Review: 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS | I don't blog, but if I did...

Review: 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS

The new Camaro arrived earlier this year as a 2016 model. A long-awaited replacement for the outgoing Camaro generation, which started production in 2007, the new Camaro doesn’t disappoint. GM deserves to be proud, this is a truly great car.

As a general rule, the first release of a new car model usually looks great, but still leaves something on the table for the mid-cycle refresh. The Camaro falls into this category for me – there’s room for subtle improvement. I do love the new proportions. The new model is shorter, wider, and shorter than the outgoing model, meaning that its stance is a lot more aggressive. The old model looked thick, and tall from certain angles. The new model still looks substantial, but it has carved away some of the slab-sidedness of the old car, and left a wide, low, menacing-looking car.

The new Camaro doesn’t impart a light, cheerful feeling that I get from the new Mustang. Whenever I approached my Camaro SS tester, I always got the feeling it was not having a good day, and it intended to take out its frustration on the road.

And that might seem like totally ridiculous hyperbole… Right up until you get in and start it up.

BARK!

It doesn’t just start, it startles. The Camaro SS’ dual-mode exhaust is fantastically loud on start up. It wakes as though it was in the middle of a nightmare. Then it settles down and purrs. It’s truly a fantastic bit of drama. I love it.

As you’re sitting, enjoying the start up ritual, you’re surrounded by a cabin that looks similar to the old model’s in many ways, but is now more mature, and surprisingly premium-feeling. The outgoing model’s interior was all compromise. Style was being used to cover up the fact that all the money had been spent on the mechanicals of the car and there wasn’t enough dosh left over for a nice interior. The new car’s interior clearly got some much-needed attention, and they did a really wonderful job of it. It is lousy with stitched leather. Nice mixtures of gloss and matte blacks are broken up by chrome and polished aluminum accents. This is a nice cabin.

The touch screen in the middle of the dash does most of the heavy lifting, while a thin row of buttons takes care of the climate control duties, including the heated and cooled seats. Yes, it has cooled seats. No joke. But there were more surprises, too. It also had a heated steering wheel, power driver and passenger seats with memory, head’s up display, adjustable suspension, and variable volume exhaust system, to name a few.  The Camaro has more tech and convenience than the BMW X5 M Sport I drove this year. This is like finding out that amazing singer you love so much can also act, and dance, and play 5 instruments. Colour me impressed.

The instrument cluster is really a nice feature. There’s a large digital display sandwiched between the physical tachometer and speedometer.  It has several modes that allow you monitor all manner of things.  It’s one of those things you’ll probably spend a couple days tinkering with when you first get the car, and then never touch again for the remainder of your ownership.

The Camaro still has a fair bit of the “sitting in a deep bathtub” feeling left over from the old car, even though the reduced height does seem to have lowered the window sills somewhat. The high window sills are a function of the car’s styling, though. You can’t have the menacing look without the high, narrow window openings any more than you could have Clint Eastwood’s “go ahead, make my day” line spoken with his eyes wide open.

On the road, the high windows are not something you spend much time thinking about.  The blind spot would be a pain, except the Camaro’s ferocious performance means you’re very seldom needing to look back.

The Camaro SS’ 6.2L, 455hp V8 motor is a work of art. The sound emanating from the dual mode exhaust is intoxicating. It begs to be rolled through the gears at full throttle, then allowed to run down the RPM range as it burbles and pops. The shifting action of the 6-speed manual is chunky but not crude, and is befitting of the whole muscle car experience.

The suspension in my tester was absolutely fantastic. It features magnetic ride control, allowing the shocks to go from comfortable, to racetrack-firm in a fraction of a second. Doing so is accomplished by toggling the drive mode selector in the center console. A testament to the Camaro’s poise and outstanding chassis is the fact that it’s completely reasonable to drive around all the time in the car’s most aggressive mode – “Track”.  While the “Sport” setting is probably the sweet spot, the “Tour” mode does make the car quieter and more comfortable for choppy downtown streets. There’s a “Snow/Ice” setting for those brave enough to let this thing out in the winter – I didn’t have an opportunity to test that, though.

Around a corner, the Camaro is ferocious. It’s got grip for days. And when you push the go pedal, you’re pressed into your seat. The Camaro feels like a proper sports car. What I found after a week of driving it as much as I possibly could, is that it was sporty enough to make me feel tired after driving it. In part this is because spirited driving is what it begs for, and that wears on you. Rowing through the gears, pressing harder than usual around on-ramps to the highway. And this, in a nutshell, is what formed my final opinion on of the new Chevy Camaro.

The new Camaro SS is brilliant, no denying it. It begs comparison to cars costing far more… *cough* BMW M4 *cough*.  That said, if someone asked me if the Camaro was the car for them, I would have to give them a qualified response. If you’re looking for a weekend cruiser, a car that you can take out expressly for a drive on a Saturday afternoon, and don’t intend to use it for every little errand and shopping excursion, then yes, the Camaro must be on your shopping list. This is very likely the car for you. However, if you’re envisioning living with the Camaro SS, all 455hp of it, every day, I would tell you this is too much car. It may actually be too good. Let me explain: Using the Camaro SS everyday begins to feel like using a hydraulic press to make orange juice, or a strapping 15hp outboard motor to a bucket to mix your cake batter. Yes, it will be fun, no doubt. But it’s just too much for every day use.

I am left wondering if V6 version might be the tamer, sweet-spot Camaro…  but that V8, though…

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