Chevrolet Camaro goes public

New sixth generation is lighter and stiffer than model it replaces

Published: May 16, 2015, 8:35 PM
Updated: May 18, 2015, 5:13 PM

Sixth generation Chevrolet Camaro is unveiled to the public. - Sixth generation Chevrolet Camaro is unveiled to the public

As you read this, Chevrolet is introducing an all-new Camaro in a public ceremony. The car will be completely new with reportedly only two parts carried over.

Most evident for the sixth generation Camaro is the swoopy new look, arrived at after 350 hours of wind-tunnel testing

“The importance of aerodynamics increases exponentially as we increase vehicle performance,” said Kirk Bennion, Exterior Design manager. “As engine output increases, we need more engine cooling. As acceleration and top speeds climb, we need to reduce lift for better high-speed stability. However, we cannot make any changes at the expense of increasing drag, which can hurt fuel economy.

“To balance these different aerodynamic targets, we tested literally hundreds of changes on the new Camaro, millimeters at a time,” he added.

As an example of that fine tuning, Bennion points to the lower grille bars. The initial design called for them to be set at a 20-degree angle to the horizon. However, shifting the angle to 13 degrees was found to improve engine cooling by one percent and still achieve the airflow target without changing the grilled design. And then they did away with the traditional performance car air dam by using a flush belly pan under the engine, and added small “spats” in front of the tires. The end result was a 30 percent reduction in lift.

The changes all came about as a result of the adoption of GM’s global Alpha architecture for rear-wheel and all-wheel drive cars, which is also used on the new Cadillac ATS and CTS. The only two components carried over from the fifth generation model are the SS badge and the bowtie on the taillamp panel.

“Alpha provided a strong foundation, but more than 70 percent of the components are unique to the Gen 6 Camaro, including exterior and interior dimensions, an all-new interior, front and rear suspension, and powertrain components,” said Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president, Global Product Development. “The minute you see – and hear – the Gen 6, you know it’s a Camaro, from the stance to the driving experience to the sound of the Small Block V-8.”

Among the uniqueness is the front structure developed specifically for Camaro. It is lengthened, to keep with car’s iconic long-hood profile, and the track has been widened to provide a more stable stance, especially evident in cornering manoeuvres.

To aid the dynamics, the car has been made 28 percent stiffer, although it is also roughly 200 lbs. lighter. That allowed engineers to finely tune steering and suspension (made 21 percent lighter, with aluminum with composite materials components, on some models) to better handle the forces of performance driving.

“The structural weight savings are compounded by opportunities to reduce un-sprung weight,” said Jim Karlavage, Camaro program engineering manager. “The result is a more nimble driving experience that rewards the driver with satisfying feelings of responsiveness and control.”

Dozens of small changes went into shedding pounds. One example is the aluminum beam that supports the instrument panel and saves nearly 10 pounds from the current Camaro steel beam while providing a stiffer support.

And although Camaro is one of the best examples of American Iron simplicity, the new version will have a healthy injection of technology, with a new Drive Mode Selector that tailors the driving dynamics to specific uses — Snow/Ice, Tour, Sport and Track (on SS models). Each setting optimizes throttle progression, steering and stability control, among other calibrations.

“We wanted to build on the flexibility of the current Camaro ZL1, which is great for grand touring, commuting, the drag strip and track days,” said Aaron Link, Camaro lead development engineer. “The new Camaro will be even more adaptable, with up to eight vehicle attributes adjusted to fit a driver’s preference.”

The Camaro SS will also have Magnetic Ride Control for the first time, with three active damping presets – Tour, Sport and Track – to adjust the ride and handling balance. From there, it reads road and driver inputs 1,000 times per second, and automatically adjusts the dampers on the fly.

And to top it all off, there is an enhanced dual-mode exhaust system that under aggressive acceleration uses electronically controlled valves to bypass the mufflers, providing improved performance and adding aural pleasure to the driving mix. It also has a “stealth” mode and a more aggressive “track” mode.

The 2016 Camaro will come with six powertrain combinations – 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, 3.6 V6 and 6.2 V8, each with a choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. Respective power outputs are 275, 335 and 455 horsepower. Reuss says the new car achieves lap times faster than the previous SS with the 1LE package.

We’ll have more on the new Camaro, once we have a chance to try it out.

–Jeremy Sinek contributed to this story