Next-Gen Camaro news...
Work on a new 5th generation Camaro, though GM will tell you different, began about two years ago in almost a skunkworks fashion. It was a difficult task for GM to perform in secret especially during the acrimonious final year of the fourth generation Camaro. GM constantly referring to the Camaro being on ďHiatusĒ is a sure sign that they were not fully giving up on the Camaro. Initial work was largely marketing studies, seeing what potential Camaro buyer must have, would like to have, and defiantly donít want. This kind of research is done before engineering and design on a new car program. Camaro is the 3rd most recognized name in GMís portfolio, and it has understandably become notion at GM that it had to come back. The current team working on the new Camaro is pushing to build a car that will be appealing not only when itís released, but 5-7 years later (as far out as 2015!). That means for the most part that retro is out, which is good for Bob Lutz, who dislikes such design to begin with. GM does not want another T-bird or new Beetle, as their sales do not hold up well over time. Initially in the development process, Cadillacís Sigma platform was considered the leading architecture for which to base the new Camaro. Several issues however came up with this choice, the first one of which being the cost of the Cadillac platform which was not designed with Chevrolet prices in mind. Secondly, the Sigma platform has a very high cowl (commonly called firewall) height that was made as a concession for the Cadillac SRX Crossover. This however is not ideal for a low slung sports coupe and would be very expensive to impossible to correct. This realization occurred at about the same point GM discovered Holden. In importing the GTO, GM realized that Holden had expertise and efficiency in designing affordable rear wheel drive cars that they could only wish to have. When they signed a 3-year agreement with Holden to build the GTO, they also had an eye on the future, and an American made GTO. It seems Holden was already developing a successor to the V-chassis that the Monaro, GTO, and Commodore are all built on dubbed VE. The VE chassis (as Holden calls it) is sort of a hybrid Sigma/V-car design with most of the Sigmaís structure mated to V-Car suspension elements. This new design is being engineered to be fully compliant with US laws and will be built in one or two US factories beginning 2005-2006. It is Holdenís manufacturing system which allows for several cars to be built in one factory that is the cornerstone to GMís plans. Currently they build 20 variants of the V-car in one factory down under. This setup GM hopes in the US will allow for a Buick to build say a $45,000 Lexus fighting sedan on the same line a $20,000 V6 Chevy Camaro. The US version of the VE chassis is currently being called Sigma-Lite or Sigma-Mass among those in the know, however GM has yet to give it an official name. The chassis debuted just this week as the Opel Insignia concept, proving how far it is along in development. The VE will also underpin the next GTO which will be made in the US in 2007. This new VE-based GTO is said to be lower, wider, and more aggressive than the current V-car based version according to those who have seen it. Expect the new GTO to be more identifiable as a GTO, while being a fully modern (non-retro) design. I believe the Insignia concept shows the low slung rounded look that will be the signature of this platform.
Now what does all this mean for the Camaro? Well since it was decided that the GTO would be redesigned and built stateside, Chevy has been in the game developing a coupe for themselves as a counterpart. Common notion was that this car would be a Chevelle, since it has historically been the GTOís platform sibling. This speculation was recently fired by the fact that Chevy recently trademarked the Chevelle name again. In fact, for a few months there were questions in GM concerning what the new Chevy coupe would be called as some wanted it to be a Monte Carlo, some a Chevelle, and the majority wanted a Camaro. GMI has learned that the Chevelle rumors really never had any muscle behind them, especially after GM was roasted alive by GTO enthusiasts over the 2004 car, Chevrolet has become worried about getting the same reception over a reborn Chevelle. Cementing the name of the new Chevrolet coupe was ironically the Mustang concept at the 2004 NAIAS. Upon first site it gave Bob Lutz a case of the ďI wantsĒ, and pretty much cemented that any coupe that comes from Chevrolet will be have to first be a Camaro.
Its also noteworthy that weíve learned that the new Camaro will not be the same size as the GTO, as the highly flexible chassis allows for different proportions among car models. Think of it as a GTO on a diet with some dimensional excesses removed. Our sources assure us that no one will mistake a Camaro for a GTO both in size or appearance. This new 5th Gen Camaro is currently on a timeline for a 2007 model year introduction, provided that no unexpected obstacles fall in itís path. GMís maze of new model concept approvals is staggering, and the new car does not have the final stamp quite yet. However it should be noted that at this point neither does the 2007 GTO, and that this is normal in the approval process for vehicles this far out. This final approval by GMís Product Planning Board does not occur until the car is within about two years of going into production. In short, if the 2007 GTO becomes reality (which we all know will happen), then a 2007 Camaro almost certainly will to.
GM was quite proud of the fact that the Camaro was the fastest pony car during itís final years and is willing to grow to great lengths to ensure it picks up where it left off. GM can match the Ford Mustang step for step horsepower wise with itís superior powertrain unit. GMís engines are cheaper and make more HP/Dollar than their respective Ford units despite the false generally held notion they are low tech. Power will likely come in three flavors, base V6, medium V8, and high end V8. The base V6 will likely be a high-value 3.5L (200HP) or 3.9L (230HP) engine. Expect GM to match the Mustang in V6 performance, but not exceed it. It is important that GM save costs on the V6 Camaro as it will likely be among the cheapest cars built on the whole Sigma-Lite platform. Though V6 buyers care about performance, cost and value seem to take more precedence in this segment. As much as people would like a 3.6L 255 HP high feature V6, itís not likely due to its much increased cost. They do however, plan to offer a bolt on version of the supercharger used on the 285HP 3.5L that will show up in the 2005 Pontiac G6 to the general public through dealers. Contrary to some rumors, a 4-cylnder is not in the plans as it does not fit the image Chevrolet wants for the new Camaro. For a mid-level V8 expect either a 320 HP 5.3L or a 340HP detuned version of the Corvetteís 6.0L LS2 base engine.The 5.3L is the less likely of the above mentioned engines to get the nod because we are unaware of any plans to certify it for car use, a road the 6.0L is well down. For all intents the 5.7L is dead as the new Corvette will use a 6.0L engine in itís place. This mid-model is likely to car the Z28 designation which will upset some Z28 enthusiasts, but follows the line with the Camaroís recent history The top level V8 likely to again be called SS will also most likely be the 6.0L LS2 directly from the base Corvette. This engine making probably 10-20 HP less than in Corvette trim will make in the area of 390HP. The decision to use the SS designation follows GM recent trend of using the designation of the top performing car for each model. The car will also probably have some kind of affiliation with GM Performance Division. It is well known that Holden is designing itís new VE cars to use 6 speed automatic transmissions, making them an obvious choice for the SS 5th Gen Camaro. The 6-speed automatic is actually simpler and cheaper to manufacture than a 5 speed design. There are rumors that team Corvette badly wants a paddle-shift setup to come from this design, but is exploring all options. This new transmission will be made at GMís Willow Run plant that currently makes the 4L80-E and 4T80E transmissions. Four or Five Speed Autos will be used in lesser models. There will also be a 6-speed manual offered for those who wish to shift on their own.
On the outside the new Camaro will be lower and more seductive than the current GTO. It will also feature styling elements from the SS Concept of this year. People familiar with the new car claim it has a chrome bar concurrent of newer Chevrolets, however that element is very much in limbo. Naturally, the interior will be fully modern keeping in line with the GMís recent achievements. Interiors have been a hot topic on the auto scene the last few years, and GM understands that the Camaro needs to hit a homerun to succeed. Ergonomics will be inherently better that the 4th Gen cars simply due to the better design of the new chassis. Basic features debuting on cars such as the 2004 Malibu are sure to be considered for the new car, such as remote start, Displacement on Demand, and XM and MP3 Capable radios. It is actually cost effective for GM to include such features in the new car because they were already included in the overall architecture design which will be the structure for more expensive cars. The new car will also include ABS and a revised traction control system that will make the Camaro an all weather car. In reality anything is possible, because Sigma ĖLite will be so widely used, pretty much all of GMís parts bin of options will be engineered to work with it, making the cost to include them in a Camaro negligible, What all of this means is that the Camaro will receive levels of options and refinements that was never imaginable, because it rides on a platform designed to for cars that cost much more. Things such as roll up windows and manual locks will not even be considered because it is cheaper to just include the power options than do the engineering to include manual options. Higher end versions may include features such as On-Star that are highly profitable and compact enough to not hurt performance. If GM thinks that people will pay for it, GM will likely include it. This is great for buyers of the top level Camaro will get much more for their money than they did with the 4th Generation. Speaking of price, expect GM to price the Camaro similar to the 4th Generation Camaro, slightly more than a Mustang of comparable price.
If Ford decided to chase the Corvette with a 500HP Cobra, donít expect a Camaro to chase it. GM feels that the Corvette will do a good enough job of disposing with the challenge. The price spread could likely run from about $20,000 to $37,000+ (In 2007 dollars) for a 400 HP fully-loaded Camaro. Considering in 2002 a base V6 Camaro started at $19,000, this is not much of a price increase. GM thinks it can sell a 110,000 units a year at this pricing through tapping such markets as past buyers, well off twenty and thirty something males, buyers put off by the retro Mustang, and in general anyone looking for amazing performance at a Chevrolet price. GM has committed itself to making the Camaro not only faster and better than the Mustang, but quite possibly on of the best performers in itís price range.
Though this article is a representation of the current state of the new Camaro to the best of our knowledge, please remember the car is three years from hitting showrroms and some details may change. When the wraps come off the 2007 Camaro it will bring an end to what has been a classic struggle within GM to keep one of itís classic nameplates viable in an ever changing market. Though there have been many people pushing for this new car within GM at various levels for the last 7 years, few on the outside will ever understand the hard work and struggle that went into bringing a new car to light. However, Rest assured however, the new car is one that will be worthy of the Camaro name, and more importantly, one that people will buy!