Different decade, same BS. Ever since 1967, six-cylinder Camaro owners have been hearing the same non-sense. “Ah man, why didn’t you get the V-8?” While questions like that are merely a mild annoyance when asked by people that know absolutely nothing about cars, the situation gets far worse when so-called hot rodders get in on the action. “You need to weld on two extra cylinders” is a common yet embarrassingly unoriginal quip, and “you can never make a V-6 go fast” tops the list as the granddaddy of all ignorant remarks. For much of the first four generations of Camaro, there were elements of truth to the V-6 bashing, but anyone that still spews that kind of idiotic trash talk needs a serious reality check.
Rated at 304hp, the 3.6L six-banger in the 2010 and 2011 fifth-gen squashes the LT1 and TPI V-8s of yore despite having just 2/3rds the displacement, and virtually matches the output of the ’98 Camaro’s vaunted LS1. Better yet, the V-6 pony count is up to 323 hp for 2012. Peak power numbers aside, these potent sixes are good for mid- to low 14-second e.t.’s at the dragstrip, knock down 30 mpg, and cost almost $10,000 less than their LS3-powered brethren. Lower mass and a more ideally balanced chassis is just icing on the cake. So perhaps the real question should be “ah man, why did you waste all that extra money on the V-8?” Granted that this is one little engine that already performs like a V-8, the V-6 faithful have managed to wring tons of extra power out of them, so we thought we’d take a closer look on how it’s done. From basic bolt-ons to free mods to power adders to computer tuning to suspension upgrades, we’ll cover it all.
Before diving elbow deep into the intricacies of V-6 performance, taking a closer look into its glorious high-tech guts is in order. Although it displaces just 217 cubic inches, it makes up for its small size with a heavy breathing induction package that enables it to rev freely to 7,000 rpm. That’s another way of saying that it makes the most of every last ounce of torque that it makes, and the result is V-8-like power in a smaller, lighter, and more fuel efficient package. To achieve this impressive performance, the Camaro’s all-aluminum LLT V-6 utilizes four-valve cylinder heads, gasoline direct injection, a stout 11.3:1 compression ratio, six-bolt main caps, piston oil squirters, and variable valve timing to actuate its dual overhead camshafts. Considering that the LLT already produces 1.4 hp per cubic inch (84 hp/liter), is it really possible to substantially improve upon those figures? You bet.
In bone stock trim, 2010 and 2011 Camaro V-6s will typically lay down 230-240 horsepower on a Dynojet chassis dyno. With some bolt-on induction and exhaust mods, those numbers increase by 40-50 hp. Better yet, the V-6 Camaro crowd isn’t a bunch of dyno racing weanies. Naturally aspirated V-6s have run as quick as mid-13-second e.t.’s in the quarter-mile, with turbocharged and nitrous-sniffing sixes running in the 11s. That’s plenty fast to smoke an unsuspecting SS at the stoplight. For 2012, GM has replaced the LLT V-6 with the LFX. While both share the same basic architecture and displacement, the LFX boats revised cylinder heads, intake manifold, camshafts, connecting rods, and throttle-body. Not only do these tweaks boost hp to 323, but the LFX is also 20 pounds lighter. As promising as the LFX looks on paper, the engine is so new that aftermarket development work for it is still in its infancy. As such, we’ll keep the focus on the ’10-’11 LLT V-6 for this write up.
Since no one knows these cars better than the people that own them and spend their hard-earned bucks modding them, we hit up www.camaro5.com–a cool online hangout for fifth-gens of all cylinder counts—to find ourselves a V-6 insider. There we bumped into a Chris Creech, better known by his forum handle “BaylorCamaro.” By stretching his college student budget, Chris has bolted up a carefully researched bucket of mods to his 2010 2LT, shaving a full second off its quarter-mile e.t. in the process. With an upgraded suspension and big Brembo brakes to match, it’s very much representative of the performance potential of the V-6 Camaro.
It isn’t exactly a free mod, but for $5, it’s pretty close. Like many late-model EFI motors, the LLT is prone to heat soak, and the stock computer starts to aggressively retard timing once inlet air temperature exceeds 85 degrees, substantially reducing power output on hot days. To remedy the situation, relocating the IAT sensor is an easy fix. Since the IAT sensor on the LLT is integrated into the MAP sensor, this mod involves buying a second IAT sensor from a fourth-gen LS1 Camaro (PN 12160244), and mounting it in the stock air box or in an aftermarket air filter. Wiring it up is as easy purchasing a new factory pigtail (PN 12102620), plugging it into the new IAT sensor, and then splicing it into the tan and blue colored wires that came off of the stock IAT/MAP sensor. “Some people think that relocating the IAT sensor is a waste of time, but it helps a lot if you live in a hot climate,” Chris explains. “Before I did the relocation mod, the inlet air temps would read over 200 degrees in the summer. Afterwards, the inlet air temps are now just five degrees above ambient temperature. The car definitely feels less sluggish.”