Tested: 2016 Chevy Camaro SS Coupe

Lighter, faster and no longer propelled by brute force alone, the 2016 Camaro SS is the best sports car in the world for $45k.

When the Camaro went under the knife at GM and came out a lighter, more focused, and precision automobile, the changes dramatically altered the direction of the Camaro brand. No longer should the iconic ride be considered a muscle car. The term muscle car dictates it’s a brolic brute more suited for heavy squats than the precision of a funambulist. The new Camaro is now a mini-Corvette disguised in an iconic shape with more finesse than ever before.

This particular Camaro, the 2016 2SS, is outfitted with GM’s new 8L90 8-speed automatic transmission, the same unit found in the Corvette. Smooth, fast, and not a crappy slushbox, the 8-speed offers quicker performance than its 6-speed manual counterpart. (Although, we’d rather option out the latter given the opportunity.)

Also carried over from the Corvette, the LT1 V8 on the Camaro SS now produces 455 horsepower. That's more than a Porsche Carrera S, BMW M3/M4, Ford Mustang GT, and it’s only five less than a base Corvette. Comparable to the Mustang in price, the Camaro is, at least, half of what the Porsche costs and $20k below the M3/M4. Factor in direct-injection and an equal amount of torque (455 lb.-ft) and the Camaro is a sprinter that will do 0-60 in 4.0 seconds flat. We have just entered into German sports car territory, people.

And while this is a big, honking 6.2-liter power pack, the upgrades to direct-injection make for a polished, mature sound with heavy acoustic notes of a much more expensive vehicle. And the power…well, let’s just say the rear tires will break loose at 70mph on the highway.

Adopted from Cadillac’s Alpha platform from the ATS sedan, the new Camaro shares no parts from the outgoing 5th gen model (except for the badging). Instead, it’s gone on a new workout plan, losing 200 pounds on top of a more advanced chassis that’s ripe with potential. Every Camaro now comes with a ‘Driver Mode’ toggle switch that gives you the ability to change multiple parameters from the throttle and steering feel, to higher shift points, launch control, exhaust sound, and Track mode (on SS models).

Finally, the interior is something you’d expect from a car in its 6th generation. Similar to how the Corvette removed the factory fresh glue smell from the cabin with the release of the C7, the Camaro follows the same trend, making superior ergonomics and materials a primary issue. A driver-centric interior that feels similar to a cockpit, the switchgear now has a tactile, solid feel—offering a satisfying click when operating. A smaller, flat-bottomed steering wheel makes inputs more direct with the electric power steering—though some extra padding could be afforded here. Even the new fonts on the instrument cluster look mature and well designed; they’re not 911 good, but they’re close. The ride comes equipped with Apple’s Carplay as well, which is something BMW still doesn't have in its repertoire.

This no longer feels like a car that GM shoehorned a big motor with a bunch of horsepower into and then sent it on its way. Instead, the Camaro is officially a sports car that can play in the big leagues.

If it helps you sleep better at night to use the tired argument of, “Well, it’s cheap because it’s made cheaper,” that just doesn’t hold solid footing anymore. Trust me, as a 911 fanatic—while the build quality of the Porsche is better than ever—the Camaro can seriously compete with its higher-end competitors. For a tick above $48k all optioned out, this Bowtie could be had without the Magnetic Ride and 8-speed automatic to bring the price below $45k. At that cost, this is a sports car that would be hard, if not impossible, to touch for a similar price point.

At the end of the day, no longer is it just the V8 that offers compelling performance. You can equip the Camaro with a turbocharged 4-cylinder with 275 horsepower and a high-revving V6—with a kickass sound—pushing 335 horsepower. The sheer number of engine options available makes the Camaro compete in areas that GM of 10 years ago would never have dreamed of. The Camaro brand is now in a position to compete on a global level, taking on the very best cars in the world.

Specs

Efficiency: 17/28/20 mpg (city/highway/combined)

0-60 MPH: 4.0 seconds

Top Speed: N/A

Horsepower: 455 horsepower

Torque: 455 lb-ft

Cost: $41,300 (base) / $48,490 (as tested)

 


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