The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro’s story is one of proximity. With a platform shared with the Cadillac ATS, there’s an implied closeness to that BMW 4-series competitor. Prod the gas pedal of the Camaro SS, and the Corvette Stingray’s syncopated exhaust note tickles the eardrums, drawing parallels with America’s sports car. And being smaller than its predecessor, the interior envelops the driver in such a way that the clipped exterior dimensions seem to shrink even more the quicker you go. This is a Camaro that finds itself closer to the sports-car end of the spectrum than ever before.
The Sum of Its Parts
It would be easy to chalk up the 2016 Camaro’s goodness to the componentry gifted it by the best cars in General Motors’ stable, but the pieces are specialized for Camaro duty. The SS model’s 455-hp 6.2-liter V-8 is pulled straight out of the Corvette—and even matches the Stingray’s horsepower—but the torque peak is situated 200-rpm lower in the rev range, at the expense of 5 lb-ft to better deal with the Camaro’s extra weight. (Non-SS Camaros are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four or a 335-hp V-6.) The same goes for the rear-drive Alpha architecture; were Chevy to merely rebody the ATS to look like a Camaro, we’d likely have nothing short of raves. Instead, it tweaked the suspension geometry front and rear, swapped the Cadillac’s suspension components for its own, and, for the first time, made GM’s adjustable magnetorheological dampers available on the Camaro SS. And the Camaro’s weight loss can’t go overlooked; Chevrolet says the switch to the Alpha bones saves 223 pounds over last year’s SS manual coupe, for a lithe 3685-pound curb weight. (A 2016 SS automatic we tested rang in at 3760 pounds.)
If the Chevy has a failing, it’s the way it looks. This is not because it’s unattractive—it’s simply the missed opportunity that the styling represents. Looking like a seven-eighths-scale 2015 Camaro, the new one simply appears underdesigned. There are a few newly curved creases in the hood and around the car’s haunches, but they do little to set apart the new car or to alleviate the thick slab sides and the bunkerlike greenhouse. According to Chevrolet, the outgoing Camaro’s styling was a key purchase driver; that’s apparently all the automaker needed to hear, given the previous car’s consistent sales edge over the Ford Mustang. But how about polling non-Camaro owners? Chevrolet could have done better than rehashing a shape introduced for 2010.
Chevrolet may have looked back at the fifth-generation Camaro for design inspiration, but if it were doing so from the driver’s seat of the new car, it wouldn’t see much. Visibility remains compromised. The short side windows and pinched windshield are still present. In this light, the gauge-cluster hood’s protrusion into the driver’s forward sightlines and the parcel shelf that rises from the base of the rear window to meet the rear backrest—cutting precious inches from the driver’s already compromised view aft—feel like jokes taken a step too far.
Since most of what the occupants can see at any given moment is the Camaro’s insides, it’s a good thing that the materials are a grade richer than before, even if the arrangement of vents and dials on the dashboard is somewhat illogical. The standard eight-inch touch-screen display juts from the dashboard like an iPad, tilted down slightly to (presumably) reduce glare—but the subtle angle ravenously attracts reflections of the center console and the passenger seat.