A stiff clutch pedal and a manual shifter that doesn't move through the gears with much fluidity make the Camaro SS a chore to drive around town. The tall cowl, small windows, huge A-pillars, and tall, broad hood are also bummers, because you can easily feel claustrophobic in this car. If you're a Camaro person, you might not much care, but I find the Ford Mustang to be easier to drive and to have a more livable cabin than the Camaro. I suppose I would have liked our test Camaro better had it been equipped with the Hurst short-throw shifter, which seems like it would be $380 well-spent.
A 45th anniversary package is a stretch, in my opinion. 25, 40, 50, those are anniversaries worth noting, but 45? Not so much.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I really love driving muscle cars because they are loud, powerful, and look menacing. The Camaro SS does not disappoint. Even though cold and rainy weather precluded any aggressive driving, I had a ton of fun behind the wheel of the Camaro. I love the lumpy idle, the hearty growl of the V-8, and the way the exhaust pops and crackles on engine overrun. No downsized turbocharged engine can provide that much aural and visceral excitement.
Less exciting is the special 45th Anniversary treatment applied to this Camaro. It includes different paint, a new stripe, some interior trim, a smattering of new badges, and dark-silver wheels. Yawn. It doesn't look much more special than a regular Camaro SS, and I'm not convinced most people would notice the heritage-inspired trim. Is the 45th Anniversary package worth an extra $1375? I think not.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
Lost in the hubbub of Chevrolet's centennial is the fact that the Camaro nameplate turns 45 years old in 2012. Tradition seems to mandate a birthday celebration every five years - and, as was the case in 1992, 1997, and 2002, this anniversary is celebrated with a special-edition package.
This latest dress-up kit isn't quite as outlandish as that used in 2002, nor is it an all-out retro assault like the 1997 model was. Actually, the entire package is rather subtle: 45th anniversary models receive special Carbon Flash exterior paint, twin rally stripes with a unique offset red accent, and special emblems that cleverly incorporate the tri-stripe emblem launched in 1974. Inside, the red stitching applied to the leather seating, shifter, and steering wheel help dress up the interior, although the gloss white trim panel that wraps around the cockpit is a bit unusual. Why not paint it to match the exterior hue?
The end result is a $1300 package that does little to augment the character of the car - it's still a heavy, muscle-bound bruiser - but it will appease Camaro geeks. Do I wish the special-edition package was a bit more charismatic, or somehow added a little something substantive to the mix? Perhaps. But muscle car enthusiasts will likely be happy the car exists, period - after all, 2012 may be the Camaro's 45th birthday, but it also marks the 10th anniversary of GM's attempt to eliminate the nameplate altogether.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
I had been on vacation , for ten days in Asia, during which time I'd been driving an eight-year-old, right-hand-drive Toyota Corolla. When I arrived at the airport in Detroit after a 24-hour trip home, it made me smile to see the all-American Chevy Camaro waiting for me. After all the small Japanese compacts and mid-size pickups, rickety tuk-tuks, and swarming motorbikes that clog the streets in Thailand, I'd have been hard-pressed to name a car that would more fittingly indicate that I was back in the USA than the Camaro (other than perhaps the Corvette or the Mustang). There are lots of things that could be improved with this car -- outward visibility with the high beltline and thick C-pillars is not the greatest, the clutch could be less stiff, the shifter throws could be smoother -- but it still a quintessentially American car with its big, throaty, powerful V-8. I'm quite sure this isn't a car I'd want to drive every day, but on that day, I was very happy to come home to this Chevy Camaro.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
The criticisms my colleagues have laid on the Camaro SS are all spot-on. Too big, too heavy, too difficult to see out of. As I hustled to the airport, I became fully aware of all these flaws, leading me to ask myself a simple question: Why do I love this car so much?
Part of the answer, I'll freely admit, is personal. My father drove Camaros throughout my childhood (he recently turned coat and bought a 2011 Ford Mustang GT). Most of the formative experiences that made me the incurable auto enthusiast I am today are connected with Camaros: washing them on the weekend, getting brisk rides to school in the morning, and, when I was old enough, scaring myself behind the wheel.
Credit Chevrolet though, for designing a Camaro that so perfectly captures my (and so many others') child-like wonder and enthusiasm for cars. Every time I spot the new Camaro parked somewhere, I smile. And that's after six years of seeing it just about everywhere, not to mention more than three years of being jaded by a job at Automobile Magazine.
Since it seems I'm stuck loving the Camaro, I might as well find a few things to like about it. That's actually not too hard. The 426-hp pushrod V-8 is still one of, if not the best engine you can buy for less than $40,000. If you get beyond the poor sightlines and heavy feel of the car and actually push it, you find that it has a well-sorted chassis and a rock-solid structure. Finally, it's worth noting that Chevy has made some efforts to improve the car. The smaller steering wheel helps a great deal, as does the new, softer trim on the dashboard.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor