Contrary to popular belief, being an automotive journalist isn’t always test driving cars for free or building cool engines to throw on the dyno. While that is part of the gig, it is often a smaller fraction than many would like to think. And just like many jobs, there is plenty of paperwork and of course sitting at a desk cranking out articles and updating social media.
There is, however, those days when something special comes a long and makes you think “I can’t imagine doing anything else.” Well, for me, one of those days was this week when Borla tossed me the keys of their 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS development car and said have at it.
And though I have been behind the wheel of some pretty awesome builds at this point, I never hesitate to say yes—would you? But before we get down to talking about what this beast felt like to be behind the wheel, lets get you up to speed on what this sixth-gen has to offer. After all, it’s the very car Borla built, and brought, to SEMA 2016, so it’s got plenty of other go-fast goodies on it. David Borla, the owner of Borla Exhaust and Induction Solutions, tells me that the car was built for a myriad of purposes.
Give The Car Purpose
While the car wasn’t initially bought for developmental purposes, Borla tells us that it was used not only to refine the car’s sound, but let the entire team experience first-hand just how much they were altering the car’s note and what they were putting in enthusiast’s hands.
“We really try to put ourselves in the shoes of the enthusiast that we cater to,” David said. “One common theme for us is that we don’t take the same approach to everything we do, or use universal mufflers and just make it a packaging exercise. We’re after something elusive that we like to call ‘spirit.'”
David continued,”We don’t have enough time or money to purchase every car we develop an exhaust for but when we do, we all take it home and get to know it and really how it sounds from the factory. That allows us to take it to the next level which is really the expectation when someone buys an aftermarket part.”
Since the car was built to be an attention grabber, and somewhat of a billboard for the company, it was built accordingly. David tells us that some of the parts used were not only chosen for their proven track record but for the aesthetic and visceral feel that each component lent to the car—after all, it has to impress people just sitting on the show floor making no noise at all.
“When you build a project car, you’re looking to do something a little more special than the average person would do, and that’s what we did with this particular car,” David said.
When you build a project car, you’re looking to do something a little more special than the average person would do, and that’s what we did with this particular car.”–David Borla, CEO Borla Exhaust.
To stand out is the exact reason they chose the Borla Atak exhaust for this particular car. If you’re unfamiliar with how it sounds, I highly recommend checking out the video. But to put words to it; it’s hands down one of the best sounding exhaust systems we have ever heard on the sixth-gen—possibly on a Camaro, ever. While that sounds like a pretty sweeping statement, it is not at all unfounded. Of course, liking a car’s exhaust note is subjective, but we think most would agree with us when we say it sounds fantastic. If the attention we got with this thing on the street is any indication, many agree with that statement—and some of them might surprise you.
“We chose the Atak because it really stands out. A lot of times at shows, our fans don’t really get to hear the car under load, which is a different challenge than if they were hearing it at full throttle,” David said. “It is our most popular exhaust though, so it wasn’t something the average enthusiast wouldn’t do or couldn’t have, but enough that you could tell how great it sounds just rolling into a show.”
The Atak is Borla’s stainless steel 3-inch header-back system for the sixth-gen Camaro. But it’s not simply just Borla’s 3-inch system. It is an exhaust kit that was designed specifically for what Borla saw enthusiasts doing with their cars.
“Believe it or not, making a car loud is probably the easiest thing you could possibly do. If you want loud, just take the exhaust off all together,” David said. “The real challenge comes when you want to make it loud and good through the whole RPM range. That’s what separates the men from the boys. The Atak isn’t just loud and aggressive, it is loud and aggressive in the right places.”
And we can vouch for that. The Atak system on this sixth-gen is mean when you want it to be and barely noticeable when you don’t. A loud throaty roar is a throttle tip away, but under cruising conditions the system is docile and easy to live with. Throw the car into sixth gear on the freeway and conversations with passengers aren’t any more difficult than when the car was stock. I even paired my phone with the car and made a few calls to test it out, it was never a problem.
One of the main areas that many exhaust systems this aggressive tend to struggle with is in the dreaded 2,000 rpm range. It is in this range that many systems produce what is popularly known as drone. The Atak, however, produces none. Even in high-load low-RPM situations, such as tipping in on the freeway to pass slower traffic in a high gear—or the real drone test as we call it around here—the exhaust made no harsh noises or drone and simply emitted a slightly louder burble that was still very livable.
If you haven’t heard a car with this system on it in real life, we highly recommend it. While the video will give you a good idea, there is nothing like hearing this thing first hand. But what good is all that bark without a little bite? That’s why Borla selected to give this particular Camaro a little dose of compressed atmosphere.
Lets be honest, these days a car isn’t complete without a little boost. Especially when the LT1 responds to it so well. For the huffer, the guys at Borla turned to a neighbor of theirs, Vortech, for one of its (at the time) brand new sixth-gen kits. The system comes with a V-3 head unit and all the accompanying parts to easily add a supercharger to any Camaro in an afternoon.
The Vortech kit is stuffing just 8 pounds of boost down the LT1’s throat, but the power this thing makes is astonishing for just how low the pressure really is. Before we got our hands on it, Borla dropped the car off at Cunningham Motorsports (CMS) to make sure it was in tip-top shape for us before we put it through its paces. And while the custom tune Vortech included with the kit was doing just fine and producing plenty of power, CMS felt that they could extract a bit more from the Camaro with a more aggressive setup.
When all was said and done, the car was pushing 531 horsepower and 481 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. What’s more, despite the addition of the supercharger, the car still drives as if it’s stock. It’s not until you roll onto the loud pedal that you have any indication that this sixth-gen has much more on tap than its naturally-aspirated counter part. It’s the perfect addition to the aggressive exhaust note this thing belts out.
Suspension and Brakes
Since this sixth-gen’s duties are primarily looking and sounding good, a set of KW coilovers were selected to give the Camaro the perfect stance. Though the Camaro’s handling is substantial from the factory, the KW’s give the car a tightly sprung feel without beating you up over the bumpy stuff. For us, they were the perfect mixture of aggressive but compliant, making them easy to live with on a daily basis (more on that later).
For the brakes, the car comes from the factory with six- and four-piston calipers front and rear respectively. Again, these are capable pieces from the factory but they are made even more capable by larger rotors from Brembo. Considering the substantial acceleration this car is capable of, the brake upgrades inspire confidence and give absolutely no hint of fade, even when being pushed to their limits.
Hypothetically, if you’re going 120 mph through a canyon, this is definitely the suspension and brake setup you want backing a 530 rear-wheel horsepower behemoth. Just sayin’.
As we mentioned before, the car was designed to be a show stopper and is thus wrapped in one of the most outrageous vinyl designs we’ve seen in a while. Many of the queues in the wrap pay homage to Borla’s illustrious history, such as the “78” denoting the year Borla was founded. While the wrap isn’t exactly our cup of tea per se, it drew a lot of attention on the streets and we received a lot of comments about how much people liked it. We prefer a more subtle look, but can appreciate the racey livery they were shooting for.
The ADV.1 ADV05 wheels, on the other hand, where just our style. The large 20-inch shoes were finished in a flat grey and complemented the Camaro perfectly. They were wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero rubber that extended the Camaro’s adhesion to the tarmac even further. They were finished off by a set of Tikore titanium lug nuts to help shave off those pesky ounces of unsprung weight.
The car came to us with a manual six-speed TR6060 transmission and sporting 2SS trim. While not the lightest form of the car, it is still a featherweight compared to it’s older brother the fifth-gen. With three pedals under our feet, Charles Pages, editor of Turnology, and I were ready to set off.
To really put the car through every situation we could think if, we not only drove the car to and from the office for a week, we took it over the notorious Ortega highway out of Temecula headed for Dana Point. In case you are unaware, this highway is known as one of the best driving roads in the United States. It’s two-lane black top snakes through the Santa Ana mountains and deposits its passengers directly at the beautiful Southern Californian coast.
However, between point A and point B, there is a cavalcade of hair pin turns, reducing radius sweepers, and high-speed chicanes. Needless to say, if there was a weak link in the Camaro’s armor, this is where we would find it.
With the active rev match feature activate, we headed for the beach. To me, the car was the perfect amount of aggressive yet comfortable. We kept the windows down the whole time, in 100 degree weather no less, just to drink in some more sweet notes off the Atak exhaust.
The car entered corners almost telepathically. While the turn in on the stock sixth-gen is already superb, and lightyears ahead of the fifth-gen Camaro, the KW shocks combine with the sticky Perelli PZero tires to ensure that turn in was lightning fast. Once in the corner the car was stable and really allowed you to walk the car up to its limits but not over them.
One of the biggest highlights of the suspension was, as I previously mentioned, the fact that it is aggressive and tightly sprung but soaks up bumps and rough patches without skipping a beat or worse, unsettling the car. The huge dinner-plate size Brembo brakes gave no hint of fade at any point, even as we aggressively piloted the car down hill.
The active rev match feature was a favorite of both Charles and mine. Though some of you out there may be saying “I don’t need no stinking rev match, I know how to actually drive”, the only ones saying that are those who haven’t used it before. We both thought it was gimmicky until we really put it to the test in the twisties, and I have to say I never want to go back.
The only negative I found for the entire car was the stock gear shifter. The gates are widely set and more than once, on the 2-3 upshift, I bounced off one of the gates and found myself hunting for third gear. A nice upgrade would be the shifter from the ZL1 Camaro which I know from experience is wonderful and not nearly as inaccurate.
In the bends, the centrifugal supercharger was absolutely the right play. It is so quiet, in fact, that you sometimes forget that it’s even there, especially at the lower RPM, but tipping back into the throttle through a corner at 3,000 rpm, you immediately know it’s there and it makes the car drive as if it has more cubic inches than it really does. By that, I mean that the power production is so linear, you don’t even notice the car has a power adder. But in in a situation like this, that is perfect. It enables you to throttle steer the car without unsettling the chassis.
I found them to be the perfect pairing and would highly recommend it to any aspiring road racer or autocrosser out there. Combined with the aggressive exhaust note and capable brakes and suspension, we never even felt like we were pushing the car even remotely to the limit. And once we backed off, it was right back to feeling like the perfect daily driver. After putting the car through its paces, it was a leisurely drive out to the coast with the A/C on the whole way.
We had a blast driving the Borla Camaro and didn’t want to let it go at the end of it all. In our opinion, this thing would be the perfect daily driver. It is severely capable in any and all scenarios while being refined enough to drive it on the street all day everyday. We could imagine putting 50,000 miles on this thing without so much as a second thought. And that is a testament to just how amazing all of the components on this car really all—most of all the exhaust.
We thought about not giving the car back, we really did, but in the end it’s better this way. Whoever ends up being the lucky next owner of this thing really hit the jackpot. Now, back to my paperwork…or maybe I’ll start building one for myself.