The fourth-generation Chevy Camaro was a huge hit when it came out for 2010, rebooting the legendary nameplate and helping to kickstart the sheer insanity in the muscle car segment we enjoy today. But most of America got its first look at the new Camaro in Michael Bay’s Transformers movie in 2007. The iconic nameplate had disappeared six years earlier, and now, less than a year since a retro-modern concept had made the auto show rounds, it was only fitting that this American icon was reintroduced in the most all-American way possible: through strategic product planning.
Since then, the Camaro has only gotten better, while the Transformers movies… well, they’re still making them. But lots of people are still paying to see them! And the Camaro plays a central role in the movies as Bumblebee, an advance scout for the Autobots, catalyst for the whole franchise, and (despite his unfortunate doping scandal in the mid ’90s) a member of the Transformers Hall of Fame. So for the latest installment, Transformers: The Last Knight, Chevy has given its latest Camaro an “aggressive” new look, announced by Michael Bay on Twitter.
The all-new 2016 Camaro is one of the most exciting cars of the year. Faster, lower, and lighter than the fourth-generation car, the Camaro has finally ditched the retro look, and has become the crisp driver’s car it’s always deserved to be. It can still be the straight-line brute it’s always been, but if you spec one just right, say with the 330-horsepower V6, six-speed manual, and 1LE suspension package, you could have an honest-to-God world-class sports car — not just a muscle car — for under $30K. This Camaro comes as close to brilliance as the car’s ever been. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the new Bumblebee.
General Motors has long been proud of its Transformers connection, even allowing scenes to be shot at its proving grounds in Michigan. In 2010, Chevy it released the “Transformers Special Edition” for LT and SS models. The cars were Rally Yellow, with black racing stripes, Autobot badges on the front fenders and wheel center caps, along with Transformers and Autobot logos scattered throughout the car. It was a sleeper car, in the sense that your neighbors wouldn’t know whether you were really into a children’s action movie or if your car actually was an alien robot that would crush their house if they pissed you off.
But those were relatively minor changes compared to the 2016 Bumblebee, which looks like it was designed by the film’s pyrotechnics crew on a smoke break. The Camaro’s front fascia has been replaced with a redesigned blackout panel that makes it look uncomfortably like a Malibu coupe. We like the new Malibu, of course, but its look doesn’t exactly jibe with the rest of the Camaro’s lines. And speaking of those lines, they’re cluttered by fender vents that seem to turn into NACA ducts for some reason, side spoilers, an aggressive aero kit that doesn’t seem like it would do much given the car’s ride height, and a spoiler that wouldn’t look out of place on a Subaru WRX STI.
At the end of the day, the Camaro is great, Transformers: The Last Knight is just a movie, and we doubt Chevy will put this new fascia into production for a few thousand special edition cars. But it’s still hard to see such a good-looking car so thoroughly screwed up and know that it’s going to make an impression on millions. We can’t help but think Chevy should’ve just left it looking stock and let the car do the talking. There is such a thing as trying too hard, even in a Michael Bay movie.