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