Bob Lutz has hinted that this Camaro, with its high-output, high-tech V-6, represents the future of performance at General Motors. Having now sampled one, I can say that this future is not as depressing as I’d feared.
With a V-6, automatic, and yellow paint, our car is about as girly as you can possibly make a Camaro – and it’s still menacing. Sitting in its parking space it gives the impression of a mean junkyard dog straining against its chain, waiting for you to step a little closer.
Better yet, it’s not bad at all to drive. The 3.6-liter V-6 can match neither the output nor the trademark sound of a small-block V-8, but it’s a very good engine, and it never feels overmatched by the car’s considerable heft. I’d also note that it’s considerably more refined than the Nissan/Infiniti and Hyundai V-6s I’ve sampled of late. The six-speed automatic is likewise no slouch. Put it in sport mode, and it becomes a very quick, smart transmission, downshifting aggressively as you step on the gas or slow for a corner but never trapping you in a lower gear while you’re cruising, as some “advanced” dual-clutch units are wont to do.
Inside, the Camaro has grown on me a bit. I’m starting to like that fat, weird looking steering wheel and appreciate the flair added by the four console gauges. It also appears as if some of the interior parts fit together better here than those in the SS we had earlier this summer. To be sure, there is still plenty of room for improvement inside, but I think I could more than live with its shortcomings in return for all that Camaro style.
My biggest disappointment remains in the handling department. If feels too big, too heavy, and too soft. The Mustang at least allows you to pretend you’re in something nimble, thanks to its quick turn-in and relatively light weight.
What I’d love to see now from the “new” General Motors is a special, lighter weight model built around a hopped-up version of this 3.6-liter V-6 or perhaps an engine of even smaller displacement. Maybe even call it a Z28. Purists would scream, but they would do well to remember that the Z28 package started out as a lean, mean, mouse-motor-powered machine made for folks who wanted to drive through corners as well as stoplights.
On a somewhat unrelated note, I had a chance to use OnStar for directions and was again reminded what a nifty service it is. Even the priciest in dash navigation systems can’t compete with the ease (and safety) of pressing one button and having a real person find your destination.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Not depressing at all, this V-6 Camaro. In fact, it is quite a lot of fun. I’m more impressed by this V-6 RS model with automatic transmission than I was by the V-8 SS Camaro we drove recently, as that car failed, in my estimation, to blow away the Mustang GT, as I had expected it to.
Our bright yellow Camaro RS was a hoot to drive. The six-speed automatic made the most of the V-6’s 304 hp, the car got just as many stares as the SS did around Ann Arbor, and I just felt good behind the wheel. I guess the Camaro’s cheap interior didn’t offend me in this $30K car as much as it did in the $35K Camaro SS.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
My ideal Camaro doesn’t have an automatic bolted to its 3.6-liter V-6, but I walked away impressed with this gearbox. In sport mode (shift to “M” but don’t touch the paddles), the transmission was quite responsive to throttle input, and even the manu-matic controls are some of the best I’ve seen from anyone – GM especially – in recent years. I can’t recall the last time I’ve flawlessly executed a double downshift on a GM automatic in anything other than a Corvette.
The V-6 isn’t wanting for power, and as Joe DeMatio notes, its lower price point is more palatable and allows buyers to add on the extra goodies. I wish a blind-spot detection system were one of them. The slinky C-pillars are massive – though stylish – and any traffic approaching the Camaro from behind is virtually invisible.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
The untrained eye will probably be unable to discern a Camaro SS from a V-6-powered model like this one. A deaf person riding in the car might also mistake this peppy base model for the racier small-block model.
The V-6 is quite impressive, which isn’t surprising since it has more horsepower than the 4.6-liter V-8 in the 2009 Ford Mustang GT. The combined fuel economy rating of 22 mpg is pretty decent, too. The V-6 Camaro will even do a burnout, which is important in a pony car. Like Joe D, I think I prefer this car to the pricier SS we drove a couple months back; I bet I’d like the $23K base Camaro LS even more.
Still, my primary issues with the Camaro remain: Visibility is terrible, especially over-the-shoulder blind-spot checks (as Evan noted). The interior design is not to my liking, and it’s very dark in this example; I’d like to see if the beige or gray interiors feel less claustrophobic. Also, I found the seat cushions to be a bit flat, particularly in the seatback, which doesn’t have a lumbar adjustor. There are so many gauges in this interior that you’d think there’d be a legible analog speedometer, but you have to either guess what number is beneath that superthick needle or call up the digital readout in the gauge cluster (which precludes the display of trip-computer or other useful information).
Still, the Camaro’s smokin’-hot looks are tough to ignore. And the automatic is actually quite good and relatively involving, although the plastic +/- markers tacked on the back of the steering wheel are somewhat silly; the “paddles” themselves aren’t bad, though.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Finally, a V-6 pony car that doesn’t leave the driver feeling ashamed! It’s not going to win many drag races, though the 306-hp engine is much more impressive than the 210 hp V-6 found in a base Mustang. Like the other staffers, I found this V-6 automatic combination to be more than adequate, which is particularly exciting because it’s exactly what most shoppers will buy. I agree with Joe DeMatio, this V-6 is more impressive then the V-8 found in the SS model. I really wanted to love the Camaro SS, but the 422 hp can’t overcome the excessive curb weight. I know the test numbers don’t support this, but the V-6 car hardly felt slower than the V-8.
I might be tempted to choose a V-8 Mustang over a V-8 Camaro, but there’s no way I’d choose a V-6 Mustang or Challenger over the V-6 Camaro. Again, this is great news for Chevy because most people will buy a V-6 car. Those looking for pure performance out of a V-6 would be best served with a Nissan 370Z, but the Nissan can’t compete on curb appeal when cruising is your main priority. Perhaps the V-6 would satisfy those looking for performance if the exhaust had a bit more menace. As it stands, the V-6 Camaro sounds unrefined and docile. Let the car breathe and it could sound as menacing as it looks.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
2010 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT Coupe
Base price (with destination): $27,330
Price as tested: $30,115
RS Package – $1450
– 20″ painted aluminum wheels, body-color roof ditch molding, HID headlamps, rear spoiler, RS unique tail lamps
6-speed automatic transmission – $1185
– includes remote start
compact spare wheel & tire – $150
18 / 29 / 22 mpg
Size: 3.6L V-6 with variable valve timing and direct injection
Horsepower: 304 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm
Weight: 3719 lb
20″ x 8″ front / 20″ x 9″ rear
P245/45R20 front / P275/40R20 fear tires