Somewhere prior to the development of the Gen-Five Camaro, Chevrolet lost sight of its pony car heritage. Its aggressive retro styling and 6.2 liter LS3 V8 engine made the car an instant sales hit, but most 2010-2015 Camaros were admittedly more fun to gaze at than drive on a daily commute.
When its iconic pony car was first released to the public in 1967, Chevrolet decided on the name “Camaro” because an old French dictionary said it meant “friend” or “companion.” As painful as it may be to answer honestly, you can never lie to your friends when when they ask, “Does this outfit make me look fat?”
Though its refreshed front fascia and slim grille in 2014 tried desperately to hide it, the Gen-Five Camaros weren’t always the most dedicated bunch at Weight Watchers meetings. With the base 2015 SS coupe tipping the scales at 3,908 pounds, the Camaro is heftier than the most of the sedans in Chevrolet’s lineup.
Prior to designing the next generation of cars, Camaro chief engineer Al Oppenhesier met with thousands of Camaro owners who provided feedback on what they loved about their Camaro and what could be improved for the 2016 models. From the answers he received, it became clear that trying to disguise Miss Piggy with a slimming body wrap wasn’t going cut it.
The most notable change in 2016 is the Camaro’s move to the Alpha platform, that is shared with the Cadillac ATS and CTS. The compact chassis sheds more than 200 pounds from each model through its use of aluminum suspension components and a shortened wheelbase and overall length. These improvements have increased the Camaro’s structural rigidity by 28%, enabling the Gen-Six SS to deliver faster lap times than last generation’s 1LE track-prepped model.
While the new Camaro has been slimming down, the Gen-Six Mustang has abandoned its well-regimented diet to show off its new curves. The 2015 base GT manual is 86 pounds heavier than the previous generation and weighs in at 3,704 pounds. With the near-equal weight between the two competitors no longer a deciding factor, pony car enthusiasts not sworn to brand loyalty are likely to make their decision based on the different powertrain options available with each model.
Though many fan boys refuse to even utter the words, the Gen-Six Camaro and Mustang are both available with turbocharged four-cylinder engines. In fact, it’s standard fare in the Camaro. While it may not make the hair on the back of your neck stand up like the throaty rumble of a V8 or even the raspy tone of a V6, it will throw you back against the driver’s seat all the same and accelerate to 60 miles per hour in under six seconds.
Surprisingly, the Camaro’s 2.0 liter LTG Ecotec four-cylinder cranks out 275 horsepower and a hearty 295 pound-feet of torque without sacrificing fuel economy. With a GM-estimated 30 miles per gallon on the highway, it will be the most fuel efficient Camaro ever. The 2.3 liter EcoBoost four-cylinder feels a little more at home in the Mustang, thanks to the performance legacy of the 1984-1986 SVOs. Due to its displacement advantage, it also packs a greater punch, with 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet in comparison.
If you simply can’t fathom the sound of a four-banger beneath the bonnet and the power of either V8 is a little too extreme for your taste, then perhaps a six-cylinder Mustang or Camaro is the pony for you. Chevy’s all new 3.6 liter LGX V6 makes its debut in the Gen-Six Camaro with direct injection, variable valve timing and active fuel management. With a segment-leading 335 horsepower and 284 pound-feet, the LGX bests Ford’s 3.7 liter Duratec V6 by 35 horses.
Though such pony races will still provide good entertainment, it’s the Kentucky Derby showdown between the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse that will determine the true champion of the segment with the V8-powered Camaro SS and Mustang GT racing for the title. With 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet, Ford’s 5.0 liter Coyote V8 falls well short of Chevy’s new 6.2 liter LT1 by 25 horsepower and whopping 55 pound-feet of torque.
Though the numbers do tell a story, the battle between the two pony cars is far from over and will not be settled until they see the track. Without a doubt, the Camaro’s move to the Alpha chassis and impressive powertrain options are sure to close the distance in the Pony Car race, but will it be enough to reclaim its title?
Like everyone else, we can’t wait to get in the drivers seat and find out.