The new Camaro is everything that the public wanted: a retro-look and offered with a choice between two powerful LS engines underhood. But no matter how well the General did it, there is always room for improvement. Camaro Now tackled some basic upgrades that can be done in your driveway and in just one day. The only outsourcing required is an aftermarket tune to compensate for the changes made underhood. We focused on three major upgrades--AIRAID cold-air intake, Dynatech SuperMaxx long-tube headers with high-flow cats, and a custom tune from East Coast Supercharging (ECS). These basic mods are easy to install and pack a powerful punch. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but our test vehicle picked up 64 rear-wheel horsepower and 56 rear-wheel torque over the baseline. The package is a balance of more power, aggressive tone, and ease of installation. The price tag for all of the mods listed on these pages is $2,000 (without tax and shipping)-including dyno time and tuning but minus installation cost.
These power-proven mods were bolted on to John Franco's stock '10 Camaro SS, featuring an LS3 engine and six-speed manual transmission. In stock trim, the car was a bit down on power when compared to other LS3 Camaros on ECS's Dynapack chassis dyno--it produced 340 rear-wheel horsepowerwhp and 345 lb-ft of torque. "That is a little lower than what most six-speed Camaros make on our dyno," says Doug Ring of ECS. He continued, "Typically we see these cars make about 355-360 rwhp." We chalked it up to an extremely hot and humid day and while there is a correction factor on the dyno, our test conditions were very extreme due to our middle of August test date. We did like the fact the 340 rwhp result was repeatable. Ring backed up the baseline two more times; in fact, it was dead-on 340 rwhp for each backup pull. It might be lower than normal, but it's the most repeatable stock car we've ever seen.
ECS handled the installation of the parts in addition to the custom tuning and dyno testing, which will bring the price of the package up higher. ECS technician Tommy Michalkowski knocked out the install process pretty quickly-a testament to the easy-fitting Dynatech headers and true bolt-in Airaid cold-air intake kit. Anyone who has worked on a fourth-gen can attest to the difficulties when trying to slip in a set of long-tube headers. That wasn't the case with the fifth-gen, as GM seems to have thought about the aftermarket's concerns with header tube fitment. There was plenty of room on either side of the engine. Dynatech's instructions mentioned an interference with the hydraulic clutch line, but our test car didn't have any problems, the line didn't even come close to the headers. The Camaro was built as a late '10 model-perhaps there was a running change on the assembly line. The Airaid kit is probably the simplest modification we've ever done as it dropped into place with ease. A lower (160°F) thermostat was installed in the radiator to help cool down the 376ci bullet.
The factory ECM was tuned using EFI Live and Ring made it seem simple. "We've done quite a few new Camaros with similar modifications as well as many supercharged ones. It's nice to deal with the same ECU [ECM] unlike the C5 Vette where there were sometimes as many as five different processors with each one acting differently. The Camaro ECU is consistent and that helps us build a database to draw upon for similarly prepped cars," Ring says. He loaded a base-tune and a road trip ensued. But before we pulled out of the shop, Ring installed an Innovate wideband oxygen sensor and connected his laptop to the ECM. Driveability, fan controls, and other parameters were logged and checked to make sure the Camaro drove properly at part-throttle. The fun on the chassis dyno began when we got back to the shop.
The custom tune attacks several areas in the ECM, and there are many highlights that the guys at ECS pointed out. At the top of the list was the drive-by-wire throttle response, torque management, and skip-shift functions. Each was modified to make the car more enjoyable to drive. From there Ring tended to the fan controls to have it come on sooner to help cool off the car. The air/fuel ratio was adjusted leaner since the factory sets it up rich. Timing maps were modified and the car seemed to like a total of 23 degrees of ignition timing. Any more than that and the ECM would sense knock, yank timing thus reducing power. The Camaro actually went from 395 rwhp to 404 rwhp by reducing the total timing from 26 down to 23 degrees, keeping the engine from tripping the knock sensors.
Final results on the dyno were a scorching 404 rwhp and 401 lb-ft-some 64 rwhp and 56 lb-ft higher than our baseline pulls. "The gains are similar to what we have seen with other headers, cold-air kit, and ECS tune," Ring says. Based on ECS's extensive dyno time with the fifth-gen Camaro, we'd breakdown the package as: the tune added 15-20 rwhp, 15-20 rwhp for the Airaid cold-air kit, and 20-25 rwhp for the long-tube headers (using stock cross-pipe and after-cat exhaust system). On the street, the power was instantly felt as the car was obviously much quicker, more responsive, displayed excellent manners on the highway in Sixth gear (it was very sluggish on the highway before the mods), and offers a serious growl when jumping on the gas. The car owner, Franco, told us, "The sound is perfect; it's quiet when cruising around and sounds awesome when I get on the pedal." As for the extra power, let's just say there are a few Mustang owners in the area who are driving around with some hurt feelings.