The modern muscle arena has hotted-up once again, with Chevrolet taking the wraps off its sixth-generation Camaro. With eyes set on tackling Ford's venerable Mustang, Chevrolet's new muscle car hero shares only its badges with the car it replaces.
While muscle cars of the past were powered by massive, thirsty engines, the latest of the breed can boast decent fuel economy and relatively low emissions. Chevrolet has followed Ford's lead in offering a four-cylinder turbocharged motor, although the Camaro's 275 hp (205 kW) mill produces 30 hp less than the 2.3-liter EcoBoost motor under the Mustang's hood. Chevrolet's four-cylinder challenger is also down on torque compared to Ford's Mustang, with the engine's 400 Nm falling 33 Nm short of the EcoBoost's peak.
But that doesn't stop the Camaro from going from 0-60 mph (98 km/h) in under six seconds, while Chevrolet's economy tests have returned more than 30 mpg (7.85 l/100km) on the highway.
Unthinkable though it may once have been, the entry-level turbocharged motor produces 15 Nm more torque than the V6 sitting above it in the range, although the 3.6-liter V6 does boast an extra 60 hp (45 kW) over the turbo. For the first time, the Camaro's V6 is also fitted with cylinder deactivation technology, that sees two cylinders shut off under light throttle, essentially turning the car into a four cylinder for better economy.
Topping the range is the Camaro SS, which us powered by a modified version of the 6.2-liter LT1 V8 introduced on the Corvette Stingray. However, 20 percent of the engine's components are specific to the Camaro, including new exhaust manifolds that contribute to the car's 455 hp (339 kW) power peak, up 20 hp (15 kW) on the Mustang GT. The SS also comfortably outdoes the Mustang GT's torque figure, with its 617 Nm enough to win any top-trumps contest between rival owners. All cars are available with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox.
A distinctive roar is an important aspect of any muscle car, so Chevrolet's engineers have put plenty of time and effort into tuning the sound on all three engines. Owners can even get in on the act, with all 2.0-liter turbo models coming with active noise cancellation to reduce cabin noise, while the inclusion of the optional Bose audio system allows the native sounds of the engine to be amplified if so desired.
Meanwhile, the 3.6-liter V6 and 6.2-liter V8 are fitted with a mechanical sound enhancers that pipe induction noise from the engine bay directly into the cabin, while an optional dual-mode exhaust lets owners choose between "stealth" or "track" exhaust sound modes.
Chevrolet has fitted the Camaro with a new multi-link MacPherson strut setup designed to reduce squat under acceleration and provide predictable, controllable handling. Magnetic Ride Control is also optional on the range-topping Camaro SS. Helping to contain the Camaro SS' extra power are Brembo brakes measuring 13.6 in (345 mm) at the front and 13.3 in (338 mm) at the rear, with four-piston fixed calipers at all four corners.
On the outside, there's no doubting that Chevrolet's designers have done a good job. While the car is still unmistakably a Camaro, it's also grown some extra muscles. Chevy says the shapely body was subjected to 350 hours of aerodynamic testing for improved cooling and reduced lift at high speeds. Up front, an aerodynamic curtain is designed to channel air around the front wheelarches and works in tandem with functional brake ducts on the Camaro SS.
Inside, the Camaro's designers have integrated the heating and air-conditioning controls into the vent surrounds – something we've seen before on the Audi TT. Chevrolet's MyLink system is operated by an eight-inch display in the middle of the dashboard, and owners can configure the system to display information about the car's performance as well as navigation and infotainment.
The new Camaro will be put together in Lansing, Michigan, and is set to go on sale later this year. There's no official word on pricing as yet.