2016 BMW M2, Chevrolet Camaro SS, Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R: The Golden Age of Performance [Review]

BMW M2 - Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R - Chevrolet Camaro SS
BMW M2 – Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R – Chevrolet Camaro SS

With all the talk these days about self-driving cars and diesel emission scandals, it’s easy to forget that we live in the golden age of performance. An average mid-size sedan can drop a 6 second 0-60 time, and almost supercar levels of speed are now attainable for well under $100k.

We recently had the opportunity to sample three of this year’s hottest performance cars at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. After taking the Chevy Camaro SS, BMW M2, and Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R for a few laps around the track, it became clear that this trio isn’t just impressively quick, but also represent the best performance for the dollar at their respective price points.

Best Bang for the Dollar at $40k – 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS

2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS

Although the new Camaro looks awfully similar to the previous generation, this is a new car from the ground up. The exterior has been given a subtle makeover, looking more fit and trim, and the dimensions have shrunk just a bit, but it’s still unmistakably a Camaro.

Now on the same Alpha platform as the sweet handling Cadillac ATS, the new Camaro is over 200 pounds lighter than the previous generation. The 6.2-liter V8 engine in the SS model is essentially lifted from a Corvette Stingray, making the same 455 horsepower, and it comes standard with Brembo brakes and 20-inch summer tires.

Out on the track, the Camaro SS feels right at home. Acceleration is righteously quick and the big V8 sounds ferocious. The car definitely feels a bit smaller and lighter than you’d expect, making the few tight turns less of a handful, and through higher speed corners the only thing holding you back is your level of skill and courage. The Camaro is a powerful rebuttal to the notion that pony cars don’t handle well.

The interior of the car has also been improved, but visibility still suffers due to the high beltline., unfortunately. A practical car this is not, but anyone looking for driving thrills should seriously give the Camaro some thought. The Camaro SS starts at $37,295, and even with most of the options boxes checked — like Magnetic Ride Control — it still rings in at under $50,000. In fact, we can’t think of a car less than $50k that comes close in terms of sheer performance for the dollar.

MSRP $37,295 (includes destination+handling fee)
Engine 6.2L V8
Power (hp) 455 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 455 @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic
Drivetrain layout front engine / rear-wheel-drive
Curb weight 3,908 lbs
EPA-estimated fuel economy mpg 16 / 26 (manual) | 18 / 28 (automatic)
Acceleration 0-60 mph 4.3 sec (manual) | 4.0 sec (automatic)