2016 Chevy Camaro ' is wicked fast, extremely nimble'

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. on Saturday revealed its sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro muscle car a leaner, more athletic version at a special event with hundreds of Camaro owners and fans gathered on Belle Isle.

The 2016 Camaro, on sale in the fourth quarter this year, drops more than 200 pounds, features new architecture, front and rear suspensions, new interior and three new engines. The Camaro now will come standard with a new 2-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers 275 horsepower and more than 30 miles per gallon fuel economy on the highway. V-6 and V-8 engines also are available.

The sporty next generation Camaro will be built at GM's Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant as production of the rear-wheel drive four-seater coupe moves from GM's Oshawa Assembly Plant in Ontario. GM CEO Mary Barra told reporters after the reveal that demand will determine whether Lansing Grand River adds back the second shift cut earlier this year, but she was hopeful.

GM says the new car is more nimble, handles better and delivers faster track times. Featuring a "stronger, more determined face," the next-gen Camaro looks lower and wider. But it actually shrinks. Its length is 2.3 inches shorter, it loses nearly an inch of width and more than an inch of height vs. the 2015 model.

"This is it, this is the all-new 2016 Camaro!"an excited Mark Reuss, GM's head of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, said as fans loudly cheered as three Camaros — in blue, gray and red — were driven onto a stage.

"I've driven this car on the Autobahn and Nürburgring," he added. "It is wicked fast and extremely nimble."

The four-cylinder offering isn't a first for Camaro (it had one in the 1980s), but it is the first turbocharged engine for the muscle car. Chevy says it will help Camaro to be the most fuel efficient ever and it will accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in "well under 6 seconds."

The 2016 Camaro gets a new 3.6-liter V-6 engine and the LT1 6.2-liter V-8 engine. That engine debuted on the Corvette Stingray and is certified at 455 horsepower and 455 foot-pounds of torque, making it the most powerful Camaro SS ever. That's up from 426 horsepower and 420 foot-pounds of torque in the current 6.2-liter V-8.

The Camaro now will come standard with a new 2-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers 275 horsepower and more than 30 miles per gallon fuel economy on the highway. V-6 and V-8 engines also are available.

The V-6 engine for the first time features cylinder deactivation that turns off two cylinders when not needed. The engine puts out 335 horsepower and 284 foot-pounds of torque, which Chevy says it is the most powerfully naturally aspirated V-6 in the segment.

Each engine is available with a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission.

"The driving experience is significantly different," Aaron Link, the Camaro's lead development engineer, said in a statement. "Immediately, you will notice how much lighter and nimble the Camaro feels. That feeling increases when you drive the Camaro harder — it brakes more powerfully, dives into corners quicker and accelerates faster than ever."

Camaro chief engineer Al Oppenheiser called the four-cylinder turbo a "sleeper" engine that customers will choose more than 15 to 20 percent of the time. In today's generation, the V-8 reigns supreme.

Oppenheiser said the four-cylinder turbo addition comes as GM faces government fuel economy regulations in 2025.

"If we don't start getting the world to understand what that really means, we won't be able to sell cars."

Ford Motor Co.'s new 2015 Ford Mustang, which went on sale in October, has been a sales hit. Its sales are up 60 percent this year, and Mustang has overtaken Camaro for the sales lead through the first four months this year. Camaro has outsold Mustang the past five years and Reuss told reporters it's "the aim" of the new Camaro to take back that sales crown. Dodge's Challenger sales also are up 40 percent this year.

Ford says its take rate for its new EcoBoost four-cylinder Mustang is 35 percent of sales to retail customers. The EcoBoost Mustang features 310 horsepower and 26 mpg combined with a manual transmission. The EcoBoost is an option on the Mustang and a V-6 engine in the pony car is standard.

Camaro acts as a halo car for the Chevrolet brand. Those who buy the sports coupe on average are younger, about 46 years old, and the Bumblebee character from the "Transformers" movies has helped Chevy create a new fan base. About 60 percent of customers are males, 40 percent are females and about 30 percent of purchases are people adding to their fleet of vehicles.

"We expect this car to inspire a whole new generation of customers to fall in love with Camaro just like all of you did," GM North America President Alan Batey said, adding he plans to buy one in red as soon as he can order one.

Styling is the No. 1 purchase consideration for the Camaro, according to Chevy.

"People who own this car are very emotional about how it makes them feel, either looking at it, or driving it," said Todd Christensen, Camaro marketing manager.

Karl Brauer, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book, said the fifth generation Camaro fared as well as it did because of pent up demand for Camaro given the several year absence between models. But the car has "terrible outward visibility" and needs a better interior and refined exterior looks. GM fixed many of those issues with the sixth-generation, including improving the material quality in the interior and improving exterior design by shaving off some hard lines, he said.

"It's going to do well because it's a really attractive vehicle inside and out," Brauer said.

For 2016, Camaro SS models have a special front look with unique hood featuring air vents and a special rear spoiler. The Camaro's front fender also gets a new insignia.

Chevy said customers will have 10 exterior color choices and five interior combinations.

Inside, the sixth generation Camaro gets a complete makeover with new features such a flat bottom steering wheel, control rings around air vents to set temperature and fan speed, Driver Mode Selector, instrument cluster that drivers can configurable and spectrum lighting with two dozen ambient lighting effects. An eight-inch screen showcases a new generation of Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system and the car gets an electronic parking brake and cupholders were repositioned.

Reuss said a new Camaro convertible also is coming. He wouldn't say when, other than "soon."

The 2016 Camaro will be available in LT and SS models. Pricing was not announced, nor specific fuel economy figures. The 2015 Camaro is priced from $24,700, including destination.