The Camaro has always gotten a bit of a bad rep as a car that is only fast in a straight line. The early Camaro’s V8 power plant, rear-wheel-drive layout, and solid rear axle naturally lent themselves to the needs of the drag racer, but wasn’t seen as ideal for corner carving. However, with the newest breed of Camaro, it’s a whole new ball game. Featuring an independent rear suspension and a technologically advanced overall design, the 5th Gen Camaro can be just as home on the road course as it is on the drag strip with a few simple upgrades.
In today’s performance world, people expect sports cars to be dynamic in their abilities. You are no doubt looking for a car that can do it all: handle like it’s on rails, grip the road tenaciously, and provide responsive steering and hard braking, all in addition to being able to go like stink from a dead standstill. Fortunately, the suspension and handling aftermarket for the current Camaro is varied and growing, with a wide array of components ranging from basic upgrades for daily drivers, to all-out no-compromises race gear for road course warriors. No matter what the ultimate goal is for your car, you can find just the right combination for parts to turn your Camaro into a formidable autocross, road course, street, and strip machine.
We spoke with three of today’s leading aftermarket manufacturers of performance suspension equipment about their offerings for the 5th Generation Camaro, and picked their brains about the specific details of how their line-up improves the Camaro’s capabilities. Now, LSXMag has compiled all of this data from some of the finest minds in the industry – Pfadt Race Engineering, Hotchkis Sport Suspension, and Spohn Performance – and we are offering it to you here. So, if you want more responsive steering, proper suspension feedback, grip that just won’t quit, and a 5th Gen Camaro that handles more like a Corvette, you have definitely come to the right place.
Pfadt Race Engineering
When you start with chassis, you tend look at things and always think ‘bigger is better’. However, there needs to be a more engineering-based approach.
“When you start with chassis, you tend look at things and always think ‘bigger is better’. However, there needs to be a more engineering-based approach,” Sonnen explains. “For example, if you just increase the diameter of the Camaro’s stock front sway bar and call it good, all you’ve actually done is enhanced the under-steer. We performed extensive testing on each suspension part on the track to make sure it is right for the car. We have a couple specific machines we also use for testing: a shock dyno that allows us to valve our shocks in-house and tailor the damping curves to our exact specification, a shock and coilover durability tester that literally simulates millions of cycles of the suspension, at ANY load we want, ANY angle we want, and any total travel we want. We also have a sway bar and end link test fixture. This smaller machine simulates sway bar loading on endlinks to check for accurate fitment and noise concerns.”
“Our focus on providing ‘race durability’ with ‘street performance’ for every suspension part we offer. We have a philosophy of making parts that are never too much for the street driver – in fact about 90% of lineup is street based, but there is something for every enthusiast. For example there are even three different levels of sway bars in our line up,” he adds.
Per Sonnen, “Another area of the new Camaro where we focused a lot of attention was the rear sub-frame. We found that it is completely possible to use a solid rear sub-frame bushing, and not get any additional road noise. We also have a full line of control arm bushings, and even offer a ‘street-spherical bushing’ with a plastic insert that has no deflection under cornering and still doesn’t create excessive road noise.”
The Stamp of Approval
Several of Pfadt’s suspension parts are even sold as GM Licensed Products. Sonnen tells us, “We worked with GM and Pratt and Miller on the Corvette Racing Team’s cars, and GM was so impressed with our suspension products, they decided to give them their stamp of approval as Licensed Products.”
- Adjustable Coilovers – Pfadt’s Adjustable coilovers will allow you to fine tune your suspension by adjusting the ride height up to 1.5-inches of drop, and 20 different damping adjustments. The shocks are an inverted to reduce deflection during cornering and reduced weight. Because the coilovers utilize common motorsport spring sizes, there are literally hundreds of spring rates available in 25 pound-per-inch increments.
- GMPP Adjustable Coilovers – The Pfadt GMPP Coilovers are aimed at providing both a comfortable street ride and track performance in one package. Revised spring rates allow the coilovers to prove a firm, but not harsh ride for street driven Camaros.
- Adjustable Rear Tie Rod – The rear tie rods are meant to create a solid connection between the suspension and the subframe to prevent defection and toe alignment change, and keep the rear wheels aimed where they are supposed to be. Pfadt’s rear tie rods replace the factory eccentric bolts with toe lockout plates that can be adjusted. These solid tie rods will transmit road noise, so they are only recommended for dedicated race cars.
- Camber Kit for 2.5” Springs – These camber plates replace the pliable stock rubber bushings at the top of each shock, and create a solid link between the shock and the body for improved shock performance. They allow for 1 full degree of camber adjustment for track cars, and do not require modifications to the strut tower to install.
- Camber Kit for OEM Springs – These Camber Plates offer all the features of the 2.5” Spring Camber kit, including 1 full degree of camber adjustment, with the ability to use an OEM style spring.
- Balance Rear Sway Bar – Replacing your stock rear sway bar with the Pfadt Rear Balance bar will help to reduce understeer and body roll. It is designed to work with your stock front sway bar, an easy basic upgrade, and is perfect for weekend warrior Camaros.
- Control Arm Bushings – The Camaro’s stock rubber bushings are designed for maximum comfort that “Joe Commuter” is looking for, and not for serious corner carving. Pfadt’s replacement control arm bushings are made of graphite impregnated polyurethane with anodized T6 aluminum sleeves, and drastically reduce suspension deflection and increase steering response while still providing a comfortable and quiet ride. Bushings are available for individual parts or as a whole kit.
- Solid Subframe Bushings – Much like the control arms, the Camaro’s independent rear suspension cradle mounts to the body with four large rubber bushings. Under hard acceleration and cornering these rubber bushings distort and cause wheel hop and a general sloppy feeling from the rear of the car. Pfadt designed these solid rear subframe bushings to firmly mount the cradle to the body, so the IRS can be used to its full potential. Pfadt tells us that there is actually very little extra road noise produced by using these solid bushings, and wheel hop is almost completely eliminated.
- Control Arm Stiffeners –Pfadt found that the stock steel rear arm can deflect as much as 2.4mm under cornering loads, and this control arm stiffener is a simple do-it-yourself solution to strengthen the rear suspension. Pfadt’s rear control arm stiffeners slip in place of your weak stock rear toe link and box it in to make the rear suspension stiffer and eliminate excessive deflection from the stock arms.
- Rear Lower Control Arm Reinforcement Bracket – After seeing several rear lower control arm sway bar end link mounting points fail after hard track use, Pfadt developed this simple bolt on solution to help strengthen the sway bar end link mounting points to reduce the chance of a failure. The reinforcement brackets also come with every sway bar kit Pfadt sells.
- Lowering Springs – Lowering springs are a great, cost effective way to get better handling and more responsive handling out of your Camaro by lowering the center of gravity and increasing the spring rate. Pfadt’s Lowering Springs work with your factory dampers, and will lower your Camaro 1 to 1.25 inches.
- Sport Sway Bars – Sway bars are one of the best bang for your buck components you can add to your Camaro to increase the overall handling ability. Sway bars act as link between the suspension and the car’s body, and reduce body roll and keep the car nice and flat throughout a corner, which means better balance. Pfadt’s Sport Sway Bars have adjustable ends to dial in the desired amount of stiffness, and greatly reduce body roll and steering response.
- Racing Sway Bars – Pfadt’s Racing Sway Bars are designed with maximum adjustability for competitive race cars, featuring 3-way adjustable arms and custom adjustable endlinks. These sway bars will greatly increase your Camaro’s roll stiffness and a balance.
- Rear Arm Package – Pfadt redesigned the rear tie rods and rear trailing arms to greatly increase their strength and rigidity, as well as dramatically reduce their weight. Pfadt’s testing revealed a 99.8% reduction in deflection. Increased strength and rigidity translate into better handling through a more responsive suspension, less wheel hop, and less deflection. Additionally, any weight you can cut from your Camaro will always be good for more speed. Both sets come with graphite impregnated polyurethane bushings for near zero deflection. The arms can also be purchased individually.
- Strut Tower Brace– Pfadt tells us that the strut towers on a Camaro can deflect as much as 3mm just simply pulling out of your driveway. Can you imagine how much they must move during a track session? By tying the strut towers together you greatly increase the rigidity of your chassis, and make the car far more predictable.
Hotchkis Sport Suspension
Lots of people might think, ‘Well, the 5th Gen Camaro is new. Why upgrade it?’ But there are plenty of people, namely us performance enthusiasts, that want something more.
“Lots of people might think, ‘Well, the 5th Gen Camaro is new. Why upgrade it?’ But there are plenty of people, namely us performance enthusiasts, that want something more,” Hotchkis explains. “We want a better car that is more reactive. And the truth is the 5th Gen Camaro is pretty good stock, but it is aimed at the general public, who wants a quiet and soft ride. But we wanted to take a ‘good’ car and make it ‘Great’!” Hotchkis reveals their engineering strategy, saying, “Most of our suspension line up is aimed at stiffening up the 5th Gen’s chassis to provide the best possible feedback to the driver, and to keep the tires planted exactly where they need to be during hard cornering. Because, after all, at the end of the day all you have are those four contact patches keeping the car on the road, so you had better make the most of them.”
Like most of the people we talked to, Hotchkis emphasized improving on the new Camaro’s weak points while retaining the good qualities. “When we first drove the new Camaro, we noticed that there was a kind of ‘vagueness’ from the rear of the car. So one of the first things we looked to do was to tighten everything up back there and keep it tied together.”
- Hotchkis Lowering Springs – Hotchkis springs will lower your Camaro 1 inch, giving you a better center of gravity, and that aggressive stance we are all looking for. Spring rates are 210 pounds per inch in front and 440 pounds per inch in the rear, and as an added benefit you can even keep your stock struts.
- Competition Sway Bars– These bad boys are 800% stiffer than the stock bars and are aimed at guys who autocross competitively or do regular track days. Because of the stiffness they may not be appropriate for the street-driven Camaro where factory-plush ride quality is important.
- Sport Sway Bars – The Hotchkis Sport Sway bars are for daily driven Camaros that are looking for improved handling without the stiffness of the Competition Sway Bars. The sway bars work together to help create better suspension rotation, and greatly reduce body roll in your street Camaro.
- End Links – Hotchkis adjustable endlinks allow you to fine tune your sway bars by setting the static preload to zero, which will help the bars better do their job. These are not needed for the Hotchkis sport sway bars. However, competition sway bars should use the adjustable endlinks because of the extreme pressures and stress spikes a suspension experiences on the track.
- Chassis Max Brace – The first things the folks at Hotchkis noticed when they drove the new Camaro was the “vagueness” in the rear suspension, and bad wheel hop when the car is driven hard. The Chassis Max Brace reduces chassis flex and wheel hop by tying the rear subframe to the chassis frame rails, greatly increasing the Camaro’s traction and stability during “spirited” driving.
- Strut Tower Brace –The Hotchkis Strut Tower Brace utilizes a four-point design to prevent the front shock towers from distorting, which in turn helps all of your other suspension modifications work as they should. As an added benefit, the Hotchkis Strut Tower Bar clears all of the popular superchargers.
- Race Pack – The Hotchkis Race Pack includes everything you need to turn your Camaro into a competitive autocross or road race machine. The kit includes 1-inch lowering springs, race sway bars, adjustable end links, the Chassis Max underbody brace, and the Hotchkis Strut Tower brace.
- Track Pack – The Track Pack is for enthusiasts who want a significantly better handling car for autocross or track days, without the stiffness and harshness on the street that you get with a full on race suspension . The Track pack includes 1-inch lowering Springs Sport Sway Bars, and the Chassis Max underbody brace.
- Hotchkis TVS Kit – The TVS kit offers you a great balance of improved handling, aggressive stance, and comfort on the street. The TVS comes with 1-inch lowering springs and the Hotchkis Sport Sway Bars.
People will tell you that the new Camaros are too heavy to handle well, but these cars actually handle exceptionally well.
Per Spohn, “With the rear IRS on the new Camaros, there is a lot of wheel-hop with the stock suspension. GM designs for comfort, with very soft bushings. But with the power these cars have, and especially with a manual transmission, those soft bushings and flexible stamped steel suspension arms just equal wheel hop. So I’d say the most important thing our rear suspension parts do is eliminate the wheel hop to provide much more consistency.”
Spohn also identifies a fault that the Camaro shares with almost every other late model car; “Handling-wise the car from the factory has a lot of under-steer. This is again typical from the factory for safety reasons. Luckily, its easily corrected on these cars with bigger and stiffer sway bars that are balanced to match the chassis.” He doesn’t feel that there’s anything inherently wrong with the 5th Gen Camaro as a handling platform, saying, “People will tell you that the new Camaros are too heavy to handle well, but these cars actually handle exceptionally well. GM did a fantastic job designing this chassis, in my honest opinion. These cars can be made into some really competitive corner carvers with purely bolt on parts.”
- Sway Bars and Endlinks – Spohn offers two different sway bar set ups; Pro-Touring with 32mm front and 25mm rear, and Competition bars with 32mm front and rear. All of Spohn’s sway bars feature multiple end link mounting points to dial in the right amount of stiffness. Spohn also offers adjustable end links for maximum adjustability.
- Front Control Arms– Spohn’s front control arms for the 5th Gen come ready to install with either polyurethane or Delrin bushings for near zero deflection, and friction adjustable greasable ball joints. As an added benefit, the T6 aluminum arms will shave 13 pounds from the front end of your Camaro.
- Front and Rear Lowering Springs – Spohn’s progressive rate lowering springs will drop your car 1 inch in both the front and the rear, and come in a durable silver powdercoat finish.
- Rear Trailing Arms – Tubular rear trailing arms will minimize wheel hop and lock in your caster settings. Spohn offers tubular rear trailing arms with polyurethane bushings for street cars, and Delrin bushings or spherical rod ends for track cars. Spohn also offers their trailing arms with their unique Del-Sphere pivot joints the give all the benefits of both a spherical rod end and Delrin bushings together in one rebuildable package.
- Rear Tubular Toe Links – Replacing your toe links will further help to reduce problematic wheel hop. They are offered with polyurethane bushings for street applications, and spherical rod ends and Spohn’s exclusive Del-Sphere pivot joints for track cars. All of Spohn’s Toe Links feature stock ABS mounting points.
- Rear Lower Control Arms –Spohn’s Lower Control Arms are a direct replacement for your factory control arms, and are designed to lock your IRS in place and dramatically reduce wheel hop. They feature two different shock mounting locations, allowing you to lower the rear of your car by as much as 1.25 inches just by changing the lower shock mounting point to the pre-drilled hole on the control arm. They are available with polyurethane or Delrin bushings. Spohn is currently in the process of developing upper rear control arms for the 5th Gen Camaro as well.
- Polyurethane Differential Bushing Kit – These 95A durometer bushings help to stop the wheel hop and differential flex that are common with the mushy stock rubber bushings.
- Strut Tower Brace – Spohn’s strut tower brace helps eliminate strut tower deflection, and is made from extruded aluminum oval tubing with a honeycomb reinforced interior for lightweight strength.
- Extreme Duty Tunnel Brace – Spohn’s tunnel brace replaces the factory tunnel brace, and increases the rigidity of the driveshaft carrier mounting point.
BMR Suspension out of Thonotosassa, Florida, supplies high quality performance suspension components for everything from a 1970 Camaro Pro Touring machine, to full out 4th Gen Camaro drag cars. Here are their offerings to help you transform your 5th Gen Camaro in to a corner carving beast:
- Lower Rear Control Arms – Constructed of heavy duty 2-inch square tubing, BMR’s lower control arms allow you to adjust your camber, increase cornering stability, and dramatically reduce deflection.
- Front and Rear Lowering Springs – BMR offers lowering springs that will drop your car 1 or 1.4 inches, with spring rates of 220 pounds per inch for the front, and 460 pounds per inch for the rear, providing a firm but still comfortable ride for your Camaro.
- Front and Rear Sway Bars – BMR’s sway bars are made of cold formed tubular steel, and can be tuned for several levels of performance; everything from just reducing understeer on your street car, to drastically reducing roll resistance and understeer with your track car.
- Xtreme Rear Antiroll Kit – the BMR Xtreme Rear Antiroll kit is a large diameter tubular sway bar with 3 levels of adjustment ranging from 432% stiffer than stock to 780%. This bar is designed to dramatically reduce torque steer and increase launch traction on your Camaro. Includes billet aluminum bushing saddles, and adjustable spherical bearing end links.
- Sway Bar End Links – BMR’s replacement endlinks are made of 7/8-inch diameter tubing with spherical rod ends, and are direct replacements for your weak 3/8-inch diameter stock end links.
- Rear Toe Rods – BMR’s rear toe rods keep the rear wheels exactly where they are supposed to be during hard cornering and launches and help to eliminate rear suspension deflection. They are available in non-adjustable form with polyurethane bushings for street cars, or as adjustable tubular units with spherical rod ends for race cars.
- Rear Trailing Arms – BMR’s rear trailing arms are fabricated from 1×2 inch steel plates that are 3/16-inch thick, greatly increasing the strength of your Camaro’s rear suspension. They are available with either polyurethane bushings or Teflon lined spherical bearings.
Hellwig is a family owned and operated performance suspension company out of Visalia, California. They have been producing performance sway bars for over 65 years, and offer high quality and affordable sway bar options for the 5th Gen Camaro.
- Tubular Sway Bars – Hellwig uses high strength tubular DOM chromolly steel in their 5th Gen Camaro Sway Bars. The front bar measures 1.25 inches and 1 inch for the rear bar, and reduces body roll and increases overall traction and control.
Ideally, your Camaro’s suspension is more than just a list of components; it’s a complete system designed to work together to keep the tires in contact with the road and the motion of the body under control. Not everyone will be able to afford a complete suspension makeover all at once, and not everybody needs a full race setup, either.
The secret is to determine what your needs are before you start, give yourself some room to grow, and build with a plan in mind. If you’re on a budget, swaybars to improve front-to-rear balance are a cost-effective place to start, and later on the addition of lowering springs and performance shocks, coilovers, and additional suspension components from the same manufacturer will ensure you’re getting a package designed to work in harmony.
Though it’s outside the scope of this article, don’t forget that wheels and tires are another vastly important piece of the handling puzzle. A good suspension will help maximize grip from whatever rubber you’re running, but a simple switch from an all-season design to a summer-only tire will also make a huge difference in handling.
The fifth-gen Camaro has the potential to be a world-beater, with its sophisticated stock suspension design and tremendous room for growth. Whether you’re looking for a weapon to attack the twisties or an all-out track assault vehicle, it’s a great place to start, and there are a lot of very smart people out there building the parts you need to take it to the next level.