Camaro Keeps to Tradition as Mustang Goes Modern

Camaro Keeps to Tradition as Mustang Goes Modern

Ford’s next pony car will be offered with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but Camaro fans don’t need to worry. Chevrolet is committed to keeping its muscle car rooted in boisterous big-engine territory. 

“We’re not following Ford,” said Camaro chief engineer Al Oppenheiser during the SEMA Show while speaking about whether or not the Blue Oval’s choice to include a forced-induction four pot will weigh on future Camaros.

“As long as they’ll pay me to be the chief engineer, I’m going to fight for every horsepower I can and every cylinder I can,” he said.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Ford Mustang 4-Cylinder Turbo Confirmed for U.S.

It’s a reassuring if not predictable answer from the man largely responsible for Chevrolet’s current hot streak of high-performing pony cars. The Z/28 is perhaps the best indication of GM’s current attitude toward engine size: its 7.0-liter LS7 dwarfs everything else in the segment.

“It’s kind of the golden era of the pony car,” he said. But that doesn’t mean the General is ready to ignore impending changes to fuel economy standards.

2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z28“In the future – something I don’t think the public realizes yet – there may be a day when nobody: Ford, Chrysler or GM has a V8, or if they do it would be a very highly priced V8 because you’ve got to add your whole stable of cars and come up with a fuel economy number.”

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Government mandated corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards will be revised in 2016 and again in 2025 in an effort to force manufacturers to tone down their tendency toward gas-thirsty performance cars.

“I would be remiss to say that we don’t have to comply with fuel economy standards in the future,” he said. But the question about how that will happen remains. There are certain track goals that each version of the Camaro is required to meet before it can gain final approval. According to Oppenheiser, being able to meet those standards boils down to three key areas: how much a vehicle weighs, the output of its engine and lateral grip from the tires.

Since the Camaro’s resurrection in 2010, Oppenheiser says his team has been careful not to stray from the original message behind revived editions of the car. Speaking of the third- and fourth-generations, he said Chevrolet lost its way. “We used names for marketing reasons that didn’t stay true to the definition,” referring to past Z/28s that didn’t live up to the track-focused original among others while pledging that under his supervision those mistakes wouldn’t be repeated.

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In saying so, he also hinted at the future, saying that going too small in either body or engine would raise questions about whether or not the Camaro should continue at all. “We’ve established what the Camaro is. And if the Camaro ceases to become a Camaro, you’ve got to consider: Do you take Camaro out in the future,” he said, hinting that he would sooner kill the car off than water it down.

SEE ALSO: Watch the 2014 Camaro Z28 Lap the Nurburing Faster than a Porsche 911

With a refreshed version arriving for the 2014 model year, Chevrolet still has room to plan its next attack. There’s a lot up in the air right now, too. Current Camaros are built on General Motor’s Zeta platform developed by Australian subsidiary Holden and first implemented in 2006. By the time Chevrolet is ready to unveil its next-generation Camaro, the number of vehicles build on Zeta will have dwindled to a trickle. Commodore sales are already floundering to the point where Holden reduced the price for this model year by almost $10,000 on certain models. With fewer Zeta vehicles being built, it might make sense for Chevrolet to change platforms a few years down the line.

chevrolet-silverado-cheyenne-concept-5Premium lightweight materials like carbon fiber will also be a serious consideration, although nothing has been solidified at such an early stage. The 2014 Corvette Stingray uses aluminum and carbon fiber to save weight and improve rigidity, and Chevrolet could reduce overall costs by spreading the material through more cars.

It also uses a seven-speed manual transmission. “If it’s a fuel economy enabler, we would definitely look at it,” he said when asked if that transmission might work its way into future versions of the Camaro.

Carbon fiber is still expensive, but it might be more likely to reach lower cost GM products than you think. During a separate conversation at a GM event in Las Vegas, Chevrolet Performance design manager Dave Ross spoke about the Silverado Cheyenne concept’s (pictured) extensive use of carbon fiber. It features a chin spoiler, mirror caps and most notably an entire bed made of the woven material. He hinted that GM’s increased use of carbon fiber might make it more feasible in less expensive products soon, but declined to say how close that day could be or in which vehicles.

“I think you’re going to see a lot more use of premium materials to lightweight cars, because in the end, it’s still going to come down to ‘How fast can the mustang and the Camaro get down the quarter-mile track, 0-60 and around a racetrack,'” he said.

GALLERY: 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z28


Discuss this story at our Camaro Forum.

  • jimmbongo

    Sometimes it is difficult to understand these so-called auto reporters. No one has ever seen or driven the new Mustang, they are already comparing it to Camaro as a modern car. How can someone compare two cars – the 2014 Camaro and Mustang – two cars you have never seen – the 2014 Mustang – or driven – the 2014 Camaro?
    I just don’t get it… just don’t get it…
    What do you people have against GM?

  • Chewbrah

    Looks like you missed the point completely. This isn’t an admonishment of GM at all. If anything it’s positive.

  • joe

    Sounds like you’re twisting his words around to make YOUR point, Mr. Vandezande, not the chief engineer’s …I recommend you return to journalism class and practice reporting the facts…nowhere in your own article did I find a quote from the chief engineer supporting your entire angle of the Camaro not using a four cylinder engine….or not “going modern”, as you insinuate the Mustang is, and Camaro is not.

    Quite shameless, shallow reporting on your part if you ask me.

    Oh – and if, anybody who pretends to understand the auto industry has an ounce of real knowledge…you’ll realize quite quickly that federal CAFE standards are going to make a four-cylinder almost necessary in the next-gen Camaro. I would be very surprised if this doesn’t happen. Good news is…the Buick Regal GS and Cadillac ATS 2.0T prove this doesn’t mean the cars have to be slow and gutless!

  • Guion Mccoy

    Luke, your article is horrible in that it’s misleading and basically takes things out of context, and it’s pretty obvious you didn’t do it accidently….First of all, a 4 cylinder Camaro IS being considered, and is currently on the books. BUT that doesn’t mean that performance Camaros won’t exist just like a turbo 4 in Mustang isn’t going to exclude the 420+hp 5.0 V8. You as an automobile journalist should know better than slanting your story in a way that confuses base engines with top powerplants……also, you ignore that GM is committed to compeating with Mustang at ALL LEVELS! If Ford does something, GM is going to one up them……Finally, your whole premise that Mustang “goes modern and that’s bad” is to be honest downright idiotic. The last Camaro died because it DIDN’T “Go Modern”. A pony car today CAN NOT survive unless it pulls in new buyers, and GM is committed to this just as much as Ford is. I can promise you the next Camaro WILL be modern, and will be competitive against everything from Mustangs to Infiniti coupes…… I’ve also written articles for car magazines, and I know first hand that sometimes editors want you to blow things out of proportion to get readers, and come up with attention grabbing headlines. If this happened in this case, pass this on to your editor that he needs to either be realistic and advertise the article itself in the headlines or go work for the National Enquirer. There was a lot of good info in the story, but it was ruined by the added BS.

  • Fred2202350

    The author does seem to be playing Chicken Little to some degree, but I’ll bet it’d be interesting to stick this in a drawer then pull it out and read it in about 10 years. I’ve got 6 cars, and none of them are now V8’s – sold the last one nearly 3 years ago. I’ve gotta admit I hope we don’t wind up here with something like my Citroën AX at my family’s home in Italy. It’s 1.1L does just fine, but it only weighs less than 1,800 lbs, and I don’t think it would be fun to have an accident at the 83 mph speed limit.