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2016 Chevrolet Camaro 1 SS Review By Steve Purdy +VIDEO


Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Production of this newest generation of the modern Camaro was moved from Ontario, Canada to the Grand River Assembly Plant in Lansing, Michigan where rear-wheel drive Cadillac CTS and ATS are made. Living near Lansing and being a fan of all these cars, I was thrilled at that decision. Coincidentally, I’ve been spending some time recently with the makers of the documentary film Second Shift about how the threat of GM pulling out of the area was turned around by an unlikely team of local politicians, union folks, business people and media. But that’s a story for another time. Watch for that title on PBS sometime this summer.

Back to the fabulous new red Camaro SS in my driveway:

Along with modern Challenger and Mustang, Camaro is the combination of muscle car, sports car, pony car and show-off car. Back in the day (1960’s, that is) these three marques started out as inexpensive, sporty cars for the young and wanna-be young. Some iterations of each car became serious muscle cars with big V8s, most more at home on the drag strip than a curvy road. Then came handling packages and upgrades that made them competitive with European sports cars on a road course, and they became as cool-lookin’ as anything on the boulevard.

Now, since the resurrection of the classic Mustang in the early 00s these new versions of the three pony cars exhibit all the charm of the originals, including modest entry prices, plus everything we love about modern cars. This Camaro is just in its second generation since resurrection (fresh for 2016), now on a lighter and more rigid platform, shared with some Cadillac models, just a few inches shorter but also a few wider, making for a slightly more aggressive stance.

Nicely revised styling helps update the new Camaro without changing its distinctive look. It maintains the retro references while modernizing some styling details. An even smaller greenhouse, deeper, more distinctive sculpting, HID headlights, 20-inch wheels and two new grilles set it apart. Functional air vents on the domed hood and a ‘reverse Mohawk’ roof shape give it a bit more flare. Small SS badges front and rear plus the unique-to-SS front fascia identify it as the V8 screamer.

The interior of the 1SS (lesser of the two SS models) shows little in the way of panache or luxury with simplicity holding sway. The 2SS gets leather and much more interesting trim. The dash, bucking a modern trend, consists of mostly two large panels but with some stitching and a sporty ambiance. Fit and finish are mostly good, but an ill-fit of the dash to the top of the instrument cluster detracts a bit. Deeply bolstered seats hold us in place as we charge through some of our curvy country roads. Analog gauges visually dominate the instrument cluster but scrolling electronic screens do what they do best. A small, 8-inch diagonal touch screen uses large, easily managed icons and it is reasonably intuitive. Our test car did not have navigation, but to be frank, we didn’t miss it. Most cool about the controls are the large collars around the two HVAC vents at the base of the center stack that control temperature and fan speed. A 12-volt power outlet resides handily on the narrow center console but auxiliary and USB outlets are hidden deep within the console where they will be awkward to access.

We had a couple of rear seat passengers this week, both of whom are slim, trim and short. Both struggled to get into and out of the rear seats and once in were mighty cramped. They could only fit if the seat in front of them was most of the way forward and both of these short guys were bumping their heads. This is essentially a “2+2” which means that two are fine up front but two in the back will have to be small. For a car that looks and feels rather large it has a small trunk and back seat mitigated a bit by a folding rear seatback offering limited extra utility.

Under that shapely hood is where we find the charm and the essence of the Camaro SS – a direct-injected, 455-horsepower, 6.2-liter, LT1 V8 making 455 pound-feet of torque. It’s good for a 0-to-60 time of 4 seconds flat with the 8-speed automatic or 4.3 seconds with the 6-speed manual transmission. With a low-restriction, dual-stage exhaust it rumbles like a hot rod with a wild cam at idle and roars like a racer at full throttle. The EPA/DOT estimates you’ll get 25 mpg on the highway, 16 in the city and 19-mpg combined. Premium fuel is recommended. In spite of putting our foot in it fairly regularly this week we managed just over 20 mpg.

With the most recent redesign all Camaros got a shorter wheelbase, new suspension geometry front and rear and faster steering. SS got standard Brembo brakes, torque vectoring, a track mode and extra engine and transmission cooling in case you want to do some serious track day activities at the road course nearest you. We also have a Snow/Ice mode for those of us who drive in the northern climates.

Price for the Camaro 1SS coupe begins at $36,300. Our Test car has fabric seats, the optional 20-inch gloss black wheels with red strip around the rim (homage to the classic ‘red-line’ performance tires of yore), run-flat summer tires, magnetic ride control and dual-mode exhaust. The bottom line on our sticker shows $41,880 including the $995 destination charge. (Remember, you can get the basic Camaro with 300 horsepower V6 for just $25,700.)

Chevy’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles. They also provide two free maintenance visits in the first two years and 5 years of OnStar’s basic plan.

In spite of our test Camaro being bright red, and in spite of my less-than-conservative driving style I was not stopped once by the cops this week. Driving dynamics, as you might guess, are thrilling, so I was unwilling to drive like the old man that I really am. The acoustics of that rich, rumbling, big V8 match the gratifying, tactile pleasure of managing all that power through the manual transmission with a smooth clutch. Even though the shifter occasionally wanted to push me into sideways into fourth instead of second, an odd anomaly I thought, it was great fun to drive both fast and slow.

While it is not much good at hauling your recycling to the collection center, it sure is great for hauling ass and looking cool while doing it.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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