It kinda’ snuck up on me.

Somewhere between San Jose and Santa Monica, I discovered just how good the new 2016 Camaro is.

Now, there was no denying that the gen-5 Camaro Z/28 was already a beast of mythological track capabilities, but the few Camaros I’d had a chance to pilot were flawed, be it a tacky interior, a too-blockish exterior, and dynamics and a driving experience that just didn’t quite come together. Or perhaps it just didn’t speak to me. I’m no horse whisperer, but there was always just one pony car that really spoke to me, and that was the Boss 302. Well, move over Boss, because the Camaro has some newfound giddy up that is more than a match.

It all starts with how much less Camaro there is. Less size, less weight, less money. Okay, less money isn’t part of the Camaro, but it’s shocking considering the Camaro has transitioned to a premium Alpha architecture shared with the Cadillac ATS (and stretched for the CTS line as well), but sharing a better platform and powertrains means GM can spread the costs over several brands and models. Nonetheless, the price of entry to Camaro ownership is now $28,245 in Canada, equipped with a 2.0L turbo and six-speed manual transmission in 1LT trim (cheaper even than last year’s 1LS entry trim at $29,095 and over $2K cheaper than the 2015 1LT at $30,820). Granted, last year’s base car had a V6, and upgrade which will cost you about $1,500 over the 2.0T, and while you gain power with that engine, you lose torque…

Read all about where I went on

At the other end of the powertrain spectrum, prices have climbed. The 1SS Coupe with the big-dog V8 goes from $39,390 to $42,150 but power and torque are way up, and combined with lower weight, better equipment and the jump in performance, it’s hard to fault GM for that kind of price increase.

Speaking of performance, let’s get look at the early returns. The base 2.0L turbo is an SAE-certified 275 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque with a six-speed manual transmission is the base transmission with each of the three engine options. Weight comes in at 1,514 kg with the eight-speed automatic, and GM estimates the car can hit 60 mph (96 km/h) in under six seconds no matter the transmission (5.4 in manual, 5.5 with the auto).

The V6 weighs more at 1,567 kg, has less torque at 284 lb-ft, but the its 335 hp help it knock off 0-60 mph times of 5.2 and 5.1 with the manual and auto transmissions. This is the car we spent the bulk of our time driving, the blue one in pictures you see here. What you won’t see in pictures or find in the numbers is the way it sounds, and the V6’s greatest asset over its V6 Mustang rival is an unquestionably richer exhaust note: this thing sounds like a proper V, and enough rumble that might make some think there is a V8 under hood.

While I only drove the automatic, the V6 also felt well matched to the chassis’ weight and the transmission had enough gears to make use of that 335 hp and 284 lb-ft, its light weight making it easier to get rolling, and the transmission holding gears in sport mode or when it detects heavy throttle. In less frantic Touring mode, the transmission quickly moves up through the gears and holds them a bit longer, asking for a bit more throttle angle before downshifting when cruising along on the highway. In Sport mode, it requires only a feathering of throttle or braking into a corner to drop one or two gears in short order. The auto is smart and quick and smooth, and I experienced none of the lurching or confusion in encountered with the six-speed auto paired with this same V6 in the ATS Coupe.

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