There’s a lot to like about the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro.
This car is fast, engaging and gorgeous from just about every angle, but it has one potentially deal-breaking flaw. Just like the previous-generation model, outward visibility is its Achilles’ heel. You can’t see out of it.
Camaros sit close to the ground and their roofs are pushed low, something that decreases the amount of side glass to an almost comical degree. Exacerbating things, their windshields and backlights are tiny as well. From a usability standpoint, these design choices are troublesome, but it does enhance the car’s sporty appearance; let’s be honest, it looks pretty badass.
But with all of the resources and engineering capability at its disposal, why didn’t GM correct this fault, which has been around since the previous-generation car debuted half-a-dozen years ago? The 2016 Camaro is a clean-sheet redesign, which gave designers and engineers ample opportunity to improve the sightlines. To get a straight answer, we asked Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer about this.
Well aware of its predecessor’s shortcomings, he said they considered raising the new car’s roof and lowering its beltline among other tweaks, all in a bid to improve visibility. But at the end of the day, they didn’t do any of this, and the reason why may surprise you.
Oppenheiser explained that his team typically doesn’t do clinics with the Camaro because “we pretty much know our customer.” But curiously, they did it anyway while developing the sixth-generation car.
SEE ALSO: 2016 Chevrolet Camaro Review
He said they brought in a group of people to evaluate the previous Camaro alongside rivals like the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Nissan 370Z. Customers compared these cars side by side and were asked how they’d improve each one.
With the Chevy, Oppenheiser said participants voiced their concerns about the bad visibility. “They got to the Camaro and [we] said ‘What would you tell Chevrolet about the Camaro if you could redesign it, if you helped give input to the next one?’ And they said ‘Well, I can’t see out of it.’ ”
This is valid, if obvious feedback. However, according to Oppenheiser, customers didn’t want to sacrifice any of the Camaro’s signature design for better sightlines. When asked about this tradeoff he said, “They all went, ‘Don’t change it! We love the styling, that’s why we bought it!’” Drivers adore the way this car looks, even if it’s not necessarily easy to live with.
Making things a little better, Oppenheiser noted that customers suggested improving visibility by adding new technology. Features like blind-spot monitoring and an improved backup camera are available in the 2016 Camaro.
Oppenheiser said the new car’s sightlines are improved over the previous-gen model, especially when it’s equipped with those new tech goodies. He also noted that the more time you spend in the new Camaro, the more familiar you get with its exterior dimensions. “If you spent six months in it, you’d learn to drive around it.” A week-long test isn’t necessarily enough time to really learn its exterior dimensions.
So that’s the story of why the Camaro is still difficult to see out of. As with many things, vanity has once again trumped practicality.
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