GM Mulls Turbo-4 for Camaro
Autoweek 's Richard Truett reports that General Motors, feeling squeezed by ever-tightening fuel economy standards and ever-rising gas prices, is considering offering a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine for the base trim of its upcoming 2010 (for this week, anyway) Camaro. Speaking at the NY Autoshow, GM Vice-Chairman and daily TTAC newsblog fodderman Bob Lutz said he feels that the RWD drivetrains available from the Solstice GXP and Sky Red Line would make an excellent fit in a Camaro. Of course, the last time GM tried the i4/Camaro recipe, we ended up with the "Iron Duke" in slower-than-molasses 1982 Camaro. It's not so much the number of cylinders or the power output that bothers me – indeed, a 260 HP Ecotec is more powerful than some V8's of yore – but the turbocharging. To me, American muscle means a big, lazy, rumbling naturally-aspirated torque bomber with even power and torque-curves. I don't think I could ever get used to a Camaro with the exhaust note of a Cobalt SS.
Maybe my antipathy (or worse) towards the idea of a turbo 4 in a Camaro is because I see it as more of a niche car than a sales leader, and a big part of the cars "retroness" is the type and sound of the engine. Mustangs, the pony car sales leader for as long as there have been pony cars (ergo the name), went astray for a while, but for the most part, Mustangs sound like a Mustang. In a review of the Bullitt Mustang posted on this website last week, the reviewer pointed out the great sounding engine to much derision. While an engine sound may not sell a car, it is a part of that car's persona, particularly this type of car, and the wrong engine and engine sound could very well cost a sale. I'm all for a turbo four in a Cobalt for instance. I'm all for 4 and 6 cylinder engines, turbo or naturally aspirated, for daily drivers. I just think that a "muscle" car like a Camaro should have some muscle. So, it's not really a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" criticism of GM. It's a case of recognizing your market and catering to it. I might be wrong, but I think that the Camaro is appealing to people, mainly men, over the age of 35. It seems tome that if Camaro wants a bite of the Mustang pie they'll need to have a car, like the Mustang, that has that throaty V8 rumble or at least something close. Even the base V6 Mustang is going to sound more like a muscle car than a whiny turbo4. Finally, I do not have a bias against turbo charged or small displacement engines. I owned an Rx7, liked and nearly bought an Rx8, like the Mazdaspeed3, like the Honda S2000, and think the Ariel Atom is absolutely awesome, much more so than say a Veyron or other car with a large displacement engine. I saw a video on Jay Leno's Garage of a Honda S600 and absolutely loved the look and sound of that car. Of the lot, I think the turbocharged 2.4L Ecotec in the Atom is the largest.
BuckD: the SVO and T-bird Turbo were fun cars, but the Camaro will be much, much bigger and heavier. Odds are the Iron Duke references are fitting. But the 'duke didn't need premium fuel to be efficient, and cars from the 1980s were much lighter than today's counterparts.
The problem with a turbo-I6 is that it would eat into the more expensive=more profit V8 and I'm guessing Supercharged-V8 buyers.