Chevrolet’s Camaro is one of the most exciting cars on the market today – it’s stylish and engaging yet still surprisingly affordable.
So far, I’ve been fortunate enough to evaluate it in both V6 and SS flavors, but there’s a third option on the table, one that promises strong performance and even better efficiency.
For drivers that care about fuel consumption, GM has wisely decided to offer a four-cylinder engine in this legendary sports machine. Far from what you’d find in some malnourished economy car, this turbocharged ‘banger delivers way more than you’d probably expect. After spending one week in a Camaro 1LT with the optional RS package, here’s what I learned about it.
7. The Engine is a Winner…
It may displace just 2.0-liters, but this car’s base engine is quite impressive. With direct fuel injection, a turbocharger and plenty of other technology, it’s good for 275 horsepower. But even better than that, torque measures 295 lb-ft.
Unfortunately, peak twist doesn’t come on until 3,000 rpm, which makes the Camaro feel quite peaky. It’s tuned to pull strongly at higher engine speeds, and it really comes alive at about 4,000 rpm on the tachometer. After that, it pulls eagerly to the 7,000-rpm limiter
This engine is smooth, quiet and muscular. According to GM, it’s able to shoot the Camaro to 60 miles an hour in less than six seconds, which is plenty fast. However, despite several laudable traits, this powerplant is not perfect.
6. …But it Lacks Brute Force
Sure, it delivers plenty of oomph, but there’s not a lot of giddy-up to be had at normal driving speeds, plus there’s a fair bit of turbo lag. Mash the gas, and you have to wait an uncomfortably long time for the engine to wake up and start hustling; after the delay, however, it moves enthusiastically.
In comparison, SS models with the burly 6.2-liter V8 respond instantly at any speed in any gear. Just a couple degrees of throttle input make these cars leap ahead; the four-cylinder needs time to catch its breath first.
SEE ALSO: 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS Review
Unfortunately, when it finally does wake up, the sound it produces is as unappealing as screams from a dentist’s office. Rather than singing a melodious tune, it grumbles all the way to redline. Eight-cylinder Camaros thunder like a broadside from the USS Iowa, but that’s not the case with this car, which at best sounds like a Malibu, and at worst? Maybe microphone feedback mixed with a baby crying.
5. Transmission Troubles
The RS variant I tested was equipped with a manual transmission (Tremec TR-3160), which at first made me exceedingly happy. However, after a short trip around the block, my enthusiasm wore off; this gearbox isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, either that, or GM needs to totally redesign the shifter.
This ratio-selector is totally unsatisfying; every gear-change feels like you’re causing irreparable harm to the transmission’s innards. It’s gritty and arthritic feeling, requiring an inordinate amount of effort to use. The TR-6060 found in Camaro SS models, and plenty of other high-performance cars, is infinitely more satisfying to shift.
Thanks to its shoulder-dislocating gear-selector, this is a rare time I’d recommend getting an automatic transmission. This manual is that unsatisfying.
4. Look on the Bright Side
Aside from the Camaro’s hoarse-throated base engine and unlovable gearbox, there’s still plenty to like and even love about this car. For starters, it looks great and drives even better. Thanks to GM’s rigid and lightweight Alpha architecture, she’ll dance like a ballerina in the hands of a skilled driver.
Beyond these virtues, this car is also amazingly efficient. According to the EPA, it should return 21 miles per gallon in urban driving and 30 on the highway. All told, it ought to average 24 mpg, but it doesn’t … it’ll do waaaay better than that.
I easily exceeded 27 in mixed, heavy-footed driving; interstate jaunts were even thriftier. And believe me, I wasn’t babying it; that figure includes PLENTY of trips to redline.
3. Yep, You Still Can’t See Out of It
Not to continue bludgeoning a deceased equine, but it’s worth noting … again: outward visibility is a severe issue in the Camaro, regardless of cylinder count. With that out of the way, let’s move on…
2. Chassis Magic
With the $1,950 RS Package, the base 1LT Camaro gains stylish 20-inch wheels with run-flat tires, high-intensity discharge headlamps, LED tail lights and some minor styling tweaks.
So equipped, its suspension is quite stiff. Consequently, the car transmits every bump, rut and pothole in high-fidelity, which makes the ride less than ideal, though its harshness is livable. Still, the benefit of this starchiness is that the Camaro devours corners like a hungry child attacking free pizza.
From the steering wheel, turn-in is eager, with the car changing direction easily while clearly communicating its intentions to the driver. It will rotate a bit if you want, but the SS is more appropriate for this sort of driving.
1. The Future, Today
Sure, a four-cylinder engine may feel totally out of place in a muscle car, but the results it delivers are hard to argue with. The Chevrolet Camaro 1LT Coupe is incredibly stylish, engaging and reasonably speedy, plus the fuel economy it offers is so good you may not believe it.
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November 10th, 2021 – updated text to improve accuracy. Added new links.