The new Camaro SS goes 0-60 in 4 seconds, same as the Ferrari F430 — a $186,000 car when it was new in 2004. That kind of speed was enough to reduce my girlfriend’s three younger siblings (who have no interest in cars whatsoever) to hysterical laughter when I took the Camaro on a straight, empty road and hammered the throttle, letting that angry American V8 ring throughout the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Civilization has gotten to the point where a sub-$40,000 Chevrolet can hit 60 mph in four goddamn seconds.
When you look at the dissonance between the Camaro’s straight-line speed and its low price point, it’s impossible not to see the Camaro as anything other than what it has been for decades: a brute muscle car. But calling the Camaro a muscle car in 2016 is selling it short. Despite the near-identical looks of the last generation, this new version rides on GM’s incredible Alpha platform. The chassis is also the basis for Cadillac’s ATS and CTS, which were benchmarked against the handling abilities of Germany’s infamous crop of sport sedans. Which shows in the Camaro.
Grab the compact, flat-bottomed steering wheel and turn into a corner. Input is direct; it’s sharp but effortless to the degree that it feels just a little disconnected…just like a modern German sports sedan. There’s no body roll, no understeer, just balanced handling prowess. Even if a smidgen of steering feel is gone (a gripe with most modern performance cars in general), the Camaro has clearly benefited from one of America’s best performance platforms to date. It’s evolved. Good for GM.
What’s not good for GM? Pretty much the same complaints we’ve heard about Chevy in general and the Camaro before — interior quality is mediocre, with a big, boring slab of black plastic for a dash and trim pieces with a cheap look and feel. (That said, I take solace in the intuitive CarPlay-integrated touchscreen display, and the fact that the seats are properly supportive and comfortable.) And anything you’ve heard about the Camaro’s notorious outward visibility (or lack thereof) is absolutely true — the car’s high beltline, small windows and steeply raked windshields make checking your blind spots and other surroundings a chore. Though, if you buy a 455-horsepower performance coupe, you should expect such things to go out the (very narrow) window.
You learn to live with those foibles because the Camaro is just stupid fun (ask my girlfriend’s siblings). It’s loud, it’s fast, and it still has the Hot-Wheels looks to match what’s under the hood. Now GM has given it the chassis to put all that power down. It’s not just a muscle car anymore. So the Camaro has grown up, somewhat, but at its core it’s still a wild child, still 100 percent bitchin’.
Artists like David Bowie or the Beatles were so highly celebrated not only for consistently creating hit songs throughout long careers, but because they managed to reinvent themselves multiple times along the way. They stayed relevant and stayed great (and British, but whatever). For the past 50 years, the Mustang and Camaro have been known around the world as American muscle cars good for only straight line speed. But in a world where even a Cadillac can take on the Nordschleife, our performance ambassadors had to adapt. They’re no longer one dimensional icons of cool; they’re now multi-faceted apex hunters. But most importantly, they’ve stayed relevant, and that’s what makes them great.