While the ‘newness’ of the new Camaro may have worn off some, the passion and reaction to this car certainly has not. As East Coast Editor for The Garage, I was able to spend a week with a 2010 Camaro RS, and I genuinely came away impressed with Chevy’s re-entry into muscle car territory. Yet for all the attention the car received wherever I went, when people asked me what was under the hood, and I replied “A V-6″ you could just see their disappointment. I pleaded with them, telling it IS quick, has over 300hp yet can get nearly 30 MPG on the highway. But they weren’t hearing any of that. They would smile, tell me the car looked cool anyway, and went on their way.
That was when the Camaro was brand-new. A couple years in, the appeal has not faded. While the Camaro is the best selling two door muscle car in the US by quite a margin (beating the updated Mustang by 20,000 cars as of the end of November), this is still not a car you see on a daily basis. And with no change in appearance for 2012 (ok, Camaro fanatics, all Camaros now get the smoked RS taillamps), the presence of the Camaro is still something to behold. Our test car, finished in Carbon Flash Metallic, and equipped with the 45th Anniversary Package with the requisite stripes and 20” wheels, the Camaro was absolutely menacing. On seeing it, my five year old sons’s jaw dropped. My wife, a fan of the TV show “Hawaii 5-0” which features a Camaro, loved it. When you pull up at stoplights, the guy in the minivan in the next lane hates you. Really hates you. But the hate doesn’t linger, because you’ve soon completely disappeared from view.
While I was generally pleased with the 2010 Camaro’s interior there’s always room for improvement. The most dramatic step forward is the new steering wheel. While the old tiller was retro in appearance, it just felt too large and awkward. Chevy has completely addressed that for 2010 with a wheel that looks and feels just right. Soft-touch materials on the dash add an air of quality to the Camaro cabin. While the Camaro is not the easiest car to see out of, the addition of a rearview camera, built in the the rearview mirror, is of enormous help in backing up the car. While the Boston Acoustics audio provided decent sound, the Camaro is a couple generations behind in terms of infotainment. Don’t get me wrong, the Camaro has Bluetooth and XM Satellite Radio, but built in GPS Navigation is not even an option. Yes, there is OnStar which will download turn by turn directions to your car, and the staff can offer restaurant advice and other services, but still. The reality is, the buyers do not care, the Camaro is sales king in 2011.
The real story, of course, is what lies in the engine bay: a glorious 6.2L V-8 knocking out a healthy 426hp. On start up, the SS likes to clear its throat a bit, just to let anyone within ear shot that you are not to be messed with. Despite the amount of power being put through the rear tires, the Camaro SS is a very easy car to putter around downtown in. The driver is the ultimate decision maker in the character of the car. You can idle stoplight to stoplight, and the car is composed, even quiet, for what it is. But where’s the fun in that? Stomp on it and the Camaro responds immediately. Power delivery is strong, but never overwhelming. You’d have to be really brave or really stupid to scare yourself in this car, as long as the roads are dry. Our test car was equipped with a six-speed manual (a six-speed automatic is available, but power drops to 400hp). The clutch was a cinch to modulate, and I enjoyed rowing the gears, although the big V-8 is so tractable you don’t need to. But the audible burbles and crackles spitting out the exhaust on downshifting were addictive.
For a car that has 426hp on tap, sales and racing legacy dating back 45 years, head-turning good looks and a comfortable interior and ride, I consider the Camaro a more than decent performance car bargain. Our 2SS Coupe is the top-spec Camaro (until the ZL1), and with a generous list of standard equipment, you start with a base price of $35,450USD. Our test car had the optional 45th Anniversary Package, which adds special striping, HID headlamps with LED halo rings, 20″ silver painted wheels, and special stitching on the leather seats, logos, and kick plates. Including delivery, our Camaro rang in at $37,725.
In autumn of 2009 when I had reviewed the Camaro RS, with its V-6, I argued that it is a perfectly acceptable and quick Camaro that would more than satisfy its owner. That was stepping out of a top of the line V-6 RS with all the goodies. I want to alter that statement. For around $700 more, give me a stripped 6.2L V-8 SS over a topped out V-6 RS any day. I now understand why people reacted when I said the Camaro had a V-6. And by the end of the week, I was tired of defending it. North America wants its Camaro with a fire breathing V-8, a no excuses car, and the 2012 Camaro, while not perfect, is a performance icon, and for 2012, a further refined one. Take my advice friends, because I don’t want to hear that old advertising line “I should’ve had a V-8”.