I was a bit skeptical when Chevrolet invited pbskids, a heavily JDM-themed magazine, to test-drive the all-new 2.0-liter Camaro. While the Camaro and its lineup of variants can be somewhat non-standard fare for most of our core readers, this particular Camaro is something American muscle enthusiasts aren't quite accustomed to yet either. It's probably because this version isn't powered by a V8 or even a V6, but rather a turbocharged inline-4.
This isn't the first four-cylinder car dressed in traditional Americana. This Camaro trim is essentially Chevy's answer to Ford's Ecoboost Mustang. I'm sure many will think this car is blasphemy and demand a cylinder recount, but don't think for a second that the smaller engine lacks anything in performance. Chevy did its homework and found the 2016 Camaro 2.0L Turbo accelerated from 0-60 in the same 4.5 seconds that a 1970 Chevelle 454 SS will. Let's look at the numbers: the Chevelle uses a 454 cu. in. (7.4L) mill that puts out 390hp and 500 lb.-ft. of torque. This new Camaro, on the other hand, uses a new 122 cu. in. (2.0L) lump that makes 275hp and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. It's fully capable of doing a big smoky burn out, but you also get a sensational 31mpg.
You might be thinking this goes against the fundamental hot-rodding rule of power to weight ratios, but Chevrolet is way ahead of you. The engine is smaller, but the curb weight of the 2.0L Camaro tips the scales at 3,339lbs, which is 390 pounds lighter than the 2015 V6. The lighter chassis translated into a much more nimble car on track. One thing I noticed while hot lapping Spring Mountain racetrack in Pahrump, Nev., is that the car stayed completely flat on the track. Even a guy with minimal track experience, such as myself, looked like a hero. It felt oddly similar to a Scion FR-S, with impeccable handling and balance, yet it never felt like the car was underpowered. Even when you show the Camaro public roads, it shines. The acceleration is surprisingly responsive on the straights with minimal turbo lag. There are some features I wish the 2.0L shared with its more expensive Camaro LT1 brother, like the Active Rev-Match technology, or the nicer interior.
The four-cylinder turbo is the future. I know, it's a big change, but instead of complaining about how things should go back to the way they were, why not embrace it? The car surely doesn't have the menacing roar of a V8, but who's to stop an enthusiast from adding a straight pipe, exhaust, or a larger turbo for even more performance? I think what Chevrolet inadvertently created is an FR-S and Miata killer.