Those looking for world-class power and performance in a traditional American muscle car need look no further than the 2020 Chevrolet Camaro. Offered in a range of trims in either coupe or convertible, even the base LS offers performance and horsepower that a decade or two back would have been considered top of the line. Of course, today the top-of-the-line Camaro is the ZL1, complete with a 650-horsepower V8. In between these two extremes are the bread-and-butter trims, namely the SS coupe and convertible, that strike a nice balance between performance and affordability.
For the money, the Camaro offers more power and performance than cars costing twice as much, proving you don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot. Because more customers are moving away from cars and toward SUVs, Chevrolet hopes the Camaro’s long history, impressive performance capabilities and longtime rivalry with the Ford F, +1.60% Mustang and the Dodge Challenger will be enough to keep its sales on track.
What’s new for 2020?
The Chevy Camaro
For 2020, the Camaro’s 10-speed automatic transmission is available with the 3.6-liter V6. The LT trim receives a number of optional upgrades, including 20-in 5-spoke wheels, Recaro sport seats and a suede-microfiber steering wheel. There’s a new LT1 coupe and convertible, and the SS gets a revised front end. See the 2020 Chevrolet Camaro models for sale near you
What we like
- Excellent performance
- Aggressive good looks move design forward but keep retro theme
- Improved interior
What we don’t
- Still has huge blind spots
- Tiny back seats
- Tall window line makes interior feel a little claustrophobic
The Camaro offers four engines. Standard on the LS and LT models is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which makes 275 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy estimates are 20 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway with the 6-speed manual, and 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy when equipped with the automatic.
Also see: Why I own a Dodge Durango muscle-SUV
Drivers looking for more power can upgrade from the 4-cylinder to the Camaro’s trusty 3.6-liter V6, which makes 335 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque. That engine returns 16 mpg city/26 mpg hwy with its standard 6-speed manual transmission or 19 mpg city/29 mpg hwy with its optional 10-speed automatic.
Drivers who upgrade to the Camaro SS get a 6.2-liter V8 with 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is a respectable 16 mpg city/24 mpg hwy with its standard manual transmission, or 16 mpg city/26 mpg hwy with the optional 10-speed automatic. Lastly, the fire-breathing Camaro ZL1 offers a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 good for 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy with the 6-speed manual is rated at 14 mpg city/20 mpg hwy, while the 10-speed automatic earns 13 mpg city/21 mpg hwy.
Standard features and options
The Camaro is offered as a coupe and convertible in eight trim levels: 1LS, 1LT, 2LT, 3LT, LT1, 1SS, 2SS and ZL1.
The base-level Camaro 1LS ($25,995 coupe) offers standard 18-in alloy wheels, a 6-speed manual transmission, a 7-in touchscreen with GM’s MyLink infotainment system, a backup camera, keyless access with push-button start, dual-power front seats, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, USB ports for music and automatic headlights.
The 1LT ($26,495 coupe, $32,495 convertible) adds an 8-speed automatic transmission and remote start.
The 1LT offers an optional Technology package that includes a larger touchscreen, voice controls for the infotainment system, a 9-speaker Bose sound system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. A 3.6-liter V6 and 10-speed automatic are also optional.
Next up is the Camaro 2LT ($28,495 coupe, $34,495 convertible), which offers the upgraded infotainment system from the Technology package, along with heated and ventilated front seats and dual-zone automatic climate control. An optional Convenience and Lighting package adds rear parking sensors, a head-up display, an improved gauge cluster, driver’s-seat memory, customizable interior lighting, a heated steering wheel, a wireless charging system and safety features such as lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Camaro 3LT ($32,495 coupe, $38,495 convertible) adds the option of a 3.6-liter V6 engine plus standard Bose audio, navigation and a frameless rearview mirror.
A sport-themed RS package is available on either LT model and offers appearance upgrades, 20-in alloy wheels and xenon headlights. The 1LE package offers the FE3 suspension components from the SS plus 20-in forged aluminum wheels, Brembo brakes, a track-cooling package, the SS high-performance fuel system and a dual-exhaust system.
The LT1 ($34,995 coupe, $40,995 convertible) combines most of the styling and features of the Camaro LT and SS with the 6.2-liter V-8 engine, performance suspension and Brembo brakes.
Drivers who choose the 1SS ($37,995 coupe, $43,995 convertible) get the V-8 engine, a 6-speed manual and all the 1LT’s features, plus xenon headlights, 20-in wheels, the upgraded infotainment system and improved performance options such as enhanced brakes, a sport suspension and a limited-slip differential. The SS can be equipped with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The 2SS ($42,995 coupe, $48,995 convertible) combines the 2LT’s equipment with the 1SS’s V-8 engine and performance upgrades. It also includes the 2LT’s Convenience and Lighting package as standard equipment. The coupe features standard forward-collision warning.
The ZL1 ($62,495 coupe, $68,495 convertible) adds a supercharged version of the 6.2-liter V8, a unique shaker-style hood, 20-in forged aluminum wheels, an upgraded suspension and steering, Brembo brakes and Recaro front seats. Options include the available 1LE Extreme Track package, a power sunroof, a navigation system and a sport exhaust system. The ZL1 can also be equipped with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
All 2020 Chevrolet Camaro models come standard with side-curtain airbags, a backup camera, anti-lock brakes, front-knee airbags, front-side airbags and GM’s GM, +2.75% OnStar telematics system. Options include forward-collision warning, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
In crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the 2020 Camaro a 5-star overall rating, with four stars in the frontal crash test and five stars in the side-impact and rollover tests. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the 2020 Camaro coupe and gave it a Good rating in all crash tests except the roof-strength test, where it earned a score of Acceptable.
Behind the wheel
We tested the V8-powered Camaro SS. Acceleration is blistering, just as you’d expect from an engine that would normally be at home in the Chevrolet Corvette sports car. The 10-speed automatic transmission seamlessly seeks the next gear with smooth, almost imperceptible shifts, but paddle-shift levers are at the ready in case the driver has other ideas. The roar of the engine is one of this car’s great selling points and does its part to make the drive more exciting. However, don’t tell anyone that some of the aural treats are accomplished by sound resonators that pipe the effects into the cabin.
Touring mode offers a surprisingly relaxed ride, and Active Fuel Management shuts down up to four cylinders for increased fuel economy. We observed an average of 20.8 mpg in combined driving. Switching over to Sport mode firms the steering and suspension and allows the transmission to hold gears longer. Despite the quiet cabin, moderate road noise is able to get inside, probably due to the car’s run-flat tires.
We also spent some time in the base 1LT with the turbocharged 4-cylinder and 1LE Track package and came away quite impressed. When equipped with the 6-speed manual, we were able to turn a 0-to-60 run in just under six seconds — pretty impressive, considering the engine’s size and 275 hp output.
Other cars to consider
2020 Dodge Challenger — The sporty Dodge Challenger is starting to show its age compared with the Camaro, but it still boasts a handsome look and surprisingly good driving dynamics for its size. The GT trim features all-wheel drive, while the 797-hp Hellcat Redeye handily outmuscles the ZL1.
2020 Ford Mustang — The Camaro’s longtime rival offers a little more technology than the Chevy in a smaller, more manageable package. It also boasts a high-performance GT350 variant and 760-hp Shelby GT500.
2020 Nissan 370Z — The V6-powered 370Z is a proven performer starting at right about the $31,000 mark. The convertible Z is gone, but the NISMO performance model nicely matches the base and 2LT Camaro trims.
2020 Toyota Supra — Built off the BMW Z4 platform, the Supra presents a lighter, smaller and more maneuverable option, but it only has one engine choice and no manual transmission.
Used Chevrolet Corvette — If you like the Camaro’s General Motors roots and its no-nonsense powertrain, consider going sporty. Prices are high, though, so you may have to check out a used model.
The latest Chevrolet Camaro is an excellent performance car at all levels, but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. That said, we’d bypass the base turbocharged models and place our bet on the obvious: a 2SS model with the muscular V8 and all the trimmings. And yes, we know the ZL1 is bigger, but its price and limited availability will put it out of reach for most.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.