5. Chevrolet Camaro Coupe 1LT 2.0 Turbo
Price as tested: $29,335
0-60 mph: 5.4 sec; EPA rating: 23 mpg city-highway combined
Hottest color: Hyper Blue Metallic
The magic here is General Motors’ world-class Alpha architecture. A wonderfully rigid and lightweight structure, it debuted with the 2013 Cadillac ATS and helped it out-handle BMW’s vaunted 3 Series in buff-book tests. Modified for sports-coupe and convertible duty, it underpins the all-new, sixth generation Camaro launched for model-year 2016. And it’s a revelation: this Chevy can attack corners with the aggression of pedigreed European machinery.
So our $30K cutoff confines us to Camaro’s base engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with direct fuel injection and 275 horsepower at 5600 rpm, 295 pound-feet of torque at 3000. Chevy charges the same $26,900 whether you get the six-speed manual transmission or the paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic. We’ll stick with the stick, and spring for two strategic options.
The $1,950 RS package toughens the styling with a sharper grille insert, xenon headlamps with menacing LED accents, and LED taillamps. More important in this context, it replaces 18-inch wheels with split-spoke gray machine-finished alloys wrapped in 245/40R20 all-season runflats. Fortify this with the Heavy Duty Cooling and Brake Package, bargain priced at $485. It greatly enhances engine cooling and includes the racer’s touch of an external engine oil cooler. Brembo four-piston front brakes do wonders for stopping power and control.
For a $29,335 bottom line, you get a sweet-handling coupe with miles of style and a dash of practicality. This turbo four isn’t particularly symphonic, but the stout six-speed helps you tap the surprising punch though the heart of its torque band. Ensconced on firm cloth buckets, a flat-bottom steering wheel and meaty shifter present for duty, the cockpit is GT-caliber, if a little hard to see out of. Think a pony car can’t defend itself against a like-priced sports car on a curvy road? Think again.