First Drive: 2016 Chevrolet Camaro

Initial impressions suggest Chevy has pulled together a winner.

by on May.18, 2015

Still wearing camouflage, a handful of new 2016 Camaros launch down the Grand Prix track.

The early morning calm is shattered by the sound of the big V-8 firing up. Shifting into gear, I head out onto the winding road course that will, in two weeks’ time, play host to the annual Detroit Grand Prix. But on this particular Sunday morning it is serving as a test track for a first ride in the new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro.

To provide some perspective on the new car, Chevy starts me out on a lap of the 2.35 mile circuit in the outgoing, fifth-generation pony car. If anything, they’ve set the bar high, however, using as comparison the high-end 2015 Camaro Z28. As I blast out of the pits and onto the straight, its raw torque sinks me deep into the car’s sports seats. I slam through the gears, accompanied by the sound of squealing tires and squeaking brakes, hammering through a series of tight corners before finally pulling back into the pits.

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Sweating more than you’d imagine on this cool Detroit morning, I jump out of the old car and into a new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro – all the while, wondering what they could have had in mind putting that Z28, with its 6.2-liter V-8, up against a “base” car with a far more modest, 3.6-liter V-6. But my questions are quickly answered as I head out for a second run on the Grand Prix course on.

The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro is about two inches shorter than the outgoing model.

At first glance, you might not notice all the changes made to the new Camaro. The basic silhouette is close to that of the outgoing pony car, though the 2016 is clearly less retro in its overall look and feel.

(Click Here for more on the official debut of the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro.)

A closer inspection reveals the Gen-6 Camaro rides on the same Alpha platform used for the more expensive Cadillac ATS line. It’s newer, more technically sophisticated, and, along with the additional use of aluminum for the hood, windshield frame and key suspension components, has helped GM trim the weight of the 2016 Chevy Camaro by a full 200 pounds.

“You’ll feel that in the first 10 feet off the line,” boasts Mark Reuss, GM’s global product development chief, and he’s not kidding.

The new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro (front), with a 2015 Camaro Z28 in the background.

Though making only 335 horsepower – compared to 505 for the last-gen Z28 – this pony is immediately in full gallop. The increased power-to-weight ratio boosts launch performance, and its improved aerodynamics also help. The lower mass, along with a 28% increase in structural rigidity translates into a more nimble car, meanwhile, something you quickly notice weaving around a serpentine track like the one on Detroit’s Belle Isle.

The 2016 Chevy Camaro just feels more planted and solid, less prone to body roll. Unfortunately, GM isn’t yet releasing performance numbers for any of the new Camaro models but for the all-new 2.0-liter Turbo – said to hit 60 in “well under 6 seconds.” I had no chance to run a clock on my lap times, though a seat-of-the-pants measurement suggests the ’16 V-6 model will live up to the maker’s claim of delivering faster times than the ’15 Camaro Z28.

The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro shown on the test track at GM's Milford Proving Grounds near Detroit.

I can only imagine what we’ll experience later this year once we get a chance to commandeer an SS model, especially one fitted with the magnetic ride control suspension. That one permits the car to automatically adjust each of its shocks in the time it takes to travel one inch at 60 mph.

Also on the list for closer inspection: the new mode selector system that will adjust up to eight different vehicle settings, such as steering feel, automatic transmission response times and nanny systems like electronic stability control. In Track Mode, I found, there was minimal intrusion, allowing the car to hang its tail out during aggressive cornering.

(Ford adds new Shelby Mustang variants to take on new Camaro. Click Here for more.)

For 2016, the 6.2-liter V-8 version of the Camaro will make 455-hp, the same as the Corvette Stingray.

The 2016 Camaro, incidentally, will offer not only a choice of three engines but also a pair of gearboxes, a 6-speed Tremec manual and a new 8-speed automatic developed by GM in-house. The stick was easy and smooth to shift, even under track conditions. The automatic was particularly impressive because it quickly learns the way the car is being driven. On track that meant holding gears in corners, rather than changing them and destabilizing the vehicle.

If there’s a downside to the 2016 Camaro it’s the coupe’s lack of visibility. With a slightly higher beltline, there’s not much glass and a fair amount of blind spots. Chevy does try to make up for that by offering more active safety features on the new model, such as blind spot detection and a better rearview camera, but it is a trade-off for the car’s distinctive styling.

(What gets your road rage roaring? Click Here to see what ticks off American drivers most.)

No more tacky interior. Chevy upgrades the cockpit noticeably with the 2016 Camaro.

On the side, the interior of the new coupe is a marked improvement from what’s come before. Chevrolet has opted for more upscale materials, more soft-touch materials, and an overall much more refined and expensive feel to the cabin. There are some creative solutions, as well. The two central round air vents contain key climate controls, reducing the clutter of buttons and switches on the relatively small center stack.

The new Camaro adds a customizable lighting feature that includes a “Show Mode” for optimizing the appearance of the interior. And the new model can be ordered with a large touchscreen display using Chevy’s latest infotainment system. While the maker hasn’t released all details yet, expect to see the 2016 model offer 4G LTE connectivity, a feature that will be available on most Chevrolets next year.

Our relatively short time behind the wheel of the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro was far too short to make a complete judgement on the new car. And there are a lot of variants to put through their paces. But if this initial drive is any indication, Chevy is onto something significant here that could very well add even more momentum to the king of the pony car hill for the last five years running.

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “First Drive: 2016 Chevrolet Camaro”

  1. nobsartist says:

    I don’t see what the fuss is all about. It’s still ugly and too big but perfect for a 4 door.

  2. Jeffyoungken says:

    Another premium car from the usa. Can’t wait to see some young buck smoke a 911 in the base car. How demoralizing.

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