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Eric's Autos: 2018 Chevrolet Camaro

Eric Peters on

cars, by tradition, are supposed to have V-8 engines. But what happens when a four-cylinder has as much (or even more) power than most muscle car V-8s used to? You go faster -- and get much better gas mileage.

That's the 2018 Chevy Camaro turbo.

What It Is

The Camaro is GM's iconic muscle car. It's still available with a muscle car V-8 if you prefer, or a very powerful V-6. But if you want V-8 power and performance without the gas bills -- or the higher price -- you might want to have a look at the standard coupe.

All models come with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 275 horsepower.

Just for reference, that's more horsepower than most V-8 Z28s of the '80s and well into the '90s - out of an engine with half as many cylinders, that uses only a little less gas than most current economy cars.

Base price for the 1LS coupe is $26,900, whereas the V-8-powered 1SS base price is $37,900.

Camaro's most direct rival is -- as always -- the Ford Mustang, which also offers a very potent turbocharged four-cylinder engine as standard equipment. The Ford's base price is $25,585, and it's a bit more practical as far as back-seat room and trunk space.

What's New

Like many carmakers, Chevy is trying to encourage people to buy by offering lower-priced, less loaded versions of its cars. In the case of Camaro, that means a 1LS trim. But it doesn't mean you're getting a stripped-down shell, as it did mean back in the classic muscle-car era of the '60s and '70s.

You get 18-inch aluminum wheels -- bigger wheels than any classic-era V-8 muscle car ever came with from the factory -- a 7-inch touch screen with Wi-Fi, a six-speaker stereo, power windows, power locks, keyless entry, power driver's seat, adjustable drive modes and, of course, air conditioning.

The days of the bare-bones muscle car are long gone.

What's Good

It has V-8 muscle-car power and quickness with economy-car fuel sippyness.

You get a new lower price without roughing it.

What's Not So Good

The low roofline looks great but hinders visibility.

The back seat is almost unusable -- even for a muscle car.

It has a tiny trunk -- even for a muscle car.

Under the Hood

The Camaro comes standard with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It's not the first time Chevy has offered a four-cylinder engine in a Camaro. The last time was back in the '80s. The difference today is that the 2018 engine is turbocharged, and while it's economical, it is also powerful.

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It has nearly there times the horsepower than the '80s-era Camaro's four-cylinder -- which barely had 100 horsepower -- and 100-plus more horsepower than the Camaro Z28 standard 5.0-liter V-8 engine from the same era (which only had 145 horsepower).

A six-speed manual transmission is standard; an eight-speed automatic is optional.

Either way, the Camaro gets from zero to 60 mph in about six seconds flat --quicker than all but a small handful of classic-era V-8 muscle cars.

It also gets 20 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway.

On the Road

This is a big car even though it's a two-door. At 188.3 inches long overall, it's more than a foot longer than sports cars like the Nissan 370Z and Mazda Miata. This is traditional, as muscle cars were never small cars.

It's a weird feeling if you're not used to driving a big car that is also sporty. The Camaro uses most of its lane, with little margin to either side. But this is OK, because the car's ability to keep on track is as good -- or better -- as that of smaller, sportier cars.

It's like a 300-pound NFL lineman who can also run.

At the Curb

Muscle cars are exaggerated cars, the Hulk Hogans of the car world. They're bigger -- and brasher -- than the rest. They part the crowd. The new Camaro definitely does that.

It has some retro-themed styling elements intended to evoke the '67-'69 Camaro -- especially up front -- but there is also an infusion of current Corvette themes, especially when viewed from the rear.

Another Corvette commonality is the two-seater interior. Well, technically, the Camaro has four seats - but its back seats have the least legroom of any of the three current muscle cars (the others being the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger). There's 43.9 inches up front, but the back seat stat is so minimal GM doesn't even publish it.

The trunk is also exceptionally small -- even for a muscle car -- at 9.1 cubic feet (the Mustang's is 13.5 cubic feet; the Challenger, which has the most usable back seats of the bunch, has 16.2 cubic feet of trunk).

The Rest

Aside from the V-8 power and performance -- and the lower MSRP and gas bills -- there is another good reason to consider the turbo four Camaro: lower insurance costs, especially if you are a young (under 35) and single. Insuring a muscle car has always been expensive, but you'll probably get a break by skipping the V-8, because the four-cylinder is considered less obstreperous.

The Bottom Line

It's not often you can actually have your cake and eat it, too. This time, you can.

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Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" Is available now https://books.ericpetersautos.com/optin1. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Copyright 2018 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
 

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