CC has long been cultivating a “special relationship” with GM, and it’s finally paid off, big time. The General has returned the many favors by giving CC photographer Barry Koch and I an exclusive sneak preview of their next generation Camaro, due in 2020. I know some of you might be a bit shocked by its proportions (we were), especially by what appears to be a “chopped” top, and the lack of visibility. But rest assured; there’s a lot of deep thought that has gone into this new design, and it’s all very forward-thinking. Or at least we thought so at the time after refreshments were served.
First off: contrary to what it might look like at first glance, the 2020 Camaro is actually substantially taller than the new 2016 Camaro. It now sits on a somewhat modified Chevy Tahoe truck frame, with all-new 44″ wheels and a massive new body. I only wish there was a picture of me standing next to it; I could barely see into the windows. I mean from a height point of view; actually seeing into (or out of) these windows is clearly a thing of the past.
This drastic new design direction is called “cab lower” by the GM design Center, and places the driver and passengers in a secure, bunker-like compartment, surrounded by steel on all sides. The very narrow non-opening windows are well above the height of a person’s head (GM calls it “clerestory glazing”), which is claimed to be a safety advantage in the case of side impacts with large trucks as well as stray (or well-aimed) bullets.
Visibility? Not an issue anymore, as the 2020 Camaro will be GM’s first autonomous self-driving car. That’s right; no more need to bother with all of that nuisance which just gets in the way of the seamless on-line lifestyle that will be so utterly ubiquitous by 2020. A giant screen has replaced the area that was once wasted on a windshield and instrument panel; it’s like stepping into a small media room/cocoon. As soon as one enters, it syncs up with the driver’s phone and displays its screen. Enter the destination, and the 2020 Camaro will take one there without any of the bother and fuss of old-fashioned driving and having to actually take one’s eyes off the phone for those occasional glances at the road between texts and Tinder.
But given the Camaro’s sporty pedigree, lovers of “driving” have not been neglected. GM has teamed up with Forza to create the new Camaro SS (“Super Simulation”) so that every drive in the Camaro can be as exciting as gunning down your favorite race track, drag strip or piloting California Hw1, even when stuck in freeway traffic. The Camaro’s active suspension system and engine noise sound simulations will faithfully recreate any race course or famous driving road with all of the sensory inputs, regardless of what is going on out in that ugly real world. If other driver are a bit disconcerted about all of the bobbing and leaning and screeching of tires and screaming engine sounds of a Camaro while it’s waiting at a red light, they’ll…eventually catch on.
The Camaro will be GM’s first car to meet the draconian 2025 CAFE regulations, and GM’s engineers have come up with a shockingly creative solution. Dubbed “Quad-Hybrid Drive”, the Camaro features no less than four discrete power sources seamlessly integrated for maximum efficiency and performance. An electric motor driven by a tiny plug in battery powers the car for the first 50 feet from a start. Then a hydrogen-powered fuel cell kicks in for driving at speeds between 15 and 30 mph. Above that a 400cc two-cylinder gasoline engine with triple turbocharging takes over until a steady cruising speed is attained. At that point, a 250cc single cylinder diesel engine with up to 75 psi of boost can keep the Camaro rolling, at up to 90 mpg. As needed, the other power sources can augment for short bursts of acceleration, but given that it’s an autonomous vehicle, that will rarely be the case except in an emergency. Chevrolet is predicting EPA numbers of 69 mpg, combined. Fueling the new Camaro would seem to present some new challenges, but GM assures us that by 2020 there will be refueling stations that can replenish all four power sources simultaneously.
GM has decided that autonomous cars are by far the best (and of course, most cost-efficient) solution to meet the 2025 CAFE regulations, since the cars will accelerate at a slug’s pace and never exceed 60 mph. The 2020 Camaro will just be the first of a whole new family of new GM autonomous cars to came. It will require a massive investment and retooling, on a level not seen for several decades. One GM insider said “It’s 1980 all over again”.