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