Chevrolet’s new Camaro, revealed today, promises to be a revolution for the bow-tie brand.
It may look like a mere evolution of its predecessor, but this is an all-new beast, lighter and more capable than ever before.
The new Camaro will meet Ford’s latest Mustang head-on with three engine options, a strong and lightweight new architecture, and a host of new technologies.
On the styling front, Chevy’s new 2016 Camaro offers few surprises.
There’s a smoother, slimmer and more resolved look to this generation, however, with new curved lines through the profile replacing the sharp edges of the outgoing model.
The front end offers the same letter-box grille design that fans know and love, flanked by narrow headlights, a taller lower grille and additional LED daytime lights.
That theme of familiarity continues at the rear, with a short rear deck and lightly upkicked lip dropping down to a pair of slender high-set lamps and a no-nonsense bumper design.
The new model is around 50mm shorter than the previous Camaro, while 25mm has been cut from both its height and width.
Under the skin, it’s an almost entirely new story.
For the new Camaro, GM has done away with the Australian-developed Zeta platform that was shared with the Commodore, replaced now with a version of the lighter Alpha platform featured with the Cadillac ATS.
It’s hardly a straight swap, however, with a huge 70 percent of the Camaro’s underpinnings made up of parts and construction techniques that are unique to the Chevy.
The company reckons the new Camaro is now 28 percent stiffer than the previous model, but even more, it’s a full 90kg lighter.
Much of this is thanks to a liberal use of aluminium in construction, along with a number of new lightweight components.
Power in the new Camaro is provided by a choice of three engines.
Opening the range is a direct-injected 205kW/400Nm 2.0 litre turbo petrol option, drawn from Cadillac’s midsized ATS and large CTS.
Although markedly less powerful than the 231kW/434Nm 2.3 litre turbo four available with the Mustang, Chevrolet promises a 0-60mph time below six seconds. (Ford has yet to specify sprint times for its Mustang.)
In the middle of the range is a naturally-aspirated 3.6 litre petrol V6, producing 245kW and 385Nm. This compares favourably to the Mustang’s V6 option, which offers 224kW and 379Nm.
The hero mill is of course GM’s LT1 6.2 litre V8, churning out 340kW and 616Nm of torque. By comparison, the Mustang’s 5.0 litre V8 option delivers 324kW and 542Nm.
And, just as Ford’s offerings for big-power fans don’t stop at the regular Mustang GT V8, Chevrolet is unlikely to limit its fans to the options outlined today.
Expect at least a new Z/28 option to appear in the future, bettering the 376kW/651Nm figures of the current version’s 7.0 litre engine, along with a successor to the ZL1 and its 432kW/754Nm supercharged 6.2 V8.
All three engines can be had with either a six-speed manual or a paddle-shifted eight-speed auto, and the V8 also boasts a rev-matching system that blips the throttle on downshifts.
There’s MacPherson suspension up front with a double-pivot design that promises a more linear feel to steering, while the rear gets a new five-link independent setup. Magnetic Ride Control is also standard in the SS model.
"The driving experience is significantly different," the Camaro’s lead development engineer, Aaron Link, said today.
"Immediately, you will notice how much lighter and more nimble the Camaro feels. That feeling increases when you drive the Camaro harder - it brakes more powerfully, dives into corners quicker, and accelerates faster than ever."
Chevrolet will be looking to the new Camaro to maintain its sales success, which has seen it outsell the Mustang every year since 2010.
But, with the new Mustang available globally (it hits Australia later this year), Chevrolet will likely only be able to boast of its comparative success in the domestic US market specifically.
Could the Camaro’s plan of attack expand to meet the Mustang on other battle fields further ashore?
New Camaro for Australia? Not Likely
GM has confirmed this week that it will once again build the Camaro in left-hand-drive only, ruling out any chance - short of a dramatic change in plans somewhere down the road - of an Australian debut.
That's good news for Ford, who will now have the affordable large rear-wheel-drive muscle car space all to itself with the new Mustang.
That was believed to be a first 'official' hint at a local berth for the new Camaro. Now, the rumour mill will likely move to the next most obvious candidate: the more expensive Corvette.
But, while the Camaro might have come here with a price tag below $50,000, the Corvette would be unlikely to land anywhere south of $100,000.
Still, with no specific timeline offered on when that mystery Holden hero will land, there may yet be another secret project in the works at GM - perhaps with the European arm, Opel - that we've yet to see.
Time will tell.