The Chevrolet Camaro was redesigned for 2016, and it’s better than ever.
What is it?
Model year 2017 is the Camaro’s 50th anniversary, and the 2016 we drove reveals a car that feels as fresh as the day the nameplate was born.
Pricing and trims
We drove a 2016 Camaro, but with pricing, let’s talk about the 2017. It’s available in two basic trim levels – LT and SS – and each of those are split into two grades: 1LT and 2LT, and 1SS and 2SS. The entry-level 1LT distinguishes itself by being the only Camaro not available with a manual transmission.
There are more extreme 2017 Camaros on top of these; as of this writing, the ZL1 and 1LE haven’t yet hit Chevrolet’s consumer website, but they’re on their way.
The 1LT coupe starts at $27,595, including the $995 destination charge, and both it and the $31,400 2LT come standard with the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and the 3.6-liter V6 is optional. But that’s it – no V8 for the LTs. You’d add $6K to the coupe prices to get a convertible.
Both SS trims ship with the 6.2-liter V8 engine. Our 2016 1SS Convertible tester started at $43,300 and added two options – the $200 bright silver-painted 20-inch wheels, and the $895 Dual Mode Performance Exhaust.
Add the $995 destination charge, and you come to our test car’s total of $45,390.
The Camaro does reasonably well in crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the Camaro lacks even the option of active crash protection. You wouldn’t expect those items on one equipped with the test car’s manual transmission, but it’s a shame that Chevy doesn’t offer this important safety tech on any version with an automatic.
The 1SS’s standard 6.2-liter V8 cranks out 455 horsepower, which is 110 more than the V6 and 180 more than the turbo four. The torque rating matches the horsepower’s at 455 lb.-ft.
It’s easy to get carried away talking about how sweet this powerplant is, with smooth power unrolling from it like it’s carried on the world’s slickest ball bearings. Throttle response is direct without being sharp, and it takes just a tickle of the pedal to get this Camaro on point.
Chevrolet notes that more than 200 pounds were taken out of the chassis for the Camaro’s 2016 redesign, and the car does feel notably light on its feet, even when the brute power still lies in wait.
Special mention is also required of the $895 Dual Mode Performance Exhaust, because it’s delightful. It employs a vacuum pump with valves in the tailpipes to create both a low-speed burble and then an intoxicating trumpet of sound as the revs climb. This becomes more vivid when the top is down, and it absolutely goads you on to explore every nook and cranny of the V8’s rev range.
The 1SS’s standard six-speed manual transmission is also a delight, with throws that are short and firm. There’s Chevrolet’s usual electronically-imposed first-to-fourth gear shift if the sensors think you don’t need the higher revs of second, and this was occasionally annoying, when, say, the sensors had no way of taking into account a steep SF hill we were about to climb. Fortunately, you can buy an aftermarket skip-shift eliminator for less than $30.
This transmission also employed rev matching, which revved the engine to make your downshifts feel expertly seamless.
Ride and handling
You wouldn’t choose a convertible over a coupe if you wanted optimal handling; the giant chunk the roof removes from the car’s structure can introduce internal shakes and twists when you really just want the car to buckle down and drive.
But the tightened-for-2016 Camaro’s structure made this one of the stoutest popularly-priced convertibles we’ve tested, and this was more encouragement to hurl around this Camaro 1SS as much as the law would allow.
The Camaro 1SS has as standard four drive modes from which to choose, and we liked Sport the best.
Touring was the highway choice, but it shaved a little precision off the ride motions. Track dug the Camaro further into curves but was a little sharp for the city’s rutted streets. Sport was just right, with an intuitive balance of compliance and response.
The tested Camaro 1SS’s front seats look fairly simple, but they have ample side and thigh support for the hijinks of which this car is capable. The inexpensive-feeling cloth upholstery – its roughness stresses durability over depth – would give us an excuse to check out the Recaro seats that are available in the 2017 Camaro 1SS.
The Recaros are a $1,195 option, and they’re available only with the Jet Black interior. As of this writing, the Recaros are not listed on the Chevrolet website configurator – I hit up the site’s live chat to determine the option’s pricing.
The convertible’s rear seats are predictably tight, but they’re livable for short periods if there’s some cooperation from the folks in front.
A muscle car’s trunk is another place that’s predictably tight, and the convertible cuts the coupe’s 9.1 cubic feet down to 7.3. There’s still room for a large suitcase or a row of grocery bags, but a weekend trip would probably see a lot of the supplies ending up in the rear seat.
Infotainment and controls
Chevrolet’s MyLink user interface is glitzy – the highlighted outlines around the buttons are a little much – but otherwise, this eight-inch screen dialed up everything we wanted with swift responses to our taps. It includes Apple CarPlay but not Android Auto.
Also there’s OnStar, which can be helpful if you want turn-by-turn directions without having to tap the screen, and it connects the car to your smartphone via the RemoteLink app. OnStar also includes 4G LTE connectivity to create your own Wi-Fi hotspot.
The Camaro is at least partly an emotional purchase, as are its main competitors – the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Lexus RC.
That’s appropriate, because this Camaro 1SS provoked all kinds of emotional responses, from the rumble of the Dual Action exhaust to the aggressive sweeps of the Camaro’s styling. In the constant flow of weekly test cars, this Camaro was a memorable one.
Muscle-car buyers have the best kind of problem – having to choose one from four very compelling choices. The way the test car had a way of focusing one’s attention purely on the driving and then translating your commands into granular responses could make you forget about all the others, though.
We’d like to see Chevy soften up the cloth upholstery and make active safety an option wherever it could fit in the Camaro line. Otherwise, the Camaro 1SS is a car that could easily capture your heart.
2016 Chevrolet Camaro 1SS Convertible
Base price: $43,300
Price as tested, including $955 destination charge: $45,930
Dual Mode Performance Exhaust: $895
20-inch 5-Split Spoke Bright Silver-Painted Aluminum Wheels: $200
- Smooth power delivery, deliberate manual shifter with rev matching
- Tight body structure
- Engaging styling
- Inexpensive-looking cloth upholstery
- Thick A-pillars impede visibility
- No active safety availability
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