Q&A: Cheryl Pilcher, Chevrolet Camaro product manager
A muscle car fan that developed the fourth-generation F-body, Chevrolet product manager Cheryl Pilcher has been working for General Motors (and with Camaros) since 1986. Now, Chevy's baby 'Vette is about to be reborn with Pilcher's help. We asked assistant editor David Yochum , an F-body owner himself, to get the full skinny on Camaro design details, options, and future Camaro plans.
Cheryl, I've got to know. Have you driven the Camaro yourself and, if so, what was it like?
CP: "Yes. Oh my gosh, it is awe-inspiring! Thrilling. Because of my work on the past generation car, I was so sad to see that we didn't continue it right away after 2002. It was such a neat moment when I was driving a Camaro again. It just makes your heart and soul feel good."
What has been the focus groups' reaction to the Camaro?
CP: "We've had some events with core enthusiasts and had them out driving the cars at relatively low speeds. When we first showed them the car, it was so emotional. There were tears in their eyes - literally men and women."
Who then is the target Camaro buyer?
CP: "We are trying to target a buyer that maybe doesn't know Camaro from the past. We'd hope to attract them with the great looks of the car, a new high-technology direct-injection six-cylinder engine, good fuel economy, all the standard equipment, and higher technology features."
Obviously the Camaro is no longer a hatchback and it doesn't look like the last generation F-body. Explain the new design direction.
CP: "I think what Tom Peters, our exterior design director, and Jeff Perkins, the interior design director, have done is balance the right amount of a few heritage cues. But they did not make things so overt and retro that it might offend or might not be attractive to somebody unfamiliar with the Camaro's past."
What are the visual differences between the V-6 and V-8 models?
CP: "On the V-8 SS model there is a front fascia that looks similar to the concept car. There is a small lip above the upper grille, it has a larger lower grille opening than the V-6, and the SS has 20-inch wheels, whereas the six-cylinder has 18-inch and 19-inch wheels. The SS also has a subtle spoiler, standard Brembo brakes, and a blackout rear diffuser around the exhaust tips. All models will have dual exhaust - the V-6 has three-inch tips and the SS tips measure three and three-quarters of an inch. The SS interior will have 'SS' embroidery on the headrest, steering wheel, and instrument cluster. Both base models have halogen headlamps, and there are HID headlights available with the RS package."
Will there be a Z28 model?
CP: "There will be no Z28 model. Through the four generations of Camaro, there have been cases where Chevrolet chose to make the Z28 the top dog or the SS the top dog. As you're aware, Chevrolet is encouraging the SS strategy with cars such as the HHR SS and Cobalt SS. Consistent with this strategy, we have a Camaro SS."
What is the full model lineup and how are the models differentiated?
CP: "The base model is an LS. It comes with 18-inch heritage-style steel wheels, and relatively few options. It has the direct-injection V-6, standard roof rail airbags, side impact airbags, OnStar, XM radio, standard stabilitrack with traction control, and ABS brakes. Then we have the LT model, which is a six-cylinder with two levels - an entry-level LT and a loaded LT. With the loaded LT, you get 18-inch, five-spoke aluminum wheels, a power driver's seat and fog lamps. Then we've got a base level and loaded SS. The base V-8 entry is for buyers who want ultimate performance, but not necessarily things like leather seats (it's more bare bones). The loaded SS comes with leather, a Boston Acoustics audio system, electro-chromatic mirrors, steering wheel controls, Bluetooth capability, remote-start on the automatic transmission, and a USB port and wireless interface. If you have your iPod or a device plugged into the center console, you can use steering-wheel controls to scroll through song selections. The loaded V-6 and V-8 Camaro also have auxiliary gauges - the four gauges just forward of the shifter.