It feels like we’re living in the twilight years of internal combustion and another bell has tolled. The 2024 Chevrolet Camaro Collector’s Edition has been unveiled, and it’s expected to be the last Camaro as we know it since production is expected to end in January. That’s a shame because not only could Chevrolet have gone much harder for a closeout special, the sixth-generation Camaro was one of the best coupes of a generation. Here’s why.
A truly great car typically starts from the ground up. While the fifth-generation Camaro was largely based on the Australian Holden Commodore, the sixth-generation model adopted homegrown bones of the Alpha chassis, the BMW-fighting platform underneath the Cadillac ATS. Because the soft, electric power steering-equipped F30 3-Series wasn’t out when GM was developing the ATS, the Alpha platform initially benchmarked the E46 3-Series, as ATS chief engineer Dave Masch told Motor Trend, and was later refined using the E90 3-Series as a benchmark as ATS-V engineer Tony Roma told BMW Blog. These two cars are known for driving spectacularly well, and thanks to this significant Bavarian influence, the sixth-generation Camaro became something that nobody expected – a bonafide sports coupe. Want to know how capable that platform is? Let’s compare it to GM’s halo car, the all-American sports car that is the Corvette.
Conventional wisdom states that if you want to go predictably and confidently fast in something with a bowtie badge, buy a Corvette. The sixth-generation Camaro doesn’t just poke holes in that theory, it violently aerates it to the point where only a charred set of New Balances remain. See, the C7 Z06 was an animal of a car, a 650-horsepower supercharged menace thanks to its LT4 6.2-liter force-fed V8. It writhed and twitched in fits like the damned, threatening to break traction if you so much as breathed on the throttle. It was just a little too much motor for the tire and chassis setup, but the LT4 fit in the Camaro perfectly. The Camaro ZL1 is a sweetheart, whispering to your fingertips when grip’s about to let go, then defaulting into safe, gentle understeer should you ignore the front tires’ cries. The same 650 horsepower that feels stabby in the Corvette transforms into a confident surge in the Camaro, a testament to how good that Alpha chassis is. In Car & Driver’s annual Lightning Lap testing, the standard Camaro ZL1 proved itself quicker around Virginia International Raceway than a second-generation Acura NSX, a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4, a Mercedes-AMG GT S, and a Shelby GT350R. Quite the achievement.
However, that doesn’t mean the Alpha chassis can’t be even better. Things really get good when you add three little characters to a Camaro model designation: 1LE. This range of performance-focused packages came in various guises for four-cylinder, V6, SS, and ZL1 models, and it pumped all of them up. From Multimatic DSSV spool-valve dampers on the ZL1 1LE to Brembos on the four-cylinder 1LE, each package maximized the goodness baked into the Alpha chassis. We’re talking about laser-guided steering, supernatural grip, and a hotshot firm brake pedal that felt like it could stop the Earth’s rotation. It all added up to an epic driving experience that put the BMW 4-Series and Ford Mustang to shame.
In fact, the only problems with the sixth-generation Camaro came from its shape. Because of the gun-slit sight out, autocross can be a bit of a guessing game. That’s annoying, but it’s not concerning like the fact that many larger helmets just don’t fit through the window aperture. That might not be a huge problem if you have a small head, but if you want to do any track driving in a sporty Chevrolet, I highly suggest bringing your helmet to check out a Camaro.
Minor issues aside, this bundle of excellence wrapped up in retro-style sheetmetal is the all-American hero we needed, but sales never quite took off. Whether you want to blame the styling for looking too much like the previous-generation car, the botched facelift that made the SS trim very ugly, or the compromises in practicality made to achieve a certain look, the sixth-generation Camaro was so much better than the fifth-generation car yet it couldn’t make lightning strike twice in the sales race. Perhaps as a result, the final Collector’s Edition, shown in black in the photo below at at the top of this article, feels halfhearted.
The V6 and naturally-aspirated V8 Collector’s Edition cars (pictured at the top of the page) are simply trim affairs. A dash of paint here, a stripe there, some wheels, some spoilers, and presto. It’s a similar deal with the ZL1 Collector’s Edition (pictured above) which offers the aero bits of the ZL1 1LE but doesn’t seem to offer any of the extra go-fast hardware. Sure, matte paint and a tribute to the Panther codename of the original Camaro concept is neat, I guess, but the package feels lacking as a performance machine, especially when you look at how Chevrolet sent out the last Camaro.
A stripped-out equipment list, 305-section Pirelli Trofeo R tires, and the thunderous seven-liter naturally-aspirated LS7 V8 made the fifth-generation Camaro Z/28 a king-sized missile. Sure, it had a large silhouette, but Multimatic DSSV dampers and carbon ceramic brakes helped this charming moment of insanity turn and stop like you wouldn’t believe. The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 was an all-time great, and the sixth-generation car deserves a similar send-off.
While the business case for a Z/28 successor is virtually nonexistent, if GM really wanted to be heroic, it would rummage around the parts bin and see what can be made. I’ll offer a hint: The Escalade V also uses the LT4 engine found in the Camaro ZL1, but with a much bigger 2.7-liter supercharger than the 1.7-liter unit on the ZL1. Doesn’t that sound like a party?
(Photo credits: Chevrolet)
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