Muscle cars and fuel-efficient engines are normally about as synonymous with each other as Keith Richards and puritanical living. But the automotive landscape of 2016 is vastly different from the one in 1967, when nobody would think twice about taking a cross-country road trip in a gas-guzzling Cadillac the size of a Sherman tank. These days, volatile gas prices and ever more stringent fuel economy requirements make a strong case for downsizing in the engine bay, and that’s what General Motors has done with the fully redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Camaro.
Under the hood of entry-level Camaros is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. A four-banger Camaro? Perish the thought! But it’s hard to argue with the results. The new 2016 Camaro four-cylinder provides 275 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, as well as more than 30 mpg on the highway, Chevy reckons. This engine also does duty in the Cadillac ATS and CTS, just like the Camaro’s underlying “Alpha” platform, which is more compact than the platform that underpinned the 2010-’15 Camaro. That means the new car is slightly shorter, narrower, lower and about 200 pounds lighter than before. Standard on the V6 and V8 Camaros is cylinder deactivation technology, which cuts power to half the cylinders under light acceleration for increased fuel economy.
But these engines weren’t exactly tuned by Gina McCarthy, as both are more potent than their counterparts in the outgoing car. The new V6 rises from 326 hp to 335 hp, while the Camaro SS gets a 29-hp injection courtesy of the same 6.2-liter V8 that drives the C7 Corvette. The SS with the manual transmission also comes with a new rev-matching feature on downshifts that takes the guesswork out of doing it yourself. Additionally, the SS can be ordered with Chevy’s Magnetic Ride Control, an adaptive suspension setup that utilizes magnetic dampers for a customized driving experience. This suspension, previously only available on the high-performance ZL1, can instantly transform the Camaro from comfortable cruiser to full-bore corner-carving sports car.
The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro retains the dynamic proportions established by its retro-themed, yet thoroughly modern predecessor.
In terms of competition, the turbocharged Camaro does battle with the 2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost, while the Camaro V6 finds foes in the Mustang V6 and the 2016 Dodge Challenger V6. With its increased power and reduced weight, the Camaro SS has a leg up on the regular V8-powered Ford Mustang GT and Dodge Challenger R/T, but since the ZL1 and track-focused Z/28 have departed for 2016, the SS is — for now — the most vigorous Camaro on the market. If money is not a limiting factor, the new 2016 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 flaunts a unique 526-hp V8 and race-ready suspension tuning, while the astounding 707-hp Challenger Hellcat is second to none when it comes to dragstrip bragging rights. Or, if you want something smaller and with more interior sophistication, the redesigned 2016 Audi TT is a compelling choice.
But in the final measure, the 2016 Camaro provides just what we want: tire-burning power, movie-star styling and just enough fuel economy and refinement to make it fit for the modern age.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro is a four-seat coupe available in four trims: 1LT, 2LT, 1SS and 2SS. A convertible will be available later in the model year.
Standard on the base 1LT are 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights, dual exhaust tips, a limited-slip differential (with manual transmission), a rearview camera, keyless entry and ignition, air-conditioning, cruise control, an eight-way power driver seat, a six-way power passenger seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and adjustable driving modes. Technology equipment includes Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, OnStar (with 4G LTE WiFi connectivity), a 7-inch touchscreen with Chevy’s MyLink interface, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration compatibility and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio, two USB ports and an auxiliary audio jack.
The available Technology package adds a nine-speaker Bose audio system and an 8-inch touchscreen with voice controls. This touchscreen also includes Apple CarPlay compatibility, and Chevy says Android Auto functionality will be added later in the model year via a software update.
Step up to the 2LT and you’ll get dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated and ventilated front seats and the infotainment system from the Technology package.
Ordering a 2LT with the Convenience and Lighting package will add heated and auto-dimming exterior mirrors, rear parking sensors, illuminated sill plates, driver memory functions, a head-up display, an upgraded multifunction gauge cluster display, configurable ambient lighting, a heated steering wheel, wireless device charging, rear cross-traffic alert, a blind spot monitor and lane departure warning.
An RS package is available for the 1LT and 2LT models, with 20-inch wheels, xenon headlights, LED taillights, a special grille and a rear lip spoiler.
The 1SS builds upon features from the 1LT trim, adding a V8 engine, 20-inch wheels with run-flat tires, upgraded brakes, a limited-slip differential, xenon headlights, a rear spoiler, quad exhaust outlets, a “Track” driving mode, a sport-tuned suspension and an 8-inch multifunction display.
The range-topping 2SS includes all the features from the 2LT trim, along with unique interior accents and the Convenience and Lighting package.
A configurable multifunction gauge cluster display is included on 2LT and 2SS models.
Optional extras include a sunroof (all Camaros), a performance exhaust (all V6- and V8-powered models), a navigation system (2LT and 2SS trims), a Heavy Duty Cooling and Brake package for the 1LT and 2LT, and adaptive suspension dampers (V8 models).
Powertrains and Performance
Chevrolet Camaros in 1LT and 2LT trims come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 275 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. A 3.6-liter V6 that churns out 335 hp and 284 lb-ft is optional on these trims. The 1SS and 2SS models come with a 6.2-liter V8 with 455 hp and 455 lb-ft on tap. All Camaros come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, and an eight-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters is optional. On the SS manual, automatic rev-matching on downshifts is included.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the V6 with a manual transmission stands at 21 mpg combined (18 city/27 highway). Automatic-equipped V8s are estimated to achieve 20 mpg combined (17/28), while the manual transmission V8 fares slightly worse at 19 mpg combined (16/25). The EPA has not yet rated the V6/automatic combo or the turbo-4 powertrains as of this writing.
Chevy estimates that the turbocharged four-cylinder with the manual transmission will make the sprint from zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, increasing to 5.5 seconds with the automatic. The V6 with the automatic transmission needs a claimed 5.1 seconds (5.2 seconds with the manual), while the automatic-equipped V8 should take just 4.0 seconds (4.3 seconds with the manual). In Edmunds testing, a 2015 Mustang GT automatic (4.7 seconds) and 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T manual (5.8 seconds) were considerably slower.
Standard safety features on the 2016 Chevy Camaro include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat knee and side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Also standard is the OnStar telematics system, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle assistance and turn-by-turn navigation.
A rearview camera is standard on all Camaros. The Convenience and Lighting package (optional on 2LT, standard on 2SS) adds several safety features, including a blind spot monitor, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
Interior Design and Special Features
Step into the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro and you’ll find a cockpit that blends themes of the previous-gen Camaro and current-gen Corvette. The flat-bottom steering wheel design is shared with the 2016 ‘Vette, and it includes fingertip paddles that shift through the gears in automatic-equipped cars and enable the rev-matching feature in Camaros with the manual transmission. Chevrolet also integrated the tachometer, speedometer and central driver information screen into one complete group for a cleaner, more modern look. Gone is the quartet of retro-inspired engine information gauges forward of the shifter; air-conditioning vents with knurled surrounds that control the temperature have replaced them.
While the exterior evokes the last-gen Camaro, the cabin is much more modern and contains references to the current Corvette.
Interior quality is a bit hit-or-miss, depending on what panel or trim piece you’re checking out. GM’s incorporation of its latest touchscreen interface is promising, however, especially considering the integration of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. We haven’t fully tested it, but it will be interesting to see how the latest MyLink system compares to the Challenger’s excellent Uconnect touchscreen and the Mustang’s new Sync 3 system.
The front seats are more comfortable and supportive than before, but the dinky backseats are strictly for small children or contortionists. You also need to be a bit of a contortionist to see out of the thing. As with the last Camaro, a high beltline and low roof means outward visibility in all directions is sorely lacking. Plus, with a limited amount of light entering the cabin through the narrow windows, the interior can feel dark and claustrophobic. But hey, it’s a Camaro, right? The point is to look good and turn heads, or so the logic goes.
The 2016 Camaro is fast. Very fast. We haven’t tested the base turbocharged four-cylinder yet, but our first impressions of the V6- and V8-powered Camaros have confirmed that Chevrolet is taking the fight directly to the Mustang and Challenger. The Camaro’s higher-horsepower output in addition to the new, lighter chassis makes a difference on the road, where you’ll need little time to overtake the competition.
Chevy estimates that the Camaro SS can get from zero to 60 mph in 4 seconds flat when equipped with the automatic transmission.
The dynamic difference between the 2015 and 2016 Camaros will be evident the first time you throw the new car into a corner. The SS attacks bends with the same eagerness and ferocity as the previous model’s track-ready Z/28 variant, and it feels nimble, too, thanks to the excellent Cadillac-sourced chassis. Happily, the Camaro shrugs off road imperfections with casual indifference, even when not equipped with the superb adjustable suspension. In short, Chevrolet’s muscle car is both more refined and more capable than the car it replaces.