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Why The Four-Cylinder Camaro Is Exactly What Chevrolet Needed

It’s a Numbers Game

Evan Perkins Jun 26, 2015
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If you’re a car guy, specifically one interested in muscle – which, since you are reading Super Chevy, it is fair to assume you are – I can promise you two things. One: your kneejerk reaction to the 2.0-liter turbo in the 2016 Camaro was one of outrage and disgust; and two: As you crest this first paragraph, your blood is well on its way to boiling. Take a moment and breathe before continuing.

The 2.0-liter turbo (RPO code LTG) truly is one of the best things that could have happened to the Camaro – but not for the reasons you might think. Keep an open mind for the next few minutes as I explain how the little engine that has the Internet buzzing with disapproval may actual be saving your beloved muscle car from extinction.

First and foremost, if you’re a die-hard muscle car aficionado, the four-banger Camaro is not for you. You know it. We know, it. Chevrolet knows it. While the new engine is a pretty impressive piece of technology, with 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque on tap from a scant two liters of displacement, the V-8 engine is far more of a religious decision than one based on practicality or power efficiency. And let’s be honest, the chances of a die-hard V-8 guy jumping ship to join the turbo-four crowd are slim. No, Chevrolet had someone else in mind when they allocated the LTG engine platform to the Camaro assembly line. Here’s a hint: he isn’t a Chevy guy … yet.

The fifth-gen Camaro was America’s best selling performance car, with over 500,000 sold. Of that total, 63 percent of those keys fell into the hands of conquest buyers, people who had never purchased a Camaro, or even a Chevrolet before. So what does that have to do with a four-cylinder you might ask? Well, buyers from many other segments have their eyes on small-displacement, fuel-efficient, and especially turbocharged engines – something the fifth-gen Camaro never offered them. By putting a technology infused, power dense four-cylinder in the Camaro, Chevrolet can appeal to a wider demographic of potential buyers.

Why do you care? Because subsidizing development costs of shared components such as suspensions, chassis, and various other components with a broad-appealing base model allows Chevy to keep the price of your beloved SS as low as they can. It’s no secret today’s cars are already expensive. Any cost cutting measures that can be taken, we all greatly appreciate.

In addition to subsidized development costs, there is one other, and vastly more important, reason why V-8-enthusiasts should be applauding the development of four-cylinder Camaro, and that’s because of an invasive and free-market bullying practice called CAFE. No, not the corner coffee shop where the kids in tight jeans hang out, CAFE is an acronym for “Corporate Average Fuel Economy.”

The way the law works is that all vehicles produced by an auto manufacturer have their EPA-issued mpg ratings averaged into a single number via a complex mathematical formula. That number must then meet, or exceed, a federally mandated CAFE standard. If the company’s CAFE is less than that average, they are forced to pay a hefty government fine to the tune of $5.50 per 0.1 mpg. That doesn’t sound too terrible until you learn that it is multiplied by the manufacturer’s total production for the U.S. domestic market. If you recall, Chevrolet sold over 500,000 fifth-gen Camaros. Imagine they blew the CAFE standard by just 0.1 mpg. That’s 500,000 multiplied by $5.50 or $2,750,000 they would have had to cut a check to Uncle Sam for. And, who do you think will ultimately end up footing that bill? It’s a safe bet that it will trickle directly to the consumer.

It’s no secret that this government practice is not very friendly to sports cars, modern muscle cars, or trucks. So the question becomes: “How do you circumvent it?” The only way is to produce more fuel efficient cars to shift the company’s CAFE in the right direction. Enter the four-cylinder Camaro. Not only do sales from base model Camaro models supplement the development of the top tier SS, Z/28, and ZL1 Camaros that we covet so dearly, they literally allow Chevrolet to build more of them without risking a fiscally ruining fine.

So, the next time you read something about the four-cylinder Camaro, don’t be foolishly outraged. Breathe easy, knowing that Chevy loves the V-8 just as much as we do, and they’re willing to go to some pretty extreme lengths to protect it. Who knows, the 2.0-liter Camaro could even be pretty fun. I know I’d like some seat time in one.

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