For most performance enthusiasts, associating the Camaro with a six-cylinder engine is about as foreign as a Russian passport, but the Gen 5 has started to change attitudes. With its technologically advanced, direct-injected 3.6-liter V-6 cranking out 323 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque, it’s no slouch on the street or track.
Car and Driver bagged a 5.9-second 0-60 time and a 14.5-second quarter mile a couple of years ago. That’s nothing a ZL1 jockey will have to worry about, but for those of us old enough to live – and drive – through the bad-old days of the Eighties and early Nineties, that’s performance that would embarrass a third- or early-fourth-gen Z28. And yes, the Gen 5 Camaro, even with a V-6, is a lot tubbier than those older Camaros, which makes its performance all the more impressive. (It would be interesting to slip the engine in, say, an ’02 Camaro body and see would it would do with about 400 fewer pounds to move at launch, but that’s an idea for another day.)
Given its under-hood credentials and a base price that’s roughly $8,000 less than the Camaro SS, the V-6 models have gone from essentially a non-issue to a thought-starter for more and more enthusiasts. And with more companies getting on board with performance parts for them, building a seriously quick six is as easy as bolting on a few strategic parts. Take IPF Tuning’s red test bed, for example. With essentially nothing more than a low-boost supercharger system, it has turned 12-second e.t.’s – with a lowered street suspension setup, that ain’t exactly set up for drag strip launches, and a race weight just a Krispy Kreme box shy of 3,900 pounds. The blower system was developed for the car is now a full-fledged bolt-on kit that pushes the 3.6-liter engine’s output to an impressive 435 horsepower and 360 lb-ft of torque.
“With the vast majority of Camaro parts aimed at V-8 cars, the options for V-6 owners are admittedly limited, but systems like this are helping feed a growing demand for six-cylinder performance,” says IPF’s Jason Plotke. “We wouldn’t have invested in the kit if we didn’t believe there was a market for it and the enthusiasts have responded. Since introducing it at about the middle of 2012, we’ve sold dozens of systems.”
The blower kit is based around a Vortech V3 internally lubricated compressor that sits on the front corner of the engine on a set of IPF-designed CNC-machined 6061-aluminum brackets. There’s also a larger air-to-air charge cooling system that mounts in front of the radiator. The system blows up to 7 psi into the DOHC engine, which has a comparatively high – for a force-inducted engine – compression ratio of 10.5:1. IPF also developed the calibration software to make it all run. Aesthetically, the combination looks great with the blower and brackets in black and the silicon intake tube in red.
Importantly, the entire fuel system for this supercharged six is stock. In fact, the only other powertrain-related variation from stock is a set of axle-back mufflers and tailpipes. Not even headers are used to achieve the 435-hp rating (Ed note: headers are not even possible on the ’12+ LFX V-6 due to the manifolds being integrated into the cylinder heads). That’s admirable engineering on IPF’s part, which also gives hope to enthusiasts concerned over the Gen V LT1 small-block V-8, which will also use direct injection like the 3.6L V-6 – and that of course means a fuel system with sky-high fuel pressure, a specialized fuel pump and injectors that could prevent serious modifications. Maybe so, but IPF has demonstrated they can tune around a direct-injected engine with excellent results, so we’ll reserve judgment on the LT1. The aftermarket tuning community is tremendously creative and resourceful and we’re confident they’ll make it work.
Now back to IPF’s Camaro. As we mentioned, apart from the blower, the rest of the powertrain is factory-stock from the Aisin-supplied six-speed manual transmission to the aluminum rear end fitted with 3.27 gears. To take some of the body roll out of the clumsy Camaro’s cornering moves, a set of Eibach sport springs and adjustable stabilizer bars was installed, front and rear. The springs also lower the Camaro about 1.5 inches – a road-hugging look accented further by the lower-body kit from 3dCarbon. They also supplied the racing-inspired front fender vents, which look very appropriate on this high-tech sports car, as well as the rear spoiler.
Rounding out the exterior enhancements is a set of halo projector headlamps and LED taillights from Anzo USA, which give yet another high-tech custom touch. Also, the hood, roof and taillight panel are painted a matte charcoal color that complements the red exterior color much better than a conventional matte-black finish. Even the grille’s bowtie emblem and the tops of the outside mirrors got the charcoal treatment.
The car rolls on 20-inch TSW Nurburgring wheels, measuring 9 inches wide in the front and 10.5 inches wide in the rear. They’re wrapped with Pirelli PZero rubber, sized 255/35R20 and 305/40R20, respectively. Behind the wheels are SS-based Brembo calipers clamping down on Baer 14-inch-diameter drilled-and-slotted rotors. The wheels have a charcoal finish that matches the other gray exterior accents. The details abound on this car, that’s for sure.
The Camaro’s cabin carries over the black-and-red theme seen on the exterior and in the engine compartment, with custom-stitched suede inserts and leather seating trim from Roadwire. Auto Meter boost and air/fuel ratio instruments are housed in a hand-formed gauge holder at the front of the center console that was also painted red. Although the contrasting color scheme – inside and out – and racy exterior look bold, there’s something deceptively unassuming about IPF’s car. Perhaps it’s the natural assumption that as a V-6 car, it would be more show than go, but regardless of your ideology about how many cylinders should be beneath the hood of a Camaro, you can’t argue the effectiveness of their 12-second “demo” car.
We caught up with it last summer at the Camaro5 Fest in Indianapolis, where its drag-strip performance raised more than a few eyebrows – including ours. Even in an age of 10- and even 9-second truly streetable cars, running 12s in a comparatively inexpensive street car that can be built at home regardless of the number of pistons punching away within the engine block. “The reception to our blower kit has been great and we expect it to grow, as more people turn to the V-6 models as an economical alternative,” says Plotke. “We’re continually looking at ways at creating even more power, too. We’re really just getting started.”
We’re impressed with the result so far – and we’re sure more than a few unlucky Mustang owners are, too, especially when they thought they had easy pickings against a Camaro without the V-8 burble. That’s true six appeal.
Engine: stock LFX 3.6L DOHC direct-injection V-6, 10.5:1 compression
Power Adder: Vortech V3 supercharger, 6-7psi, air-to-air intercooler
Fuel System: stock fuel pump and injectors
Engine Management: Stock, tuned by IPF Tuning
Exhaust System: stock cats and mid-pipes, KPE Products axle-back
Driveline: Stock AY6, clutch, rear with 3.27:1 gear
Suspension: Stock with Eibach lowering springs and sway bars
Brakes: SS Brembo with Baer rotors, front and rear
Wheels: TSW Nurburgring 20x9 front, 20x10.5 rear
Tires: Pirelli PZero 295/35R20 front, 305/40R20 rear