New & Used Chevrolet Camaro: In Depth
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The Chevrolet Camaro is a two-door, 2+2 piece of American muscle-car history that's currently available as a coupe or convertible in a wide variety of models. Like the competing Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang, the Camaro is recognizable even by those who don't follow or have much enthusiasm for cars. A new Camaro will debut soon for the 2016 model year.
Available in current form in base, RS, SS, 1LE, ZL1, and Z/28 versions, the Camaro's range of normally aspirated V-6 and V-8 as well as supercharged V-8 engines spans a wide spectrum of performance. Camaros are, as they always have been, rear-wheel-drive cars that put style and performance over other requirements.
MORE: Read our 2015 Chevy Camaro review
Introduced in 1967 as a response to the stunning success of the Ford Mustang, the Camaro has had its ups and downs in more than 40 years on the car scene. Paired until recently with a companion Pontiac Firebird, the Camaro has been offered in five different generations as a two-door sports coupe, with V-6 or V-8 power and rear-wheel drive. Special editions have included the Camaro RS, Camaro SS, and Camaro IROC-Z, and convertible and T-top body styles. Until 2002, GM had built the Camaro in each model year for 35 consecutive years, but GM decided to kill the muscle car in 2002, ending production of the composite-bodied Camaro in Canada.
The Camaro nameplate wasn't revived until the 2010 model year, when the current car was launched in coupe form. It retained the same basic setup—a choice of V-6 or V-8 engines, manual or automatic transmissions, and rear-wheel drive—but was somewhat larger than the car that preceded it. It uses a rear-drive architecture that was originally planned for use throughout GM, including in Buick and Cadillac luxury vehicles, but to date it has only found a home under the Pontiac G8, a handful of Holdens, the Chevy Caprice fleet vehicle, and Chevy's SS sedan. GM builds today's Camaro at its factory in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.
The modern Camaro takes cues from the classic Sixties models. The homage pieces include vent-like indents in front of the rear wheels and the brow over the headlights. The interior of the new Camaro uses square gauges and additional meters at the base of the center stack, as well as a deep-dish steering wheel that recalls the 1967 model's.
Base editions of today's Camaro get a 323-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 used in other GM cars, coupled to six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes. The Camaro SS borrows the previous-generation Corvette's 6.2-liter V-8, offering it in two detuned strengths—a 400-hp version with a six-speed automatic, and a 426-hp variant of the engine teamed to the six-speed manual. Convertible versions are available for both the SS and the V-6 models.
New for 2012 was the ZL1, a 580-horsepower supercharged beast that rides on magnetic dampers and bears an even fiercer look than the SS. It was joined in the 2013 model year by a convertible edition.
Older Camaros have been derided for clunky handling from live-axle rear ends; today's Camaro rides on an independent rear suspension and simply drives better, smoother, and with less twitchiness than ever before. That's even more the case with the SS and with its 1LE package, which gets tires sized identically front to back, stiffer anti-roll bars, and other suspension revisions to give it neutral, track-ready handling. There's even a special Hot Wheels edition for the nostalgic collector.
An updated 2014 Camaro brought slightly redefined looks, including a rather significant visual re-working of the front of the Camaro, with a narrower headlight and grille opening adding a dose of aggression. (ZL1 models kept the older front end for better cooling.) The 2014 Camaro also saw the return of the famous Z/28 model--in a more fiercely track-inspired form than ever.
The 2015 Camaro carries forward 2014's updates essentially unchanged. Chevy is offering several special editions, including the Green Flash and Commemorative Edition models, which play with the aesthetics and add various options to create new packages. This is the last year of this Camaro generation so Chevy wants the model to go out in style as well as with strong sales numbers.
The next-generation Camaro will share the Alpha rear-drive architecture with the Cadillac CTS sedan and ATS sedan and coupe. Though it hasn't officially confirmed that sharing between the cars, GM has said it will move Camaro production from Canada to Michigan--to the same plant near Lansing that now builds the ATS. The next Camaro is expected to be smaller and lighter, with a more nimble feel and improved fuel economy. This should help it better compete with the all-new Ford Mustang. Chevy is teasing the launch of the new, sixth-generation Camaro, which will happen on May 16, 2015. So far, Chevy has shown the updated badge, the wheels, the brakes, and an unclothed rear view of the structure, all the while promising that the new components are lighter and contribute to overall weight reduction—something the Camaro sorely needs to stay competitive with the latest Mustang.
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