits atop the center stack and runs Chevy's latest version of MyLink infotainment. For those with an iOS device, the system can also run Apple's CarPlay. At least for now, Android users are out of luck as far as Android Auto availability is concerned.
The center screen offers good resolution and was quick to react to our inputs, but it's angled downward, which can make it difficult to use and read. We suspect Chevrolet added the tilt to help reduce sun glare, but it also reduces visibility from the driver's seat.
A quirky new HVAC system sits just below and replaces the gauge pack that was used in the last Camaro. Large rings around the circular air vents act as temperature controls while a smattering of conventional buttons are present for other HVAC functions.
Materials have improved across the board but, as mentioned before, visibility and space are still lacking in the 2016 Camaro. In fact, we'd say that visibility is actual worse in the new model. If you're thinking about buying any 2016 Camaro, be prepared to spring for blind spot warning and rear traffic detection systems; they're truly must-haves. But the view inside has improved thanks to LED mood lighting used throughout the cabin.
The Camaro's rear seats are virtually useless for normal-sized adults, but that's OK because there is only space for two suitcases in the trunk. Fronts seats are, however, comfortable with good bolstering. We logged more than 650 miles over two days in a Camaro SS and our keister never felt fatigued.
The important stuff
The more we drove the new Camaro SS, the less we seemed to care about things like outward visibility and cup holder placement. That's because the Camaro, at least in the case of the SS we sampled, is so damn good to drive. We'd even go as far as to call the Camaro SS a legitimate sports car, which is not a term that is thrown around much when it comes to Detroit iron.
While a lighter and stiffer chassis is certainly a major component of the Camaro's improved driving experienced, the SS' optional magnetic ride control system can't be overlooked. Previously the exclusive domain of the top dog Corvette, Chevrolet has made the suspension system — which is also used by the likes of Ferrari — available to Camaro buyers for the first time for the 2016 model year.
By using metal filings suspended in solution, the MRC system can alter the Camaro's ride from soft to sporty in a matter of milliseconds by applying different levels of magnetization. The result is a kind of Jekyll and Hyde effect, with the Camaro going from comfortable cruiser to backroad bruiser with the flip of a switch. The steering is also adjustable via the toggle switch located in the center console. Overall weighting is quite good no matter the setting, with the Camaro delivering solid road feel.
But the star of the show in undoubtedly the Camaro SS' new drivetrain. The 6.2L V8 under the hood of the Camaro SS is nothing short of sensational, offering gobs of power and an engine note that would make even an AMG product blush.
We weren't able to sample the Camaro's six-speed manual, but we have nothing but praise for the new eight-speed auto. Shifts are lightning quick, ensuring the big V8 stays in perfect stride. Keep your foot buried and the V8-auto combo will deliver 0-60 times of just 4.0 seconds. Opt for the six-speed and you'll be 0.3 seconds behind. Standard Brembo four-wheel disc brakes can scrub off speed just as quickly as the engine can pile it on.
Although not the Camaro's forte, our SS tester handled snowy conditions in northern Idaho with aplomb. Snow tires certainly helped, but the Snow/Ice setting in the Camaro's Drive Mode selector did a good job of mitigating slippage during acceleration and braking.
The 2016 Camaro SS automatic is rated at 17mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway, besting the Ford Mustang GT and its smaller engine by 1 and 3mpg, respectively. We were somewhat heavy-footed but long stretches of highway driving netted us a 24.7mpg average, according to the onboard computer.
Leftlane's bottom line
With a cramped interior, small trunk and poor outward visibility, the 2016 Camaro SS isn't for everyone. But that lack of sensibility is precisely why we like the Camaro so much. In a world of safe and average, the Camaro refuses to be anything but.
2016 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS base price, $41,300.
Photos by Drew and Sarah Johnson. Follow Drew on Twitter.