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Muscle cars have a stigma of being V-8 workhorses. So when putting a smaller engine in something that supposed to sound just as good as it looks, usually means a receipt for criticism. At least that’s how it was around our office when we had the new 2016 Camaro scheduled on the board. And when asked if it was the SS, I constantly had to reply “sadly, but no…” followed by sad, frowny, disappointed faces… they’ll get over it!

The reality is, there is nothing to frown about when it comes to the new Camaro. While its design simply may look like a mid-cycle refresh, it is, in fact, entirely new from the ground up. New design, new chassis, and new engines. Hardest news to bite is the four-cylinder 2.0-liter turbo entering the Camaro’s line-up. I don’t suspect this will be popular amongst the general male consumers, but it brings 275-horsepower and 295lb-ft of torque to the table – could be fun… I guess. Carried over from the previous generation is the 3.6-liter V-6 and the 6.2-liter V-8 (available on the SS model only). However, these engines have been re-tuned to develop nearly 25 more horsepower.

Our tester here arrived as a 2LT trim. Most likely to be the popular choice when selecting one from a dealer lot. The upgraded 3.6-liter V-6 replaces the standard 2.0-liter turbo for a mere $1,495. That’s 335-horsepower mated to a six-speed manual transmission (the only way we’d prefer.) Our 2LT, starting at $29,800 was surprising handsomely equipped with leather seats, push button start, and our personal favorite Apple CarPlay – it avoids optioning several hundred dollars for Navigation that you’ll never use anyways.

Cadillac played a heavy part in the development of the new Camaro as it’s utilizing the underpinnings of the latest Cadillac ATS. Not knowing how the previous-gen Camaro was, all we can say is that this new chassis is an absolute joy. It’s snug and tight with rigid handling. The suspension is hard in the corners yet smooth on the road and the steering provides a nice balance of comfort and sport.

While our tester arrived as a six-speed manual, an eight speed auto is available for those who prefer not to shift for themselves. While an automatic is quicker to 60 mph at roughly five seconds – we were a tad slower in the manual – mostly it came down to the driver… not the car. The gear box is a sport transmission leaving it with very much driver involvement – you can feel the engagement of the transmission with every gear change. The ratio between gears isn’t exactly close, but it’s difficult to slip into the wrong gear. The clutch has a surprisingly decent dexterity to it – it’s stiff enough to feel you’re doing something but not hard to live with on a day to day routine.

Having a new chassis puts the Camaro into a new playing field of being a sports car. Muscle cars aren’t supposed to be good to drive – they’re supposed to be fast in a straight line as they make dirty, raunchy sounds. But this is different. Confined to a leather interior, everything is oh so sweet from behind the flat bottom steering wheel. Choosing between Sport or Touring, you can adjust the responsiveness to the car’s dynamic inputs – throttle response, steering sensitivity, even exhaust tuneage, things of that nature. Sport mode was our desired mode for the majority of our week.

Saying the chassis is as tight as drum would be an overstatement, but it’s almost there. Its solid and firm, feeling well planted. There is noticeable body roll, but this is the V-6 and not the hardcore SS with the V-8. Driving in out of corners, there is some definite feedback to the wheel as to where those large 20-inch wheels are going – the only downside is the road noise those things emit. And with saving a couple hundred pounds, it doesn’t feel like a tank going to war – which makes it fairly quick on its toes too. Now our tester did have optioned up the $895 quad-tipped exhaust system. Ascetically, it really brings the car to life, and while it can sound pretty good at the higher end of the rev limiter, it frankly sounded like an aftermarket exhaust system trying to make the V-6 sound cooler than it actually is.

From a visual standpoint, the Camaro looks like… well a Camaro. The lines have been cleaned up over the previous-gen adding more aggressive to the snout and a sportier, tighter rear end – representing Corvette styled tail lamps. Its Red Hot paint constantly had us on the lookout for any unwanted enforcers and with the $1950 RS Package heightened our curb appeal with those 20-inch wheels, HID Headlights with LED daytimes, LED tail lights and a different front grille.

One of the biggest draw backs to the last-gen Camaro was outward visibility. Nestled in the confines of simplicity – its needless to say, visibility has improved. Even with a small windshield, you can see out into the world and we enjoyed seeing the curvature of the nose against the road – even over the massive instrument cluster. Blind spots are still an issue, as with any coupe – but we all know you can fix that with your mirrors.

Simplicity goes a long way and with the Camaro’s new interior, that’s all it is. You won’t find fancy materials or shiny black finishes. Just some cleaver design cues and HVAC controls. You twist the vents for hot and cold – simple yet amazing! The touch screen infotainment is a bit awkward facing downward, but we get it, blocks out the sun glare.

While the Camaro may be a four person passenger vehicle – you’d have to be kidding if you were actually planning on putting someone in the back. The 2LT comes with both power adjustable drive and passengers and the best luxurious feature in Arizona – ventilated seats. The adjustments are minimal but the seats overall provide a comfortable balance of long term driving and body contouring lateral support.

Optioning for the V-6 in the Camaro is most likely going to be the most popular option amongst consumers. And at $35,000 it’s the affordable sports car everyone can love without breaking the bank.

Price (As Tested):
2016 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT Manual: $29,800
Destination: $995
Performance Specs:
3.6-liter  V-6 – 335-horsepower/284lb-ft of torque – 0-60 MPH: ±5.0 seconds
EPA MPG: 18/27/22 (city/highway/combined) – SSB Average: 22 MPG’s | Fuel Range: 340 miles
Featured Options:
Front License Plate Bracket: $15
Dual Mode Exhaust: $895
3.6-liter V-6: $1,495
RS Package: $1,950
Grand Total: $35,150