By: Dave Abrahams
Lansing, Michigan - The trouble with re-inventing an icon is that it has to be recognisably different from the previous generation or it won't even make it to the showroom - but unless it is recognisably similar, it will just sit there when it does.
The engineers who were charged with developing the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro were well aware that they were walking a tightrope, so they concentrated on making the new car tighter, lighter and more defined, rather than changing the design idiom.
The result, depending on how you felt about the previous model, is either a resounding success or an abject failure.
One thing, however, has changed: it's no longer viable for American car companies to address fuel-efficiency issues by simply making their iconic V8s bigger. So under the crisper, distinctly more aerodynamic styling of the 2016 Camaro, there's a raft of new tech.
It'll be available with a choice of three engines, each offered with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed auto transmission. The list starts with a two-litre turbo four, rated at 205kW and 400Nm, for which GM quotes 0-100km/h in less than six seconds at a nominal cost of less than eight litres per 100km.
Then there's a new 3.6-litre direct-injection V6 with variable valve timing and the ability to shut down one cylinder on each bank under light-load conditions. When firing on all six, however, GM quotes 250kW and 385Nm.
THE REAL DEAL
But the real Camaro is, as ever, the SS, with a tweaked version of the 6.2-litre LT1 direct-injection V8 first seen on the Corvette Stingray, featuring variable valve timing and cylinder shut-down (on auto-transmission models only).
In this format it's rated at 339kW and 617Nm, making this the most powerful Camaro SS yet; the manual version now also has a 'rev match' sub-routine on the ECU that blips the throttle on downshifts.
The new drive mode selector offers three modes - Snow/Ice, Tour and Sport (with an extra “Track” setting on the SS only) that progressively sharpen throttle response, shift points on auto models, exhaust flaps, electric power steering and the optional magnetic ride control calibration.
At 4784mm the 2016 Camaro is 57mm shorter than its predecessor, on a wheelbase trimmed by 41mm to 2811mm. It's 20mm narrower at 1897mm and 28mm lower at 1348mm but, more importantly, it's more than 90kg lighter, as well as measurably stiffer.
Some of that weight loss is due to new multi-link double-pivot MacPherson strut front suspension and five-link indepednet rear suspension, but most of it (more than 60kg) has been trimmed from the body, partly by using aluminium in place of steel where possible and partly by shaping the body more tightly around the engineering inside it, “rather like a body-builder pulling on a closer-fitting T-shirt”, according to design director Tom Peters.
We're waiting on an answer from GM SA as to whether the 2016 Camaro will be released in South Africa.