Just a few years ago, in the depths of the recession, folks were lamenting the end of the muscle car. Yet in the intervening years, we've entered into another golden age, one where the competition is cutthroat and anything less than 500 horsepower is met with a yawn. This gladiatorial pony-car battleground has brought about the freshened-up 2019 Chevrolet Camaro, featuring tweaked sheetmetal and massaged performance. It's the latest salvo in the great muscle car wars, and, as usual, buyers are the clear victors.
What's New for 2019
An updated front fascia finally ditches the grill and headlight treatment that harked back to the Chevy Camaro's 2009 re-introduction. Each trim has its own distinct treatment up front, something that future Camaro collectors might want to make note of. Rear fascias with LED taillights are new as well and are the same across trims. Automatic transmissions for the SS models are now 10-speed affairs, and Chevy's more advanced Infotainment 3 software is now standard on most trim levels. New available options include a rear camera mirror and forward collision warning.
Choosing Your Chevrolet Camaro
Picking the Camaro that's right for you is a bit of a doozy, thanks to the veritable feast of available trim levels and engine options. It's not much of a stretch to say that few other vehicles offer the breadth of choice that the Camaro boasts.
Those wanting Camaro style but don't mind Cruze power will probably look towards the LS and LT trims, which come standard with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Power output stands at 275 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, which makes it the weakest player on the engine roster. However, EPA-estimated fuel economy figures of 22 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg highway, and 25 combined for the automatic-equipped models is decidedly better than any V8 might muster. The standard issue gearbox is a six-speed manual, which returns mileage just slightly worse than the eight-speed automatic.
For 2019, Chevy has made their 1LE handling and suspension package available for 2.0-liter, manual-transmission LT models. Previously exclusive to the larger engines, the 1LE packs a punch by adding specific suspension tuning, firmer bushing and dampers, larger anti-sway bars, wider rear tires, big brakes, and a heavy-duty cooling system. All told, it's good for 0.97 g's of lateral grip. Translated, it means that 1LE Camaros will be sticking to the ground in corners with Corvette- and Porsche-like levels of grip.
Optional on 1LT and 2LT trims but standard on 3LT is a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 335 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque. It's not quite as good on gas as the four-cylinder, but the linearity of the naturally aspirated six-cylinder means that the power comes on fast and quick, with zero-to-60 coming in a tick over five seconds for the automatic-equipped cars. The 3.6-liter can only be paired with an eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual, and returns 19/29/22 mpg (city/highway/combined) with the automatic.
Of course, it's the eight-cylinder cars that everybody lusts for. The basic SS utilizes a 6.2-liter V8 that makes 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is again standard, and a 10-speed automatic usurps the previously-available eight-speed unit. The run to 60 mph gets done in either 4.0 seconds with the auto or 4.3 seconds with the manual.
As with the 2.0-liter, the 1LE treatment can be ordered up for the SS. Similar hardware upgrades as the four-cylinder - however, the SS cars also get General Motors' excellent magnetic ride control active dampers – bringing about grip levels of over 1 g.
The ZL1 sits at the top of the Camaro heap and also uses a 6.2-liter motor. Don't just think it's an uprated version of the SS engine, though – this mill is unique enough to merit its own internal designation (LT4). Unlike the LT1 6.2 found in the SS, the LT4 has beefed-up internals designed to cope with the stresses that come with having a 1.7-liter supercharger sitting kingly atop the motor. The supercharged track-ready engine pumps out 650 hp and 650 lb-ft, and will do zero-to-60 in just 3.5 seconds. Transmission choices are same as the SS – a standard six-speed manual or an available 10-speed automatic.
An RS appearance package is available on all non-V8 trims but the 1LS. Cosmetic upgrades include a lip spoiler, 20-inch wheels, LED headlights with light bar, darkened taillights, a specific grille, and a body-color fin antenna. A whole potpourri of other appearance packages are available on nearly every trim as well.
A convertible is also available. It's offered in all trims listed below except for the 1LS. It costs an additional $7,500 over a similarly-configured coupe.
It feels like there's an infinite amount of trims to choose from in the 2019 Chevy Camaro lineup, but we think that the best choice is the 3.0-liter V6 3LT. Yes, it's down on power compared to the V8 SS models, and can't hold a candle to the supercar-esque ZL1, but buyers will find the V6 faster than expected, an adept handler (especially with the black-magic 1LE package), and well equipped with convenience features. If you're lost in the maze of Camaro options and trims, we'd suggest honing in on the humble six found in 3LT trim.
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