Look I’m going to be candid here – and criticize my own team. Before I drove the 2015 Mustang GT, I was not a Mustang guy. Before I drove this 2016 Camaro SS, I was definitely not a Camaro guy. I’ve grown up around imports, and until this point, I would have never seriously considered a Camaro/Mustang. But after spending time behind the wheel of these two rivals… these have become the two cars that I now stack up all imports against. And to be honest, most of those imports are coming up embarrassingly short & stale.
Meanwhile – there is a ‘power war’ going on between the domestic ponies. The domestic guys are competing, innovating, challenging each other, besting each other, and gaining edges with each new model. And when that happens, we all win.
All across the country, guys just like me (the import tuners) used to slam the domestics for being sloppy, ill-handing, straight line cars. Pigs. Such criticisms were old habit. But in 2016, if you’re still thinking that way, then you’re letting the automotive community do you thinking for you. And it’s time to think for yourself again. You need to go drive the 2016 Camaro SS… so you can arm yourself with actual facts, rather then past-life generic opinions. After all, isn’t ‘generic’ what you always criticized about the Mustang & Camaro guys back in the day? That they couldn’t think outside of the box when it came to style & power? Funny how the tides have turned.
But the changing of such tides is perfectly explainable. See – we must realize that the generation of car enthusiasts who grew up so connected to the import culture have grown up, and are now working at the Big Three… and being promoted through the ranks to positions with some influence. The same guys who learned about cars & mechanics by street racing their Hondas & the Mitsubishis… are now having a hand in the creation of new Camaros & Mustangs. I can feel it when I sit in the Camaro SS… I can feel it when I sit in the Mustang GT. There is a sensory rush of excitement, that takes me back to the early years of the import culture. Generations of enthusiasts, from my own generation to my father’s, have put their heads together to create these cars. In other words – the new 2016 Camaro & Mustang GT are a marriage of brute American awesomeness, with import agility & precision.
So what’s it mean? It means that these cars are icons in the making. With each new generation & mid-model refresh, cars like the Camaro SS are getting lighter, and more powerful than their competition. Suspension systems are next level (read below). Brembo brake setups are on point. These are no longer the 1-trick-pony straight line muscle cars we knew in past decades… these are sports cars. Big-league, American-bred, ass-kicking sports cars. Something to be proud of again. I’m telling you – get behind the wheel of a new Camaro SS, let her rip, and then tell me you want to go get a 370Z instead… or a Civic Si. I bet you won’t.
The fact is – the import brands no longer have any competition for these cars. None. Franky, they haven’t been EARNING your loyalty for a long time. You’re gonna argue the STI? OK but the STI’s only seen a 5 hp increase over the last twelve years – and it’s still 150 hp LESS than the Camaro. It’s stagnant. It’s only as good as it has to be… for fangirls to buy it.
The 2016 Camaro SS uses the new-generation 6.2 liter, aluminum block LT1 engine, making 455hp. It’s the same engine as the C7 Corvette. The engine weighs about 460 lbs. The car itself weighs 3,685 lbs… down 223 lbs from last year’s model. The engine is physically mounted behind the front subframe, giving the Camaro better weight balance & handing characteristics. Look at the photo below for reference, pay no attention to my flip-flop in the reflection, and notice that most of the ‘nose’ of the Camaro is nothing more than radiator & air-routing.
The power of the SS is so abundant, and so crisp… it’ll take you from 0-to-60mph in 4 seconds (4-4.3). You’d think by 3rd gear, the gearing would stretch at least a little bit longer & give you a second to breath. Nope. The car keeps pulling like it has a damned rocket booster strapped to its ass. It runs through 3rd gear as if it were another 2nd gear… pushing right into triple digit MPH.
A huge selling point of the 2016 Camaro SS, is GM’s magnetic suspension technology. In layman’s terms, the fluid in the shocks is magnetically charged/controlled. When you’re in regular/default ‘Touring’ mode (street mode), the fluid in the shocks is allowed to move more freely, making for a comfortable commute. But when you get off the damn phone & go into ‘Track Mode’, the magnetic fluid in the shocks is charged, the ride gets stiff, and the Camaro becomes precisely controlled & responsive. Chevrolet uses the same technology in the CTS-V and the Corvette. A set of lowering springs is all you would need in the aftermarket to have a great looking, GREAT functioning suspension. Combine the suspension tech, with the ‘Track Mode’ stiffening of steering response, and you’re beating most of the imports at their own game… and doing it with thundering power.
At first, the interior feels a little claustrophobic & visually limiting, but I promise, you get used to it after a few miles. If you don’t, then buy something more your speed, like a Leaf. Function-wise, the new GM infotainment system seems to be top notch from my experience. I never had any problems, delays, or irritation navigating through the voice/touch commands. Since the Camaro has such a high belt line, everything is designed to sit low on the dash, as to not further-limit forward visibility. The center AC vents are big, round, and sit low in the cockpit for a bold, retro feel. And a twist of those vent trim-rings raises/lowers cabin temps on the driver/passenger side – also pretty slick & innovative. The gauges look sharp & clear, and the dash is backlit with accent lighting at night. The ‘info’ section of the instrument cluster gives you information that actually benefits you – like G’s, MPH, and the posted speed limit big & clear (You always need to stay sharp on the posted speed limit in the SS, because even when you’re not ‘trying’ to go fast – you’re still speeding by at least 15mph). Our test car had the heads-up display, which put that speedo right in front of your eyes. All-in-all, the inside of the 2016 Camaro SS is a pretty cool & confidence-boosting place to be.
So – if you’re ‘an import guy’, ask yourself, WHY are you an import guy?? Is it because the cars were made in Japan? Or Europe? (because PS: most aren’t anymore.)
My guess is – it was never ‘where’ these cars were made that really mattered at the core of it all. Rather, it was the attitude of the people behind them. It was what the cars represented. It was the mindset, the lifestyle… the movement. That’s what attracts us, not the tag or the ‘Made In ___’ label.
So the big question: When it comes to the Camaro SS versus the Mustang GT – which one’s better? I think I honestly liked the Camaro SS a little more. And that honestly surprised me. I expected the Mustang to be a better fit. I think that Ford has done a phenomenal job marketing AND product-wise… crossing over to reach my culture/generation with the likes of JR, Ken Block, etc. I love the Ecoboost engines. I love the Fiesta ST, and the Focus ST, and of course the Raptor. I can’t wait for the Focus RS. And I love the Mustang Ecoboost & GT big time. GM hasn’t marketed to our demographic as much. But that doesn’t mean the technology is lacking. I ‘expected’ to like the GT more. And I honestly don’t think you can go wrong either way. But there’s just something about this Camaro SS that got its hooks in me. It felt – a little faster. A little nastier. A little more trouble-making. My arm felt a little stronger hanging out of the window. It’s so polar opposite of the cars I normally own. So unlike me. But you know what they say – opposites attract.