We all know that the new LS-powered Camaro is a performance hit, but quite a few V-6–equipped versions have been sold as well. And while many of these went to people that care more about sporty looks than healthy performance, quite a few went to those who wanted a Camaro but couldn’t afford the nearly $32,000 that a new SS would set them back. If you’re on a tight budget, the sub-$24,000 price tag is obviously more affordable, and the 30 highway mpg keeps even more dollars in the owner’s wallet. Add in cheaper insurance and the V-6 Camaro makes even more sense.

In terms of power, the V-6 does fairly well by churning out 323 horsepower. That’s 100 less than its SS big brother but about the same as what came in a fourth-gen LS1-powered Z28. Of course, the newest iteration of the Camaro is quite a bit heavier, and that extra weight affects handling as negatively as it does acceleration. The lackluster handling in V-6 models is further degraded by the base model’s non-performance rolling stock, and a suspension tuned more for soccer moms than those looking to carve high-g corners.

The engineers at Detroit Speed Inc. (DSE) saw these same shortcomings, so they developed a kit just for gearheads that want SS handling, or better, from their V-6–powered Camaro.

The package includes stiffer antiroll bars to keep the Camaro flatter in the corners along with tuned coil springs to improve handling without inducing a harsh ride. We wanted to see how much handling potential there is in a base-model Camaro, so we borrowed one from Ryan Foss for a little experiment. Our plan was to baseline test it, toss on some sticky Falken Azenis FK-453CC tires and lighter TSW matte gunmetal Nurburgring rotary-forged wheels, test it again, bolt on the DSE parts, and then hit the track again to see where the chips fall.

01 Here’s the fifth-gen Performance Handling Kit (PN 033022, $975) from Detroit Speed Inc. The sway bars are quite a bit larger than stock and come powdercoated gloss black. The springs lower the ride height for a more aggressive stance, but more importantly, they have increased spring rates for better handling.

02 Compared to the underpinnings of older Camaros, the newest generation’s suspension is quite a bit different. The first step was to unbolt the brake line bracket from the factory strut. We also unclipped the ABS line from the front of the strut then unbolted the upright from the strut using a 24mm wrench, socket, and an impact wrench.

03 Using a 15mm wrench, we then disconnected the sway bar endlink from the strut. It was a bit rusty, so we sprayed on some penetrating lubricant and let it soak in.

04 On the stock GM sway bar, the bushings are integrated into the bar and are not removable. This makes removing the stock bar a bit harder, but not impossible. In the DSE kit, the sway bars have welded-on locking rings to prevent bar movement. By the time you read this, the DSE bars will have been updated to be smooth and include split-locking collars along with spacer plates to prevent lateral movement of the antiroll bars.

05 Compared to removing the front sway bar from an SS, getting the smaller stock bar of the V-6 out was a cakewalk.

06 Moving under the hood, we used a 24mm wrench to unbolt the top of the strut from the strut tower. We made sure to have someone on the other end to catch the strut when it dropped free.

07 The front spring wasn’t under any tension, so we just unbolted the retention cap from the strut. It was nice to not have to mess with a spring compressor. The new coil springs are a direct replacement for the OEM units and still retain the rubber factory isolators. In short, it means our suspension will be as quiet as it was with the stock stuff.

08 Here you can see the new DSE linear-rate spring next to the stocker. It’s obvious that the new spring is going to drop the stance but not so obvious is that it features a stiffer spring rate. Detroit Speed was careful to strike a balance between performance and good ride quality.

09 Here you can get a better appreciation for the differences between the stock, solid sway bar and Detroit Speed’s larger, hollow replacement. Since the bushing blocks aren’t integrated into the DSE sway bar like they are on the stocker, it was much easier to slide the new bar into place.

10 Moving to the rear of the Camaro, we found another pair of struts. Each rear strut is anchored to the Camaro’s frame by way of four bolts and a mount. We loosened them but didn’t remove them quite yet. With the top loosened, we unbolted the bottom of the shock from the lower arm (red arrow). The 18mm bolt securing the lower arm to the rear upright was then removed (yellow arrow). This allowed us to swing the arm down, freeing up the strut. With that done, we finished removing the four upper strut mount bolts and dropped the assembly.

11 The factory sway bar ran above the exhaust system but was fairly easy to unbolt and remove. Since the pillow bushings are part of the bar, it put up a bit of a fight, but once we found the right angle, it slid right out.

12 We then went about removing the spring from the rear strut. Unlike the front, this spring had a little tension on it but not enough to necessitate using a spring compressor.

13 Again, the Detroit Speed rear spring was noticeably shorter than the OEM unit, and it also has an increased spring rate to help control the heavy Camaro’s roll, yet still maintain good ride quality.

14 We then reassembled the rear strut and spring assembly. Again, all the factory isolators were able to be retained. This is possible because Detroit Speed went though the effort to make sure the new springs began and terminated the same as the stockers they were designed to replace. Lastly, we secured the upper mount to the body of the Camaro. But before we put in the last bolt, we installed this drop limiter supplied in the kit. The limiter prevents the rear spring from leaving the spring seat when the suspension is in full droop. There are a left- and a right-side limiter, so make sure not to mix ’em up.

15 Before we installed the new Detroit Speed rear antiroll bar, we made sure to coat the new bushings with the provided lubricant. The stabilizer shaft (endlink) was torqued to 36 ft-lb, while the bushing bolts were twisted to 16 ft-lb. The rear bar is also adjustable with two different endlink mounting points. Per Detroit Speed’s recommendation, we used the more aggressive one. With this done, we took the Camaro down and had it aligned to DSE’s specifications.

Style Points

When buying a new RS Camaro, the smart idea, if you know you’ll be upgrading your rolling stock, is to get the “el cheapo” steel rally wheels rather than the spendier SS-style aluminum wheels. This is also the perfect way to illustrate how wheels and stance can really transform a Camaro. The TSW matte gunmetal Nurburgring rotary-forged wheels (20x9 front, 20x10 with a 35mm offset rear) look killer, and they weigh less than the aesthetically challenged wheels we removed. For tires, we went with Falken’s Azenis FK-453CC rubber (300 treadwear) in 275/40-20 front and 315/35-20 rear. For mounting hardware, we grabbed a set of forged steel, titanium-finished M14x1.50 open-ended Monster Lug nuts. The new dropped stance from the DSE suspension kit was icing on the cake.

Track Testing

Prior to doing our suspension install, we took our bone-stock V-6 Camaro to our test venue for some baseline numbers. The slalom we used is 420 feet long consisting of cones spaced 70 feet apart. The best time here was 6.60 seconds (43.4 mph). We then swapped to the TSW wheels and Falken tire combo and were rewarded with a best time of 6.17 seconds (46.6 mph). This was a huge gain and shows how important tires are to a car’s handling ability. After installing the DSE kit, we went back to the track and knocked down a best time of 5.92 seconds (48.5 mph)! And with the upgraded suspension, wheels, and tires, the car retained it's smooth ride quality and is more fun than ever to drive.

V-6 Parts Specifications

Front Springs
41% increase

Rear Springs
14% increase

Front AntiRoll Bar
128% increase

Rear AntiRoll Bar
Front Hole: 135% increase
Rear Hole: 196% increase

SOURCE
Detroit Speed Inc.
185 McKenzie RD
Mooresville
NC  28115
704-662-3272
www.detroitspeed.com
Falken Tires
8656 Haven Ave
Rancho Cucamonga
CA  91730
800-723-2553
www.falkentire.com
TSW Alloy Wheels
29954 Commerce Center Dr.
Lake Forest
CA
Monster Lugs
9921 Jordan Circle
Santa Fe Springs
CA  90670
562-946-6820
www.monsterlug.com