2016 Chevrolet Camaro review

One for the car guys

2016 Chevrolet Camaro
2016 Chevrolet Camaro. Photo © Aaron Gold

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First, the Bottom Line

There are certain things in the auto biz that automatically qualify as a Big Deal, and the coming of a new Camaro is one of them. You may not care for the new sixth-generation 2016 Chevrolet Camaro, but I have a feeling that won't bother General Motors one bit.

Pros: Handsome, fast and fun, greatly improved interior

Cons: Gun-slit windows, cave-like interior

Larger photos: Front - rear - interior - all photos

2016 Chevrolet Camaro review

Before we begin, let’s give credit to General Motors for building the Camaro in the first place, because they really don’t have to. There are many successful car brands (Toyota, Honda, Nissan) that build nothing but sensible and practical cars, with maybe a single “halo” car to attract attention. Chevy has a halo car—the Corvette. They don’t need the Camaro. And yet they build it anyway. And that’s pretty darn cool.

If you don’t like the Camaro—and there are certainly reasons not to—I imagine that’s just fine with GM, because they aren’t building it for you. There are leagues of loyal Chevy enthusiasts out there; the Camaro is for them. And they’re going to love it.

More of the same... and less of it

The first thing you’ll notice about the all-new sixth-generation Camaro is that it looks a lot like the outgoing fifth-generation Camaro.

Existing owners love the styling, Chevy said, so they left it alone. The biggest change is that the new Camaro is smaller. The car has shrunk by about 2 inches in length and an inch each in width and height. Think weight reduction: The sixth-gen Camaro is between 200 and 400 lbs lighter than its predecessor, which aids both fuel economy and acceleration.

Go big, or go really big

So let’s talk about acceleration: How does 0-60 in 5.5 seconds grab you? And that’s the slowest version—the new 275 horsepower two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that serves as the Camaro’s base engine. Yep, that’s right, there’s a four-cylinder Camaro.

We didn’t get to sample the four-banger; it won’t appear until the 1st quarter of 2016 proper. [UPDATE: I've now driven the Camaro 2.0T! Here's my review,] This test drive was a two-day road trip from Raleigh, NC to Orlando, FL, and my wife Robin and I spent the first day in a 335 hp V6-powered Camaro 2LT with a six-speed manual transmission. 0-60: 5.2 seconds (5.1 if you go for the eight-speed automatic). Our car had the optional dual-mode exhaust; select sport mode and the pipes open up and let the six sing its own unique song. As one who loves unique, I’ve found it hard to build up any affection for GM’s ubiquitous 3.6 liter V6; the 2016 Camaro solved that problem neatly.

At the top of the heap is the SS, with its Corvette-sourced 455-hp 6.2 liter V8. We did our second day of touring behind the V8, which delivers all the power and the fury you’d expect from a muscle car. The noise is epic and the acceleration is supercar-like—Chevy says 0-60 in 4.3 seconds for the manual-trans car we drove, and the automatic hacks another 0.3 seconds off of that.

The best reason to buy the V8 engine is that it’s the biggest one (my wife disagrees, but us guys know that one need no more reason than that). My opinion: If you’re buying your Camaro as a weekend or a collector car, the V8-powered SS is the only option. For daily driving, the V6 is a more pleasant companion; there’s less weight on the nose and the LT’s smaller wheels and tires provide a smoother and more comfortable ride. And you’ll still be able to dust most street cars when the light turns green.

The more things change…

My biggest complaint about the outgoing Camaro (and one that got me in hot water with GM) was its cdank interior with its cheap fittings. In the latter, we see serious improvement: The new Camaro’s cabin has nicer trim, offers more color choices, and makes better use of the available real estate.

All Camaros get a color touch-screen display for the stereo and (optional) navigation system (though why Chevy has chosen to tilt the screen slightly downward is beyond me). The colorful interface is GM’s MyLink, which is one of my favorites. The climate controls sit below, and the rings around the low-mounted vents serve as the temperature dials—very cool (in both senses of the word). But the other functions are controlled by a ribbon of small, look-alike buttons, which can be hard to discern until you memorize their placement.

…the more they stay the same

Unfortunately, the Camaro’s interior is still rather cave-like. The windows are like gun-slits turned on their side, and looking through the windshield is like watching a movie in letterbox format. Over-the-shoulder visibility is nil, and one must set the small side-mirrors very carefully (tilt them outward, avoiding overlap with the rear-view mirror) if one wishes to change lanes without the need for Tums.

The Camaro does have a back seat, though I cannot imagine a size and shape of person who could fit back there (or even climb back there), let alone remain without going crazy. (The rear side windows are tiny; isn’t depriving humans of sunlight a form of torture?) Potential third and fourth passengers might be just as well off in the trunk, which is surprisingly generous and easier to pack than last year’s Camaro.

Camaro vs. the competition

We all know the competitive set: The Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger. The Challenger has matured into a wonderful car, and while we expect more powerful versions of the Camaro to follow, it’s doubtful they’ll be able to match the 707 hp output of the Challenger Hellcat. But the Camaro has the better chassis; it’s more agile and more rewarding for those who want more from their cars than straight-line performance. The Ford Mustang is tough to beat: I don’t think it looks as good as the Camaro, but it’s got a wonderful interior (one that lets in far more sunlight) and is as good to drive as the Chevy.

These are three solid cars, and no doubt brand loyalty will be the biggest deciding factor in which car gets the sale. For the few who are truly open-minded, a test drive of all three really is in order.

So there are a lot of things I like about the Camaro and a few I don’t, but overall it gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from me. The Camaro is a silly car: One that exists to go fast and look good. It is the antithesis of practical transportation; its primary purpose is not to transport its owners, but to please them. It is the sort of car that no automaker has any business building—and that is precisely why I love it. Thanks, GM, for making one for the car guys. – Aaron Gold

Details and specs

  • Camaro is all-new for 2016; this is the sixth generation
  • Price range: $26,695 - $43,790 plus options
  • Powertrain: 2.0 liter turbo four-cylinder/275 hp, 3.6 liter V6/335 hp, 6.2 liter V8/455 hp; 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
  • EPA fuel economy estimates: 18 MPG city/27 MPG highway (V6 manual) - Other models pending
  • Best rivals: Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger