2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS Review: Curbed with Craig Cole

Why Eight is Great

My first drive of the all-new Chevy Camaro was about six months ago on a trip from Salt Lake City up to Bozeman, Montana. 

Unfortunately, it was in the fall … on all-season tires … during an ice storm. It took 150 percent of my concentration just to keep it out of the ditch during this harrowing trip. Since my first Camaro encounter, I’ve driven it on a couple other occasions, though curiously only V6-powered examples. Chevy’s eight-cylinder offering has eluded me, until now.

Heat-Seeking MiSSile

And it was worth the wait! SS models features GM’s potent 6.2-liter LT1, a modern-day descendant of the original small block that was introduced back in the 1950s.

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While practically every other automaker has abandoned pushrods in favor of overhead camshafts, this venerable V8 still uses 16 of the buggers to operate its valves. This configuration is a total throwback, but it delivers heady numbers, in this case, 455 horsepower and an equal amount of torque. That’s 20 more thoroughbreds than the Mustang GT can supply, along with and extra 55 lb-ft of twist, and this is in spite of the Ford having a quartet of bump-sticks, 32 valves and phasers on each camshaft!

The Camaro’s prodigious power is a given, but against expectations, the efficiency figures it’s graced with are nothing to scoff at. Direct injection and variable valve timing help improve flexibility and fuel economy. When equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, like our test car had, the SS should return 16 miles per gallon in the city, 25 highway and 19 mpg combined, which is not bad at all.

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Of course, for people that feel so inclined, you can also get one of these with an eight-speed automatic. It makes the car more efficient and likely even faster, but like bringing bacon-wrapped scallops to a Ramadan potluck, it’s in poor taste, plus it’s an extra $1,495! In our opinion, that’s money wasted, as the Tremec TR-6060 manual gearbox is damn good.

Basic Performance

The Camaro I spent a week with was equipped with 1SS trim, which is the most basic version that’s available with a V8 engine. Honestly, it’s the one I’d get if I were spending my own greenbacks because with cloth seats, a stick and no bulls–t, it’s incredibly straightforward, offering just what you need and nothing you don’t.

An entry-level SS stickers for a little more than $37,000 including $995 in freight charges. That’s a healthy upcharge over the most-basic six-cylinder model, $9,105 to be exact. That’s just $4,552.50 per cylinder, what a value!

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The tester we evaluated was optioned up with a handful of juicy extras including 20-inch wheels, which tacked an extra $1,995 on the window sticker; GM’s fantastic Magnetic Ride Control suspension system inflated the price by an additional $1,695; finally, a rip-snorting dual-mode exhaust added $895 to the bottom line, though the muscle-car thunder this provides at wide-open throttle is probably worth 10 times as much.

Out the door, our bright red 1SS cost $40,885 including shipping and handling, a pretty penny to be certain, but still within reach of the everyman if he’s willing to take out a home-equity loan or sell a few organs.

Stunning Speed, Lackluster Cabin

The new Camaro is a treat to drive, but not everything about it is so enjoyable. The car’s cockpit is something of a mixed bag. There’s a lot of hard plastic inside, though it is reasonably attractive and the assembly quality is quite good.

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This car’s main display screen is angled downward toward the console, which not only looks weird but also makes it more difficult to use. Why did they do this?

And then there’s the outward visibility. Even after a week in the captain’s chair, I never got used to the Camaro’s Ray Charles sightlines, which are cripplingly bad.

The Drive

But these faults can be largely forgiven once you start driving the sixth-generation Camaro. Thanks to GM’s excellent Alpha architecture, which it shares with the Cadillac ATS, SS versions of this bow-tie muscle-machine have lost more than 220 pounds!

With a lightweight body and tons of power, it can hit 60 miles an hour in the four-second range. In fact, it’s scary fast. From a standstill you go first, second, 85, what’s my bail be set at, your honor? Why do you need a Z/28 or a ZL1? Unless you literally live at a track, the SS model is more than enough.

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Aside from its engaging dynamics, the sound this Camaro makes is also enthralling. It burbles and pops, rumbles and snorts like an uncorked racecar, sounds that come courtesy of that optional exhaust system.

This car’s chassis is tight and communicative. The clutch is somewhat hefty but easy to modulate thanks to a relatively broad engagement range. As for the shifter, you’d best focus on your upper body during workouts, as it takes considerable effort to stir the Tremec’s gears; the tradeoff for this high-effort shifting is the TR-6060’s irrefutable toughness.

Beyond all of this, the Camaro’s magnetic ride control system allows you to completely change the suspension feel, from smooth and supple to kidney-jolting, all at the push of a button; it’s pretty fricken amazing how well this technology works, providing you with the best of both worlds.

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Likewise, the automatic rev-matching feature that’s included with the manual gearbox makes you look like a racing pro even if you’re just a bro. It quickly blips the throttle for perfect downshifts every single time, though the Camaro is so easy to drive smoothly I just left this feature off and rev-matched the old-fashioned way.

And then there’s the steering, which feels dense yet at the same time micrometer precise. Its standard Brembo brakes have more bite than an alligator and the chassis, well, it’s a masterpiece. Who needs a BMW M4 coupe when you can have all this for around 42 grand, with nicer styling and likely lower ownership costs?

The Verdict: 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS Review

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The SS trim takes everything that’s commendable about lesser Camaros and cranks it up, giving you more speed, sound and style. Sure, it may not be a perfect car, with several critical vulnerabilities, but God damn is it fun!

Discuss this review on our Camaro Forum

  • Mark S

    So good is so many ways, but not good to hear that even after a week of driving that the visibility issue still annoys. The chassis, engine and interior all work for me, magnetic ride and manual, what is not to like.

    Create a new SS on the Alpha platform with this engine, with manual option, MR, and then hopefully many folks would break the bank to own one. Would say the same for the ATS, but the MSRP would be seriously high.

  • TK421

    Chevy will have to go back and refresh this car within a year due to the visibility issues. That’s all you hear about and the sales #s are not good at all. They had a chance to knock this out of the park and for some stupid reason they made visibility worse. Drop the belt line by an 1″ and raise the roof by an 1″ and you solve the issue. Just is amazing they let this design out the door and came up with some BS excuse that Camaro enthusiasts didn’t want visibility.

  • Mark S

    Not sure why that had a 40% drop in sales, hopefully June and July will better. Honda did some amazing quick changes to the last gen Civic, but the roof line is a biggie. Would they need to do crash tests again (including roll over)? if yes, sounds a big deal. Best guess is that the earliest they could do anything is mid cycle refresh. Am a big fan of the look of the 60’s Camaro, that had a great greenhouse.

  • Isend2C

    So Cole which would you rather have? This or a performance pack Mustang GT?

    The gearing on the GT is much shorter too so I’ve heard it feels faster because of more shifting and getting near the redline more often, plus you can see out of it, put stuff in the boot and it’s cheaper.

  • STAN24

    I’ve driven a 5th gen since fall ’09. Visibility IS somewhat limited, but it took less than a day to get used to it enough to drive just fine on the street (and that coming from someone who’d only driven great visibility economy cars prior to then). Multiple reviews have stated that visibility has actually improved for the 6th gen, particularly a lower hood line and thinner A pillars, the latter always being the most troublesome in my experience. Unfortunately, whining about the visibility has become something of a past time for auto reviewers when it comes to the Camaro, for whom driving multiple new cars every year is part of the job. For them the visibility issue may be more pronounced, despite the fact that for the average car buyer a small amount of time behind the wheel will leave them perfectly capable of driving a Camaro well.

  • craigcole

    That’s a tough call! I haven’t been in a Mustang GT in a long time, but the Coyote V8 is sooooooo good; it’s super smooth and has a reedy-sounding rumble that I love. The 6.2 in the Camaro is more powerful and has more torque, but Ford’s 5.0-liter is smoother and revs better. I’d probably pick the Mustang because of the engine (even if it is a little slower) and better visibility, but I suspect the Camaro drives better overall.