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For over half a century the Chevy Camaro has provided drivers with affordable performance. Not only is this fun pony car at home pushing the limits on the track or drag strip, but unlike most pure sports cars, it also offers enough seats and cargo space to make for a surprisingly practical daily driver. While a new Camaro is within reach of many buyers, a used Chevy Camaro can provide incredible value for the money as well as being a fun sports car. First launched all the way back in 1966 as a competitor to the then-new Ford Mustang, the original Chevy Camaro set the pattern that all future generations of the car would follow. With two doors, four seats, rear-wheel drive, and a powerful V8 engine, the Camaro is a timeless blend of performance and practicality.
However, despite its introducing all the key components that have since made the Chevy Camaro an automotive icon, the first-generation Camaro was a rushed design that was only on the market for five years, making it the shortest-lived of any Camaro generation. It was succeeded for the 1970 model year by the all-new second-generation Camaro, which was more of a dedicated sports car. This new design offered a much more capable platform to build on, and production spanned twelve years, only ending after the 1981 model year and making the third-generation the longest-lived Camaro. While the classic styling of these two Camaro generations makes them beautiful and iconic cars, unless you are interested in a classic car project, it is best if you steer clear of first and second-generation Camaros should you come across one.
The third generation of the Chevy Camaro finally arrived for the 1982 model year and lasted until the 1992 model year. This car marked a fairly radical departure from the first two generations. After all, with the twelve-year run of the second generation, the Camaro effectively skipped a decade and was catapulted straight from the late 1960s into the early 1980s. This large step forward in automotive technology saw Chevy replace the ornate classic lines of the second generation with simple flat sheet metal in the third generation. The standard coupe layout of the older cars was also discarded in favor of an arguably more practical liftback design with a massive rear window. The new car also broke with Camaro tradition by offering the option of a four-cylinder engine as well as the classic six-cylinder and eight-cylinder options. However, the four-cylinder was rightly unpopular and vanished after the 1985 model year. But despite the early misstep with the smaller engine, the third-generation Camaro was a real step forward for the car, and if you can handle the spartan interior and relatively low performance by standards, then a used third-generation Camaro can still be a fun car even today. Still, it should be remembered that even the youngest cars of this generation are now nearly thirty years old and are rapidly becoming collector’s vehicles. Not only will a used third-generation Camaro likely require considerable attention to keep running, but prices are now starting to go up, making them less of a bargain.
The fourth-generation Chevy Camaro ran from 1993 to 2002 and shared the same general look and layout as the third-generation cars. However, the new generation brought major improvements in power and handling. When first introduced, the fourth generation cars came with either a 160 horsepower V6 or a 275 horsepower V8. This was already a noticeable boost over the 140 horsepower V6 or 240 horsepower V8 of the previous generation, but the fourth generation Camaro engine options continued to improve over its production run. By the time it was phased out, the car had come with either a 200 horsepower V6 or a 310 horsepower V8. These are not bad numbers even by today’s standards, and great deals can be found on used fourth-generation Camaros. However, it must be remembered that these are still an early 1990’s design, so do not expect a comfortable interior or modern technology.
From 2002 to 2009, Chevy paused Camaro production. This is particularly unfortunate to us today as those missing model years would have now been high value used cars for drivers who want modern features but who can live without the latest technology. When Chevy unveiled the fifth-generation Camaro for the 2010 model year, the car had been considerably redesigned. Instead of the simple sheet metal and large rear glass of the third and fourth generations, the fifth-generation Camaro was an aggressive boxy design with a trunk. However, with the change in looks also came significant improvements in both performance and comfort. The new 312 horsepower V6 engine competed with the fourth generation V8, while the new V8 offered an impressive 426 horsepower. The 2012 model year even improved the base engine further, with a new 323 horsepower V6. Overall, a used fifth-generation Camaro makes for the best value you can find, occasionally costing less than fourth or even third-generation cars despite its superior performance and much more modern features.
However, if you want the highest performance you can get from a used Camaro, then look for a sixth-generation car. Introduced for the 2016 model year, this is the current generation and builds on the pattern established with the fifth-generation Camaro. With 455 horsepower on tap, a used V8 sixth-generation Camaro makes for a great buy that easily rivals older Corvettes for performance. And on top of this, the new car also sports sleeker looks and a plethora of modern features. However, in addition to the sixth generation’s V8 and V6 options, Chevy repeated the experiment of the third generation Camaro and also offers a 275 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. And while this is actually as much power as an early fourth-generation V8, it is a questionable choice for a modern performance vehicle. Still, no matter which generation or engine you chose, buying a used Camaro is a great way to get yourself a classic American car that is both affordable and extremely fun.
Upon their release, there are some vehicles that seem to demand that everyone sits up and takes notice. One such example was the fifth-generation Camaro, resurrected for the 2010 model year after nearly a decade-long bed rest. Built upon the same GM-platform as the Pontiac G8, the Camaro earned high marks as a performance coupe while generating excitement courtesy of its dramatic throwback look, and attractive price point (originally starting around $22,000 MSRP).
Released in five trim levels (LS, 1LT, 2LT, 1SS and 2SS) the Camaro stretched across two powertrain configurations. Standard on the LS, 1LT and 2LT was a 3.6-liter V6 mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Rated for 300 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, the V6 Camaro sprinted from 0-60mh in 6.0 seconds and served up 23 mpg combined (29 highway and 17 city).
The 1SS and 2SS trims were powered by a 6.2-liter V8 paired with the same transmission options. Wrangling 426 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, this configuration trimmed a full second from its 0-60 and still managed to rate an impressive 20 mpg combined (24 highway and 16 city).
Across the board, there was a lot to like about the 2010 Chevy Camaro, and whether you preferred coupe or convertible styling, they had you covered.
Following up on such a successful release left little room for immediate tweaks or improvements. As such the 2011 Camaro was largely unchanged, aside from a slight bump in output. The only significant alteration was to the convertible variant, which featured a power-operated top. But despite little changes made, there were no shortage of changes in development.
While few complaints had been made about the performance of the Camaro’s V6 (aside from the fact that it wasn’t the V8) Chevy had no intention of resting on its laurels. Updating the 3.6-liter engine to deliver 323 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque, the 2012 Camaro only managed to drop 1 or 2 mpg in the process. The performance of the 6.2-liter V8 remained consistent with previous model years but (if we’re going to be honest) neither of these powertrain configurations were the headline in 2012.
The release of the Camaro ZL1 captured the attention of anyone with an appreciation for the 1969 Camaro (to which the ZL1 paid tribute). Boasting a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 paired to either a six-speed manual transmission (standard) or optional automatic, the ZL1 was rated for a whopping 580 horsepower and 556 lb-ft of torque. With a 0-60 mph sprint in the low 4-second range, the ZL1 was undisputed as the quickest Camaro ever built, accentuated by a number of sports performance-based accessories from adaptive suspension dampers to oversized tires.
Mirroring the events of two years prior, 2013 served as a development year for the Camaro with another unique, attention-grabbing payoff to follow.
Designed with aerodynamics and weight-reduction in mind, the race-inspired Camaro Z/28 was everything you’d want on a track. Stripped out (to the tune of a 300 LB difference) the base model Z/28 was made for the enthusiast. With reduced sound-deadening and a number of features (including A/C) made optional, it was raw and performance-focused. Wrangling 500 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, the 7.0-liter V8 was only paired to a six-speed manual transmission. While its modest fuel economy (15 mpg combined) and lack of standard amenities may have been divisive to some, the Z/28 was a strong choice in favor of the Camaro enthusiast.
As of 2015, the fifth-generation Camaro had evolved to include a number of powertrain configurations, nicely paired to their respective models. The 3.6-liter V6 (LS and LT) the 6.2-liter V8 (SS) and its supercharged variant (ZL1) and the race-inspired 7.0-liter V8 (Z/28) were all confident and nicely-tiered options from which to choose. And while no muscle car enthusiast is willing to trade performance for fuel economy, where else was left to go as the Camaro edged into its sixth-generation?
The sixth generation of the iconic nameplate was unveiled in mid-2015, and the 2016 model went on sale later in the year. The main change to this variation of the Camaro had to do with the platform, as the brand converted the vehicle to accommodate the renowned GM Alpha Platform (the same configuration that was used the in the popular Cadillac ATS and CTS). This meant that the brand’s engineers added a number of mechanical components to their revamped Camaro, including a net set of MacPherson struts.
While the standard look of the Camaro didn’t really change, there were some minor revisions that will be appreciated by enthusiasts and owners. For instance, while the shape of the vehicle remained the same, engineers revamped the front of the vehicle (including the headlights) and the wheel design. That naturally leads to a sportier version of the iconic model. The interior also saw several changes, including the addition of a brand-new steering wheel. In an attempt to add more luxury to the nameplate, the brand also included new gauges and seats. While this didn’t necessarily boost opulence, it still helps emphasize the vehicle’s athleticism.
Under the hood, the brand included several new engine offerings, providing customers with even more options as they’re designing their brand new sports car. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is potentially the smallest possible unit that could be placed in the vehicle, but it still manages to pack quite the punch. Drivers can ultimately anticipate an impressive 275 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque from this system, which is more than enough power to overcome your fellow drivers on the highway. The existing 3.6-liter V6 engine boosts the horsepower specs to 335, while the hulking 6.2-liter V8 improves the power specs to 455 horsepower. While the brand’s crop of “high-performance” offerings wasn’t initially available, many pundits assumed that the company would release these variations later on in the generation.
When it comes to the actual driving experience, engineers included several amenities that should improve any commute or journey. The vehicle’s suspension has been revamped, as the brand included their Magnetic Ride Control system (as well as a revised steering unit). Drivers will ultimately find that overall handling is improved, especially when it comes to cornering. The brand also added their “drive mode selector,” which would adapt the vehicle to accommodate the impending road conditions. If you’re anticipating a slippery ride, then you can opt for one of the available options to help get you to your destination safely.
While the Camaro isn’t necessarily known for its technology, the brand still did an admirable job of improving some of their high-tech amenities. For instance, the size of the touchscreen was boosted, and the engineers also added a new set of LED lights to add a bit of ambiance. The same goes for the nameplate’s array of safety functions, as engineers didn’t really add many new functions. However, per usual, the model still took home high marks from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Since the brand unveiled the sixth generation of the nameplate only a year before, it shouldn’t be particularly surprising that the 2017 model didn’t include a whole lot of changes. The majority of the revisions were purely cosmetic. For instance, the brand included the “FIFTY” badge on the bottom of their steering wheel to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the model. Furthermore, the brand replaced their Blue Velvet Metallic exterior color in favor of the Arctic Blue Metallic paint color.
There were several new variations of the model that drivers could opt for. To continue celebrating the brand’s fiftieth year on the road, they offered customers the opportunity to choose the 50th Anniversary Special Edition. The vehicle was adorned in the brand’s iconic Nightfall Gray paint, and engineers accented this color with orange exterior features. Engineers also added reminders of the model’s fiftieth birthday throughout the inside and outside of the car. Customers could alternatively opt for the sporty 1LE package, which included a number of exterior amenities that help emphasize the sports cars’ athleticism. There was also the ZL1 trim, which included the incredible 6.2-liter V8 engine. Accompanied by either a six-speed manual or 10-speed automatic transmission, drivers could truly expect track-like performance from their ride.
Perhaps the most notable inclusion was the addition of the Teen Driver technology. While we wouldn’t necessarily expect many teenagers to be operating a Camaro, the system can still provide some assurance that younger operators will remain safe when they’re behind the wheel. When activated, the technology will automatically capitalize on all of the accompanying safety functions. Furthermore, it will refuse to perform basic functions (like audio) until occupants are traveling in the safest conditions (like having their seat belts secured). When the teen has concluded their trip, parents can monitor their habits thanks to the in-vehicle report card.
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