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Review of the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS: The War Rages On!

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On: Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 11:52AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Review of the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS:  The War Rages On!

Over the past 50 years, the fight between the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro has been the automotive equivalent of the Civil War. Allegiances for either camp can result in fathers fighting sons, brothers battling brothers, mothers fighting daughters, and can turn any normal Thanksgiving dinner into something resembling the Hatfields sitting down with the McCoys. Decade after decade, generation after generation, these Pony Cars have taken turns holding Top Dog honors, which any internet forum will boast about, or make excuses for, depending on your side. But whoever the champ is, it will last for only a few years at best. Each and every time one car gets beat, inevitably, it gets right back up bigger and badder than before. In the latest iteration of the Mustang versus Camaro battle royale, the Ford has soundly beaten the last-gen Camaro with its wickedly powerful 5.0-liter 435-horsepower Coyote engine. But that was last year.

For 2016, the Camaro has risen from the ashes of war like a Phoenix… A seriously powerful wild-horse-eating-Phoenix. Everything about the new Camaro, specifically the SS, has been upgraded, improved, or redesigned to make it a more efficient Mustang killer. The biggest change is one that no one can see from the outside. The Camaro gets a change in DNA thanks to a hand-me-down from its more sophisticated big brother, Cadillac. Built on the Alpha platform, the new Camaro could be thought of as a cheaper, sportier, ATS-V without all the needless luxury. The newly sculpted SS body shows off thousands of hours sitting in a wind tunnel, trying day after day, to find the most efficient design possible, while retaining its Pony Car roots. And, thankfully, it's not all function-over-form styling, as evidenced by the fantastically aggressive-looking hood or profile; the SS designers got it right. The Camaro looks more like its own car in this iteration than it has since its triumphant return from a seven-year hiatus in 2009. Now, instead of just looking like a retro-styled 1969 reboot, the 2016 version looks like a modern car with heritage cues from days gone by, instead of being from days gone by.

The interior of the Camaro is nicer than you might remember from your IROC-Z days; with its configurable digital screen seated between the tach and speedometer, you can summon up information about the car's oil pressure, battery charge, temperature, or even get navigational directions. The center-mounted infotainment screen should also make some former F-Body car owners green with envy; even if the screen seems a little off because of its slight downward tilt, presumably to fend off sun glare, it's still quite the upgrade. The seats are supportive, while the overall interior has a feeling of being a bit more upscale than in recent years. The 9-speaker Bose sound system is fantastic, and the wireless phone charging, Heads-Up Display, eight standard air-bags, and heated steering wheel give the SS owners plenty of bragging rights. There are still a few plastic bits here and there that do show some cost cutting, but nothing that a little romp on the gas wouldn't make you forget about.

The essence of any Pony Car doesn't lie within its cup holder count, nor its extraneous and miscellaneous digital gadgetry. No, the true nature of a Pony Car is measured by its gas pedal, and the roar of the engine. The new SS has heart, and then some. Having been arguably the luckiest younger sibling in automotive history, the Camaro has always had the good fortune of getting some very sweet Corvette hand-me-downs, and this model is no different. The SS starts life with a Vette-derived 6.2-liter all-aluminum, naturally-aspirated V8 code-named LT1. This direct-injected monster is the very same as it is in big brother, making a ghastly and very symmetrical 455 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 455 pound-feet of torque @ 4400 rpm. Backing up that massive power is your choice of either a traditional six-speed manual transmission (the stuff dreams are made of), or an impressively-quick-but-still-not-as-satisfying 8-speed automatic. All that power gets channeled through a chassis that sports a front strut/rear multi-link suspension and a limited-slip rear differential. Gone are the old solid axle rear suspension days that would make you forget whether you were driving a sports car or a Jeep.

The Camaro SS lives up to its moniker. Traditionally, the Super Sport model should be a force to be reckoned with, and pity the pony that tries. 0–60 mph takes only a scant 4.0 seconds flat, 0–100 mph in only 9.3 seconds, through the quarter mile in a blistering 12.4 seconds @ 114.1 mph, on its way to a drag-limited top speed of 175 mph. Try that in your father's Z28. But the SS isn't just a one trick pony (get it? anyone?). Thanks to big Brembo 13.6-inch, 4-piston front, and 13.3-inch, 4-piston rear brakes, stopping from 60–0 mph takes only 115 feet, which by sports car standards is very good, but not great. We would like to see how much better that number gets with 6-piston Brembos up front. And around the slalom, the SS posts an impressive 0.97 g, which is a real testament to how far the Camaro has come as a true sports car. It wasn't long ago that you could have a dozen hot rod Camaros putting down 11-second quarter mile times, but couldn't handle their way around a Walmart parking lot without inducing understeer. Of course the upgrade in tire technology doesn't hurt either, with a set of Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 tires measuring 245/40R-20 up front, and 275/35R-20 out back.

On the road, the Camaro just feels solid. It does a fine job of connecting the road to the driver and being a wonderful conduit to fun and excitement. Credit the electric steering perhaps for a better overall feel, or maybe the 200 pound diet the SS was put on to get it down to 3,760 pounds, which isn't light, but compared to recent years and other cars in this class (cough… Challenger… cough…), is damn-near svelte. Or maybe its the 455 horsepower trumpeting through the dual-mode exhaust, which is technically an $895 option, but for all intents and purposes, should be standard. It could be that even with a base price of $42,295, and a sticker of almost 50k, the 2016 Camaro SS still feels like a bargain on some level. Sure the '16 Mustang GT is cheaper, but you better believe quite a number of those Blue Oval boys will be spending a lot of extra cash trying to track down a stock SS, so the money will probably be about even, if speed is what you're after. Maybe, just maybe, it's the way sitting in a car that has half a century's worth of history built into it feels new, and yet still so familiar. Or maybe it's the feeling of driving the current champion of the Mustang/Camaro Civil War, and the anticipation of what Ford's answer is going to be, and then what Chevrolet's answer will be to Ford, and on and on… Maybe it's none of those things, or maybe it's all of those things. Either way, all we know is that we can do this for another 50 years with a big smile on our faces, even if it means throwing down with family at dinner time once in a while.

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