Squeezing near-Corvette acceleration out of a 3859-pound Camaro wasn't easy. Wider rear rubber than the competition's was a good starting point. To keep the ultrawide rear tires from doing the bunny hop during launch, engineers made one half shaft significantly stiffer than the other.
To avoid the gas-guzzler stigma, the top three gears are tall enough for Bonneville, and there's a skip-shift strategy that forces your hand from first to fourth when the throttle is toed with insufficient gusto. We never suffered that problem. We did, however, find the clutch pedal a touch high, the throttle slightly lazy to respond, and the brake-to-throttle spacing a bit wide for optimal heel-and-toe operation.
Testing a Camaro SS equipped with a six-speed automatic yielded a major surprise: it's a mere tenth of a second slower than the stick to both 60 mph and through the quarter mile. Three handy control modes make this transmission a genuinely satisfying alternative. For optimum automatic upshifts, select the M lever position to engage sport mode. Fingering the tap-shift buttons located on the back side of the steering-wheel spokes engages manual mode, wherein each gear is held until the driver says let go. Option three is launch control, provided when the stability system is partially disabled; here, just the right amount of wheel spin is allowed for heroic root-beer-stand exits.
Black plastic plus-and-minus flags help you locate the appropriate tap-shift button. The pity is that the flags aren't attached to the buttons. With skillful use of an X-Acto blade and superglue, it might be possible to rectify that fault.
To stretch gas mileage, the automatic version of the 6.2-liter V-8 has variable camshaft timing and cylinder shutdown, albeit at a sacrifice of 26 hp and 10 lb-ft of torque. The upside is 25 highway mpg, an advantage of 1 mpg over the manual-transmission V-8. Both Camaro SSs are rated at 16 mpg in city driving.
In addition to the V-8's hotter performance and more entertaining sound track, you also get firmer suspension calibrations and tighter body control, especially during hard braking. To make the Camaro SS racetrack ready, engineers included Brembo four-piston brake calipers and lubricant coolers for both the engine and the transmission.
All of the Camaros we drove had crisp turn-in and linear steering response. The twenty-inch Pirelli PZero tires communicate minimal road information to the steering wheel until they're pressed hard, but all systems eventually click into sync to provide predictable handling to and through the ragged edge. To cancel limit understeer, you need to disable the stability control, select second gear, and nail the throttle. Once the drift mode is so energized, it's easy to keep the tail cocked until the rear rubber is but a fond memory.
The final surprise baked into the Camaro is a delightful ride. Zeta Two's stiff body structure - combined with large rubber bushings that give the strut-type front suspension ample longitudinal compliance and allow a well-isolated independent rear suspension - yields a sport coupe capable of convincing the most devout classic Camaro fan to join the twenty-first century. Over Michigan's maintenance-deprived roads that drive live-axle Mustangs crazy, the new Camaro felt solidly planted and supplely suspended.
This second coming is a religious experience for the Camaro faithful. Chevy's other target market - Audi, Hyundai, and Infiniti coupe intenders - will be perplexed by the interior design but will be amazed at how much swagger $31,000 can buy. The new Camaro is good enough to warrant their consideration, too.