GM is struggling to keep the Chevy Camaro relevant amid dwindling sales and interest, the turbocharged 4-cylinder won’t help.
Most driving enthusiasts who have driven the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro at length will agree that the latter is the better unit to push hard. Mind you, I am referring to regular non-ZL1/GT350/SRT versions of these pony cars. Why then is the Camaro constantly fearing for its livelihood?
GM made a brilliant move by associating itself with the Transformers movie franchise over a decade ago. I believe had GM not had the foresight to do so, the Chevrolet Camaro as we know it would already be dead – there’s something to be said about proper product placement. Again, why is the Camaro constantly teetering on the verge of extinction? Why is GM refreshing the car’s fascias every 18 months?
Blame the old guys
Because both the Ford Mustang and ancient Dodge Challenger are crushing it in sales. Still doesn’t answer the question, does it? Whether they knew it or not, Ford and FCA designed their offerings with the old man in mind – the old guy that wants the noises, the straight-line performance but cares little about the actual drive. GM went for all three. Strangely enough, it is the best driver-focused car.
Somehow, this became a compromise and turned potential buyers away and straight to Ford dealerships for their 3rd Mustang in 25 years. What also hurt the Camaro, when these old crotchety chaps entered Chevy showrooms to sit in a Camaro is that they immediately felt as though they’d put one foot in their own coffin.
More than likely, they immediately got out of the Chevy Camaro, walked around the car once more to soak in the car’s sharp, aggressive and highly unique styling. Then, they sat back in the car and once more got a sense of what it feels like when in a closed casket.
Looks that grab attention
The small greenhouse is a superb and striking design element that doesn’t couple well with decreasing vision and early-onset cataracts. You see, GM thought young peeps would buy the Camaro but they were wrong. These kids want a Honda Civic Si or Type R, a VW Golf GTI or R, a Subaru Impreza WRX or STI and so on. GM did everything right and got it all wrong.
In the looks department, the 1LE package, as equipped on my tester, is a must. It elevates the Chevy Camaro’s standing from plain Camaro to serious-looking sports car in the blink of an eye. It also brings Brembo brakes, 20-inch wheels and tires, a sport suspension, limited-slip rear differential along with numerous visual improvements. It attracts wanted or unwanted attention. If you opted for the 335-horsepower V6, fun is possible. If you got an SS and went all out (you should) and selected the pricey 1LE Track Performance Package, I wish I could be you for a day. If, like my tester, the 4-cylinder resides under the long matte-black bonnet, best you should ignore the 2004 Nissan Murano brake-torquing (true story) his V6 and CVT combo ‘cause you might be embarrassed.
1LE, always 1LE
The devastating thing is that my tested $35,535 2019 Chevrolet Camaro 1LT with 1LE package was a total blast to drive. The front end, with less than a third of the V8’s displacement, felt alive and sharp. The brakes were powerful and on the ball. The sport suspension steadied the car on rougher surfaces, kept weight transfers in check and loaded me with confidence through some of my favorite on- and off-ramps.
Despite all this, the sheer lack of drama, of commotion, sucks all the life out of driving the turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder Camaro. Its 275-horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 295 lb.-ft. of torque from 3,000-4,500 rpm are all accounted for as the car, for the price, is quick. With the standard 6-speed manual transmission, the Camaro will hit 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds. But there’s nothing going on, or something’s way off…
I immediately felt as though I was driving a Honda Civic Si when I first saddled the Camaro. The near complete absence of any and all engine sounds, be it intake or exhaust, took and takes too much away from what driving a Camaro should be like. There exists an optional dual-mode exhaust system for the V6 – Chevy, guys, adapt it for the 2.0T please!
The bad outweighs the good
Although I loved driving the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro 1LT 1LE, the polar opposites that the car presents, the styling vs. the performance, do not annul or compensate for each other. The claustrophobic cabin’s a killer too. The chasm between all the show and “average” go is too great a divide to forgive the 4-cylinder turbo Camaro. If the 2.0T gains more power or Chevy decides to drop in the 2.7T (310-horsepower and 348 torques in the Silverado – loads more potential!) and endow the 4-pot with engine noises, nothing will change…
Once your entourage finds out its a 4-cylinder Camaro, you’ll never get respect.
Sadly, the Chevrolet Camaro’s ship has sailed. The interweb says that it may only have 3-4 years left in it. Even if I know that this is the better pony car, GM should probably cut its losses and allow the Camaro the gently fade away sooner rather than later. A real complete revamp is far too costly and unless they plan on something revolutionary like the C8 Corvette, best the Chevy Camaro remain a fond memory.