The day of reckoning has arrived: Chevy's new Camaro has left the assembly line keen to butt heads with the Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, and other pretenders to the pony car throne. We tested two SS V-8s to find if the long wait has been worthwhile.
No Angry Kitchen Appliance
The new Camaro looks like the first-generation (1967-69) updated with fancy footwear and a smattering of Corvette cues. The hiked beltline and squished roof gives it a menacing but also heavy appearance. Greenies will surely christen this revival their new poster child of wretched consumption because the Camaro SS offers a choice between two rumbling 6.2-liter V-8s (400 hp with 6-speed automatic, 426 hp with 6-speed stick). Smoke this, tree huggers: thanks to super-tall gearing, both deliver mid-20s highway mileage, thereby skirting the EPA's guzzler stigma. Also, the 304-hp 3.6-liter V-6 (labeled LS or LT) alternative scores 29 highway mpg with an automatic.
SS Camaros can be distinguished by their standard 20-inch wheels, hood scoop, and rear spoiler. The front slot--actually on the front fascia, not the hood--is decorative. During our suburban-Detroit intro drive, the new Camaro generated a wake of raised-thumb salutes. The horsepower oppressed are restless.
1969 Remixed For 2009
The Camaro's shoulder-high door tops and thick windshield pillars, coupled with a roof that curls over your ears, helps create a claustrophobic vibe inside. While the interior layout is attractively configured, the only respites from molded-plastic monotony are a run of cloth through the doors and dash and the leather seating surfaces and steering wheel wrap included with the up-level trim. (Cloth is standard.) Tasteful textures, painted panels, and chrome door handles add a sparkle here and there, but those expecting Camaro to match Mustang's real metal interior trim will be disappointed. The console-mounted gauges are a silly affectation. The tach and speedometer are also housed in square-cornered pods, but at least they're properly located and legibly marked. One nice touch is an LED light pipe that runs around the dash to uplift the evening-cruise mood.
Not so nice are the squishy bucket seats, which lack both lateral and lumbar support. The standard tilt-telescope steering column has a crude manual-adjuster mechanism that knocks the driver's right knee. Those with a tall build will feel headliner brushing their locks, while those compact of stature will see the high top of the instrument panel, wipers, and the raised center portion of the hood in their view ahead.
Entry to the rear seat is restricted by high sills and front buckets that don't readily scoot forward. Passengers in the penalty row ride with their hair pasted onto the roof (those 70 or more inches tall) and a view through tiny triangular portholes. Leg and hip room are sufficient when front occupants don't hog all the fore and aft space. But don't forget: this is a stylish coupe, not a soccer mom's utility tool.
Access to the trunk is through one of the highest and smallest openings available in any recent automobile. To stretch the utility of the 11.3-cubic foot cargo hold, there's a handy back-seat pass-through portal.