As a dyed-in-the-wool Camaro guy (my dad owned four F-bodies when I was growing up), I was initially concerned that this new car would be too different from the bruisers I remembered. Now, I’m not sure if it’s different enough.
On paper, it’s hard to see how this could be the case. The new Camaro shares little of its genetics with its most recent, fourth-generation forebear aside from a further-evolved version of the GM small-block. No surprise, the LS3 is absolutely awesome. I wish you could hear a bit more of it at idle, but there’s no doubt this is a real pushrod V-8 when you lay into the gas pedal. Otherwise, the Camaro has much more in common with the Pontiac G8, having been largely developed by the same Australian group that gave us the last Pontiac GTO. Why, then, does this thing still have absurdly heavy doors, a hard, cheap plastic interior, and scarcely any view out? These were some of the very faults that hurt the last Camaro and “Batmobile” Pontiac Firebird.
What this Camaro has in its favor are drop-dead-gorgeous looks. One might have thought the styling would have lost its impact after several years on the auto show circuit and a starring role in a blockbuster movie, but it still causes plenty of rubber necking in traffic. More important, it makes you smile every time you approach it in the parking lot. The expressive lines, which practically sing, “Look at me! I’m a Camaro!” almost make the super-thick C-pillar and oddly shaped, but origami-like trunk opening worth the hassle.
And, of course, the Camaro is a hoot to drive. Sure, it’s a bit heavy, but it moves. The brakes on our particular car were kinda toasted, but I trust they’re great on Camaros that haven’t just come from the track. The Camaro SS handles corners the way you’d expect of a modern rear-wheel-drive car with an independent rear suspension, but it never stops feeling humongous. The real way to have fun in the Camaro is to forget any fancy driving tactics and just lay into the throttle as often as possible.
General Motors needs this car to sell well, and I think it will, given its intoxicating mix of style and power. But there will be some buyers, particularly those of the import-driving variety, who will be turned off by the lack of refinement and practicality. If only Chevy offered a four-door sedan with similar performance. Like the G8.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
On paper, this car is an enthusiast’s dream: a big V-8 underhood, a six-speed manual, independent rear suspension, and rear-wheel drive. You’d expect it to be completely amazing after such a long hiatus, but the Camaro is far from perfect.
The car is far too heavy and too quiet. It makes a lot of sacrifices in the name of design. You can forget about putting large objects in the trunk, because the opening is oddly shaped and not very deep. The shifter looks cool, but it irritates me to feel the stitching on the palm of my hand when I shift. I was expecting to be blown away by the 426 hp here, since the Ford Mustang has 315 hp and feels quite nice, but the Camaro is so heavy it doesn’t feel any faster. Actually, sometimes it feels slower. Toss in the fact that the LS3 can barely be heard through the exhaust, and you really feel like you’re in a car that isn’t sure if it’s supposed to be fast, refined, or good looking. It does each of those things to a certain degree, but the clear winner is design.
But that doesn’t mean the Camaro isn’t fun. I took the Camaro to a drive-in movie and had a blast. As soon as we parked, a flock of children descended upon the Camaro and asked what it was. Nobody seemed to notice the Dodge Challenger a few cars over. The highlight of the experience was watching the trailer for the new Transformers movie while I was sitting in a Camaro. Did I mention my date is a huge fan of Transformers? The only way that could have worked out better would be if we had arrived in a Bumblebee edition Camaro.
Keeping in mind the Camaro is a muscle car, not a pure sports car, this is a great way to spend $35,000. Those who wish to spend more time carving up mountain roads than doing burnouts will probably be happier in a Nissan 370Z, but there are a lot of people who just like to go fast, turn left, and repeat. Now that group has another exciting choice.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
I’m disappointed. I truly thought that this modern-day Camaro – created with the global resources of GM on an excellent rear-wheel-drive chassis with an independent rear suspension and married with arresting styling that wasn’t too retro but was clearly a Camaro – would finally be a muscle car I could love. Because, you see, I’ve never much cared for muscle cars before: I was too young to appreciate them in the ’60s and ’70s, when they were still cool, and by the time I was driving in the ’80s, they were, to me, the epitome of Detroit tackiness.
But, no, I finally drive the all-new 2010 Chevy Camaro, and I come away thinking, THIS is the new Camaro? It doesn’t feel as fast as its 426-hp rating, it doesn’t sound that great, it feels too big, and it’s hard to see out of. But my biggest complaint is about the interior. Why, oh, why couldn’t GM have put another five hundred dollars into this cabin? It has lost 99% of the Camaro concept car’s coolness. The aluminum is all gone. The specialness is all gone. It’s just another cheap GM interior with mediocre plastics. The basic interior design is okay, but the cost-cutters spent way too much time in here.
I give the exterior its due: it’s great, and the car looks like nothing else on the road. The car attracts lots of attention, and you have people follow you into parking lots to go ga-ga over it.
I really thought that this new Camaro would simply blow the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger into the weeds. I thought it would stand head and shoulders above them as a modern muscle car that had enough Camaro-ness to please the faithful but also enough slickness and refinement to pull people out of imports. But what we have here is just an updated version of an ancient formula. Don’t get me wrong: lots of people will, rightly, love this car, and the 300-hp V-6 model, especially, has a lot going for it. But it hasn’t transformed me into a lover of muscle cars.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
I got plenty of seat time in the Camaro SS, including a 750-mile road trip to New Jersey, some track time at New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Thunderbolt Raceway, and some city driving around Ann Arbor. After all that, I wasn’t too impressed. Granted, the car creates a lot of attention with its looks. During my trek out East, numerous truckers honked at the car, and a guy in a Subaru Impreza WRX gave me thumbs-up and then wanted to race me down the Pennsylvania Turnpike. At a rest stop in Ohio, someone approached me to ask if I would take a picture of them standing next to the car. Naturally, I obliged.
The Camaro feels massive. When I sat in the drivers seat, all I could see is the huge cowl on the hood. Of course, the pleasure in this is knowing that underneath it lies 426 hp waiting to be put to use by your right foot. And when you do, the Camaro is fast; it sounds good, and it can lay serious rubber. The interior is a bit disappointing, however. In particular, the huge, silver-painted plastic trim piece on the interior door panel is awful. The front seats are surprisingly comfy for long trips, but they lack any lumbar support for aggressive driving.
I’m glad the Camaro is back, but I hope that Chevy can iron out some details and really solidify it as a legitimate $35,000 sports car. Otherwise, there are lots of other ways to go fast and have fun in that price range.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
I have a sentimental attachment to the Camaro – especially the second-generation car, in which I learned how to master a manual transmission – so I was looking forward to driving the long-awaited 2010 model. In many ways, the Camaro doesn’t disappoint. For one, it’s an eye-catcher; I got several of waves of recognition and thumbs-up while driving it around town. The engine – especially the 6.2-liter V-8 in this SS model – has more than enough power, and it’s mated to a six-speed manual transmission (which is exactly twice as many gears as the Camaro I was driving thirty-some years ago). On the other hand, the interior isn’t up to snuff and the car is simply too heavy. To top it off, one of our readers reports that his local dealer is asking for a premium of $19,000 – a “market value charge” – on the SS because of high demand, which hikes up the price to more than $50,000. Still, all is not lost. There are undoubtedly a lot of baby boomers like yours truly who see the Camaro as their ticket to a trip down memory lane.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
I have extremely mixed feelings about the Camaro. On one hand, I absolutely love the exterior, even in this trite red paint. The interior, however, is ho-hum in places (e.g., the huge expanse of black plastic in front of the passenger), overdone in other spots (the strange-looking instrument panel), and tacky in others (the huge swath of gray plastic on the inner door panel).
As far as usability goes, the back seats are very tight, almost as bad as the ones in the Nissan GT-R. Also, as others have mentioned, the trunk lid is strangely shaped and the trunk itself is quite shallow. I still think it’s livable, but owners might want to acquire some new luggage to fit in that space. The gauges on the center console are pretty much useless, too, as tech editor Don Sherman noted in his first drive story.
This is the first Camaro that I’ve driven – ever – so I’m a bit disappointed that it doesn’t have more of a nimble feeling to help negotiate its 426-hp small-block mountain. Instead, the driving experience is very burly, with a deliberate clutch and a beefy yet precise shifter. The engine sounds great when it revs, but it’s too quiet for my liking at idle and off-idle. Overall, the Camaro doesn’t appeal to me as much as I’d hoped it would. However, I took it to Milan Dragway the other day, and it was a big hit there. Perhaps I’m just in the wrong age group (twenty-something) to fully appreciate this car.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Base price (with destination) : $34,180
Price as tested: $35,380
RS package: $1200
-RS unique tail lamps
16 / 24 / 19 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 6.2L V-8
Horsepower: 426 hp @ 5900 rpm
Torque: 420 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
Weight: 3849 lb
20 x 8 in. front 20 x 9 in rear painted aluminum wheels