2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS Review - The Cadillac/Corvette Crossbreed

Alex L. Dykes
by Alex L. Dykes
Fast Facts

2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS

6.2L V8 (455 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 455 lbs-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Six-speed manual transmission
16 city / 25 highway / 19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
18 (Observed, MPG)
Base Price
As Tested
All prices include a $995 destination fee.

Automotive crossbreeds don’t always turn out for the better. GM’s past is littered with parts-bin-assembled cars that should never have existed. Pontiac Aztek and Hummer H3 are just two examples of good ideas gone horribly wrong.

The 2016 Camaro is not another example; this is parts bin raiding gone right, oh-so right.

In a nutshell, the new Camaro SS is what happens when you take a Cadillac ATS Coupe and a Corvette Stingray engine and wrap them in the latest Chevy stormtrooper styling. The result is something of an automotive unicorn. Under the hood lies a 6.2-liter small-block V8, yet the Camaro tips the scales at a svelte 3,685 pounds and boasts BMW-like weight balance.

Let’s be honest, the Camaro’s looks are best described as “polarizing.” Half of my Facebook peeps wanted to bear the Camaro’s children, a quarter wanted to pull their eyes out, and another quarter thought it was simply overdone. When it comes to the beauty contest, the Ford Mustang beats the Camaro in my book, although both are overshadowed by the Camaro’s rich cousin and platform donor: the Cadillac ATS-V Coupe. That said, I think the 2016 interpretation of the “stormtrooper” design is the best yet. The 2016 model looks leaner and meaner than the outgoing model thanks to the new GM Alpha underpinnings borrowed from Cadillac. The overall length and wheelbase drop two inches versus the outgoing model, helping trim up the side profile, and the front end is wider and lower, making the Camaro look even hungrier than before. At 188.3 inches long, the new Camaro is the same length as the Mustang.

The Alpha platform giveth and it taketh away. As you’d expect with a two-inch shrink in wheelbase, the interior of the Camaro feels smaller than before. What you wouldn’t expect is that the interior also feels smaller than the Mustang’s cabin, even though the Chevy has a 3.6-inch longer wheelbase. Some of the difference is optical illusion thanks to a nearly shoulder-level beltline, but the 2016 model also loses an inch of headroom in the redesign.

The front seats in our 2SS tester proved comfortable on long trips, but not as comfortable as those in the Mustang or Challenger. The main reason for this is adjustability. Although our model had the top-end 8-way power driver’s seat, the range of motion is limited compared with the latest Ford seats. The lack of adjustable lumbar support is a personal pain point. Unlike Camaros of the past, GM designed the 2016 Camaro with average builds in mind. I found the bolstering on the seat bottom and back near perfect, but larger folks may find them too tight for comfort.

Do Camaro drivers use the back seat? Apparently not, since GM didn’t even bother to measure the rear for its spec sheets. By our estimation, the rear has lost at least two inches of legroom and a similar amount of headroom compared to the 2015 model year. The Mustang’s way-back is a hair more comfortable, but let’s be honest — if you need to carry humans in the back of your two-door, the Challenger is the only American coupe designed for the task.

Aside from the insurance implications, Camaro shoppers are likely to find another use for the back seat: padded cargo storage. That’s because the Camaro has also inherited the Alpha platform’s small trunk. In a reverse-TARDIS move, the Camaro has a massive derriere on the outside, and a teeny-tiny trunk on the inside. With just 9.1 cubic feet of space and a small opening, the Camaro has one of the smallest cargo holds I’ve seen recently. The Mustang’s booty isn’t exactly spacious, but it’s nearly 50-percent larger. The folding rear seatback isn’t just a novelty — it’s a must-have.

Lumbar support and cargo room worries fade when you pop the hood. Behold, the Corvette Stingray’s 6.2-liter small block V8. With a redline of 6,600 rpm, direct injection, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation, this isn’t your dad’s small block, even though it’s still a pushrod design.

As you’d expect, the Camaro’s output figures are detuned slightly from the Stingray, but the detune is the slightest possible with the same 455 horsepower rating at 6,000 rpm and a 5 lbs-ft drop to 455 lbs-ft at 4,400 rpm. Although the horsepower figures pale in comparison to the GT350‘s 526 ponies, the Chevy makes 26 lbs-ft more torque 350 rpm earlier.

Instead of the seven-speed manual from the ‘Vette, the Camaro gets a more traditional six-speed unit, or you can check the box for GM’s eight-speed automatic. The eight-speed auto is two cogs ahead of the Mustang GT, but more importantly, it’s two cogs and a torque converter ahead of the GT350, which is only available with a six-speed manual.

Heresy! Yes, I mention an automatic in a review of a performance car. Why? Because as much as I love a transmission to do my bidding (my last two new car purchases were manual transmissions), I have to admit that automatics just do it better in the real world. (It doesn’t hurt that GM’s eight-speed transmission is almost as polished as the industry benchmark ZF 8HP.) If the stars align and you slip the clutch perfectly and shift as fast as humanly possible, the manual SS will scoot to 60 in 4.2 seconds. If you’re me, you end up at 4.3-4.4 seconds. That’s 2/10ths faster than a Mustang GT. Drop the eight-speed auto in the SS and it’s a different story; a dealer provided model ran to 60 in 3.85 blistering seconds, significantly faster than any Mustang GT and faster than most drivers in a GT350. Seriously. It’s also within a few hundredths of a second of the BMW M4.

This is possible because the eight-speed auto not only has a deeper first gear (12.6:1 vs 9.9:1 effective ratio) and more ratios below 1:1 that keep the engine at an optimum powerband for acceleration, but because it can shift in a fraction of the time possible of a manual transmission. Toss in a stability control program that only cuts in when absolutely required, and you have a $38,790 rocketship that dances like a $73,645 M4. Yep, I said it. A Camaro that does a nearly flawless BMW impersonation.

Obviously, I’m not talking about luxury amenities or the interior refinement. The Camaro is at least two full steps behind BMW’s highly polished luxury interior. No, I’m talking about the way the Camaro drives. The steering is precise with a hint of feedback; the chassis tuning is near perfect, and the grip is incredible.

Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. The Cadillac ATS, after all, has won accolades for its handling prowess, not just from TTAC but from the industry in general. I never thought it would be possible to say this, but now and then the Camaro, with a 6.2-liter V8 up front, makes the BMW M4 feel heavy and lethargic.

Chevrolet has yet to release official weight distribution numbers for the Camaro, but I suspect that when they do they will be within a hair of the M4’s 52%/48% (front/rear) figures. The improved balance is obvious on winding mountain roads where the Camaro responds with more agility than a comparable Mustang GT.

Ride quality is surely an area where the Camaro will lag the BMW, right? Wrong. Thanks to an available magnetic ride suspension, also borrowed from Cadillac, the Camaro SS is daily driver livable. My last stint in a Mustang GT with the “performance package” left me wondering if I had become too soft in my old age. The suspension was just a hair too firm for my daily commute and it left the rear suspension occasionally out of sorts on rough pavement in the corners. The Camaro has a similar feeling if you don’t check the $1,695 box for the active suspension. But if you check that box the Camaro’s ride, while still firm, becomes easy to live with.

With a base price of $37,295 (after a $995 destination charge), the Camaro is $4,000 more than a base Mustang GT. Digging deeper, however, you’ll find that the Camaro comes with about $1,000 more standard gadget and luxury content than the Ford, and Chevy bundles all SS models with a more capable brake package than entry models of the GT. The net cost difference by my calculations to just $1,500, which buys you a more capable chassis, improved road feel, and superior performance.

Perhaps more interesting than the pony-war comparison is the BMW comparison. The last generation of Camaro SS could, of course, be compared to the M3 coupe of the time, but the comparisons always read like this: the Camaro delivers 95 percent of the performance, 80 percent of the handling ability and 70 percent of the finesse for half the price. This SS is an entirely different animal, and delivers equal performance, equal handling ability and superior finesse for half the price.

If you’re just interested in driving dynamics, the Camaro SS is simply the better car. If you’re interested in luxury, the closely related ATS-V is my top pick, but the turbo engine is just not as engaging as the 6.2-liter V8.

The 2016 Camaro has restored my faith in American performance for the masses. We all knew a brand like Cadillac could craft a BMW M4 competitor if they applied themselves, but from Chevy it’s a game changer. The Camaro SS is of course just the beginning. Soon we will see a Camaro ZL1, which is apparently what happens when you blend a 2016 Camaro with a touch of bat-shit-crazy. Count me in.

GM provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30 mph: 2.5 seconds

0-60 mph: 4.4 seconds

1/4 mile: 12.5 seconds @ 115 mph

Alex L. Dykes
Alex L. Dykes

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2 of 138 comments
  • Wodehouse Wodehouse on Jun 18, 2016

    Why is there not a Buick of some sort built on this platform? It would have made a superb foundation for the Cascada (ugh, that name!) instead of the pudgy Delta thing. A coupe and/or convertible with non-Camaro (grown up) styling and design would easily fill in for the departed Cadillac CTS coupe better than the bland shape of the ATS 2 door. A Buick GranSport? I'd buy one. I'm starting to look around for a replacement for my CTS coupe, but, am not at all fond of the C-Class, BMW 4er, the upcoming ugly A5, the ATS, Lexus and Infiniti coupes or any of the 4 door coupe group.

  • 07NodnarB 07NodnarB on Mar 21, 2017

    When this current Camaro appeared and sales took a nose-dive, I was relieved cuz it meant, like me, people​ have working eyes and saw that thing for the ugly it is. However FF a year, I saw one up close and said hmmm it's not that bad, possibly even kind of cute, like a scruncy-faced puppy. Still I'm team 'Stang all the way.

  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys i was only here for torchinsky
  • Tane94 Workhorse probably will be added to the heap of failed EV companies.
  • Freddie Instead of taking the day off, how about an article on the connection between Black Americans and the auto industry and car culture? Having done zero research, two topics pop into my head: Chrysler designer/executive Ralph Gilles, and the famous (infamous?) "Green Book".
  • Tane94 Either Elio Motors or Aptera Motors.
  • Billccm I think we will see history repeat itself. The French acquired AMC in the 1980s, discovered they couldn't make easy money, sold AMC off to Chrysler. Jeep is all that remained. This time the French acquired FCA, and they are discovering no easy profits. Assume an Asian manufacturer will acquire what remains of Chrysler, but this time Jeep and RAM are the only survivors.