On the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro: The Sixth Generation

The fifth-generation Camaro brought the nameplate back from what could have been oblivion. The sixth is taking it in the right direction.

 “The Camaro should not have been a design success, as it was based on an existing architecture and admittedly hurried to market to address the personal coupe revolution occurring with the Baby Boomer customers,” said Ed Welburn, General Motors vice president of Global Design, about the first-generation Chevy Camaro, which ran from model years 1967 to 1969.  Of course, back then, no one knew what a “Baby Boomer” was.  And no one knew that there would be a generation-six Camaro.    

And this would particularly be the case after generation four (1993 to 2002).  Kirk Bennion, Camaro exterior design manager, recalled, “It was a very aggressive design intended to evolve the proportion from the third-generation car with a provocative exterior and greater aerodynamic performance.  It has a very sculptural form vocabulary that was definitely all-new for the Camaro.”

But then there wasn’t another Camaro until model year 2010. 

Tom Peters, Camaro exterior design director, said, “They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and that couldn’t have been truer than as demonstrated with the enthusiasm that followed the introduction of the fifth-generation Camaro.  After an eight-year absence, the return of the Camaro was a thunderbolt that reignited the passion of Camaro enthusiasts around the word.  It’s a car design for those who like to drive, and its elegant design makes you smile every time.”

Gen Five had its run until model year 2015.*

And now there is Six.

The car came out of Peters’ Performance Car studio, penned by Hawsup Lee. Clearly, he had good bones to work with.

While the 2016 Camaro is unmistakably a post-Gen Five Camaro, this is a different car.  The only carryover part is the rear bowtie emblem (and the SS version has a carryover SS badge, too, but that’s it).

Among the terms that are typically used to describe vehicle designs—and often applied to even cars that have the physique of Homer Simpson—are sculpted and athletic.   You can stare for hours at the sheet metal of some cars so characterized and wonder what the person using those terms was thinking. (Maybe it is wishful thinking.)

Those terms are absolutely spot on for the Gen Six Camaro.  The front fascia has a bigger and lower grille opening, but the upper grille, which connects the available LED headlamps, is much tighter. Around the back the taillamps are sculpted into the vertical surface of the decklid and the rear fascia has lines and edges that provide more of a machined aesthetic than in the previous generation car.
For one thing, it is simply a tighter exterior package compared with the Gen Five car.  That is:

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In a period when it seems that the only dimensions that new models have are larger ones than their predecessors, the 2016 Camaro is clearly not the norm.

And another aspect of this taut athleticism for Gen Six takes the form of significant weight reduction, while increasing the structural rigidity of the car by 28 percent.  From a statistical standpoint, the engineers used nine-million hours of computer-aided engineering time to work toward improving the structure.

So how did that work in terms of cutting weight?  The mass of the body-in-white has been reduced by 133 pounds.  From a curb-weight standpoint, a model with the 3.6-liter V6 and an automatic transmission weighs 3,435 pounds, which is 294 pounds lighter than a comparable 2015 model; a 2016 Camaro with a 6.2-liter V8 and manual transmission weighs 3,685 pounds, which is down 223 pounds. from a 2015 model.  The wheels on the SS are 0.5-inches wider—and six ounces lighter than the Gen Five wheels. 

The biggest difference—although this isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison—is for a 2016 car with a 2.0-liter turbo four and an automatic transmission.  It weighs 3,339 pounds  That, Chevy points out, is 390 pounds less than a 2015 model with a V6.  Still, a turbo four to a V6. . . . 

However, it is worth noting how assiduously the engineers went at mass reduction.  For example, an aluminum instrument panel frame in place of a steel component saved 9.2 pounds. The wheels on the SS are 0.5-inches wider—and six ounces lighter than the Gen Five wheels.  The roof is attached to the body side with laser brazing instead of conventional welding. Not only does this provide a more aerodynamic surface (there are no ditch channels), but the brazing in place of welding and then inserting trim saves about 1.1 pounds.  In the suspension, it is a mixed material situation, with aluminum in the front and steel with lightening holes in the rear and even some composite pieces; they were able to reduce the mass by 21 percent compared with the previous steel-intensive setup.  

And while on the subject of things structural, it should be noted that one of the engineering tasks was to create a modular structure for the four versions of the car such that there could be component sharing wherever it made sense.  That is, there are four variants: LT Coupe, LT Convertible, SS Coupe, and SS Convertible.  So, for example, while the tie bar to bumper A-brace is shared by all four, the underbody A-brace is used only by the convertible versions, the rear cradle to rocker with close-out is used only by the SS versions and the rear cradle to rocker without close-out is used by the LTs, the front shear panel is used by all but the LT coupe, and so on.

The engine offerings are, of course, important; this is, after all, a muscle car.  The standard engine for the LT is a 2.0-liter turbo (oddly enough, the standard engine is launching after the optional V6 and the standard SS engine).  The turbo engine produces 275 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, with the 90 percent of the torque available at from 2,100 to 3,000 rpm and maximum torque from 3,000 to 4,500 rpm.  (Here’s an engine fun fact: Gen Three Camaros were available with a four-cylinder engine, too.  This engine was offered from 1982 (first year of that generation) until 1986 (the generation ran until 1992).  It was a 2.5-liter engine that produced either 88 or 92 hp, depending on whether it had a carburetor or an electronically controlled fuel injection system.)

The 3.6-liter V6 produces 335 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque.  As is the case with all of the engines in the lineup, it has a cast aluminum block with cast-in-place iron cylinder liners and aluminum heads.  The V6 features direct injection, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation.

The transmissions for the turbo and the V6 are a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic, an all-new Hydra-Matic 8L45.

The Camaro SS borrows something from its big brother in the Chevy lineup: the 6.2-liter LT1 V8 that was launched on the Corvette Stingray.  However, the engine has been modified for this application, with, for example, tubular tri-Y-type exhaust manifolds.  Overall, about 20 percent of the engine components are Camaro-specific.  This engine produces 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque.  The standard transmission is a six-speed manual with the option automatic being an eight-speed Hydra-Matic 8L90, which is what the automatic for the other two engines is based on.

The 2016 Camaro is being produced at the GM Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant in Lansing, Michigan.  General Motors made a $175-million investment in the plant for tooling and equipment. The Cadillac CTS and ATS models are also produced in the plant, which shows that the Camaro is in good company. 

*It's interesting to see how the Camaro generations have proceeded, which may say something about the cadence of product development at GM.  The following are model year dates:
• Generation One: 1967-69     • Generation Four: 1993-2002
• Generation Two: 1970-81    • Generation Five: 2010-15
• Generation Three: 1982-92    • Generation Six: 2016-