2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Coupe Review and Historic Comparisons
If the styling of the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro harkens back to the original of 1967-69, the underpinnings most definitely do not...
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Coupe
It took a while longer than expected to make it to the street, but the latest version of the Chevrolet Camaro makes that wait worthwhile. It's the strongest, fastest, baddest, and most powerful ever -- and also the most sophisticated. If anyone was wondering if beleaguered General Motors could built first-class automobiles, the 2010 Camaro answers that question with an emphatic "yes".
If the styling harkens back to the original of 1967-69, the underpinnings most definitely do not. While the engine is still in the front, and drives the rear wheels, that hallmark of all that was Neanderthal for muscle car handling, the solid rear axle, is gone. Underneath the retro-meets-futuristic bodywork is GM's "global rear-drive architecture". Styling is all-American, but development was a combination of American and Australian efforts, and Camaros are built in Canada, in Oshawa, Ontario, not the old plant in Montreal, Quebec. It's a 21st Century international muscle car.
As has been the case since the beginning, the 2010 Camaro comes with six-cylinder or V8 power. It's slightly shorter overall than the 1993-2002 Camaro, with a longer wheelbase for improved interior room, with actual room in the rear seat. Trim levels are LS, LT, and SS. Well, 1LT, 2LT, 1SS and 2SS, with level 2 being more fully-equipped. LS and LT models have a 3.6-liter V6 under the hood; the SS gets a 6.2-liter V8.
Well, two slightly different 6.2 liter V8s, depending on transmission. Both the manual and automatic are six-speeds; cars with the automatic get the L99 engine with the Active Fuel Management System, which deactivates cylinders when they're not needed, as in light-throttle cruising, for better fuel efficiency. Performance doesn't look to be too compromised - when all ponies are required, 400 are available. "TapShift" manual mode in the transmission allows easy manual shifting.
Assuming that people who want a stick are more interested in performance than ultimate fuel economy, they get the LS3 variant of the aluminum, pushrod V8. Tick that on your wish list and get higher compression, no cylinder deactivation, and 426 horsepower.
Not that the V6 is exactly wimpy... totally contemporary, it's an aluminum alloy unit with dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, continuously variable cam phasing, and direct fuel injection. And with 304 horsepower (at 6400 rpm), it's as powerful as the previous-generation's base V8 at the end of that car's run. It, too, transmits that power to the rear axle via a six-speed stick or automatic.
I've just finished a week with what is currently the Ultimate Production Camaro - a manual 2SS with the RS appearance package that is offered for both the SS and LT models and includes 20-inch aluminum wheels shod with huge, sticky Pirelli P-Zero tires, HID headlights with signature halo rings, and special taillights. Add the SS's standard Brembo brakes, and there is a bit of an Italian accent to this beast. The SS's Boston Acoustics sound system had nothing on the stereo subwoofers under the rear bumper, and at the right place and time, the 010 Camaro SS is a ferociously quick and fast beast that can get from zero to sixty in under five seconds -- supercar territory not long ago -- stop just as quickly, and corner with the best. Sixth gear's high overdrive ratio means potentially excellent highway fuel economy, as cruising at legal speed shows less than 2,000 rpm. And it's perfectly happy to do so. Docile at low speeds and fierce when the throttle is provoked, it even worked well in the first heavy rain of the season. It's the best car to wear the Camaro badge, and one of the best high-performance values available.
APPEARANCE: Stealth factor: zero. Or less. With styling little changed from the concept car of a few years back, the new Camaro makes a statement. Some people wave and smile; members of the Anti-Destination League hasten to turn in front of it and go as slowly as possible. Nobody ignores it. While the lines pay homage to the original of the late 1960s, the new Camaro is no exercise in nostalgia. It looks honestly muscular, and it is. The only faux styling elements are the small non-functional air intake at the front of the SS's hood bulge and the embossed "gills" on the rear fenders. Come to think of it, with the wide mouth and gills, there's a more than passing resemblance to a shark...
COMFORT: is a word that has not always been associated with "Camaro". Here, no worries. Like its exterior, the new Camaro's interior is a contemporary interpretation of past themes, surrounding passengers with simple geometric forms and multiple materials in a pleasant manner. The 2SS's leather-faced, power-adjustable front buckets have good side bolsters, useful when cornering, but not too high to impede access. The do offer good support and comfort. The leather-wrapped steering wheel adjusts for both tilt and reach, and has cruise and auxiliary audio controls. The rear seat is strictly for two, in a semi-bucket style. People under about 5-7 fit reasonably. The entire rear seatback folds down for extra space if needed; the trunk is usefully large but with a small opening. Backlit gauges present all necessary information legibly and without glare. Level 2 gets oil pressure, volts, and both engine and transmission oil temperature gauges at the front of the console, just like in the Olden Days. Visibility to the front and front quarters is good, but be careful backing out of parking spaces as rear-quarter visibility is classic sports coupe, nearly nonexistent. If you're looking for bottle holders and lit vanity mirrors, you're in the wrong place... but there is a full complement of contemporary entertainment in the form of the aforementioned Boston Acoustics AM/FM/XM/CD/auxiliary audio, with a minijack, USB port, and power point in the console box. The digital tuner has an amusing simulated analog display that fits perfectly with the car's character. And character it has.
SAFETY: "Retro" does not apply to the new Camaro's safety equipment. For active safety, see the ride and handling section. Passive safety features include a strong unibody structure with a safety cage around the passenger compartment, a full suite of airbags, a front passenger detection to limit airbag deployment, and front-seat belt load limiters and pre-tensioners. The Stabilitrak stability and traction system is standard, and allows a reasonable level of performance driving without being intrusive.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Yes, it's a raging beast, but the new Camaro is a very controllable raging beast. The first-ever fully-independent suspension for the marque sees to that. While appropriately firm, the ride is not at all unpleasant. And those fat Pirellis stick very well in the dry. In the wet, well, fat tires + rain = dial it back and take it easy, and then no trouble. Yes, the steering is power-assisted. Care to try turning the 245/45x20 front tires in parallel parking without it? Didn't think so. Brakes for the SS are by Brembo, with fixed four-piston aluminum calipers and vented cast-iron rotors all around. You want to stop? You already did...
PERFORMANCE: Turn the key, the engine fires, and the car shakes noticeably. In a good way. There's power under the domed hood, 426 horses (at 5900 rpm) and 420 lb-ft of torque (at 4600 rpm) with the LS3 in manual gearbox SS'es. It's a classic pushrod overhead valve engine, two valves per cylinder, cast in aluminum alloy instead of the cast iron of the 60s. If you're looking for immediate low-end grunt at low throttle, you'll be disappointed, as power delivery increases in a very linear manner. I consider this a Good Thing, as it prevents unintended rubber abuse, and makes the car easily controllable in traffic and wet weather. It also ensures decent gas mileage, during freeway cruising at least, courtesy a long 0.57 sixth in the Tremec gearbox. Shifting is smooth and quick, and with 60 mph coming up in under five seconds from a standing start, full-throttle acceleration in any gear above second could be hazardous to your driving record. But great for the adrenaline flow. EPA mileage is 16/24; I managed just under 17 with a mix of backroads, city streets (wet and dry), and compensatory highway cruising at under 2000 rpm, still life in the fast lane.
CONCLUSIONS: No evolutionary throwback, the 2010 Chevy Camaro combines the soul of a Sixties muscle car with a modern chassis.
2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Coupe
Base Price $ 33,430 Price As Tested $ 35,775 Engine Type aluminum alloy 16-valve pushrod overhead valve V8 Engine Size 6.2 liters / 376 cu. in. Horsepower 426 @ 5900 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 420 @ 4600 rpm Transmission 6-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 112.3 in. / 190.4 in. Curb Weight 3849 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 9.0 Fuel Capacity 19.0 gal. Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium recommended Tires F: 245/45 ZR20 103Y R: 275/40 ZR20 106Y Pirelli P-Zero Brakes, front/rear Brembo vented disc with 4-piston calipers, ABS and Stabilitrak stability control standard. Suspension, front/rear independent double ball-joint multi-link strut / independent multilink Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 16 / 24 / 17 0 to 60 mph 4.8 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES RS Package - includes: 20"x8 front/20"x9 rear flangeless aluminum wheels with high-performance tires, body-color roof ditch molding, HID headlamps with halo ring, unique tail lamps $ 1,200 Cyber gray metallic stripe package $ 395 Destination charge $ 750
Extra: 2010 Chevrolet Camaro Versus Its Predecessors
See and Compare Chevrolet Camaro Specs GO!
Research is fun, and enlightening. To get a feel for the performance potential of the first-generation Chevrolet Camaro, I pulled some relevant magazines off the bookshelf. To wit: Car & Driver, November 1966 for the 350, March 1967 for the Z-28, and September 1967 for an aftermarket streetable drag car by Nickey Chevrolet and Bill Thomas Race Cars, with a blueprinted twin-four barrel 427 cubic inch Corvette big block in the engine compartment.
2010 Camaro SS: 376 cid / 6.2 liter aluminum pushrod ohv V8 with multi-port fuel injection and all modern emissions equipment. 426 hp @ 5900 rpm, 420 lb-ft torque at 4600 rpm. Note that these are net figures, with auxiliary equipment... Curb weight (mfg) 3849 lbs. 9.0 lbs per horsepower.6-speed gearbox, 3.45:1 axle ratio. Four vented rotor four-piston caliper Brembo disc brakes with standard antilock and Stabilitrak stability control. 4-wheel independent suspension. 0-60 4.8 seconds. 15-25 mpg real-world. $35,775 as tested
1967 Camaro SS 350: 350 cid / 5.7 liter cast iron pushrod ohv V8 with 1 4-barrel Rochester carburetor. No emissions equipment. 295 hp @ 4800 rpm, 380 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm, likely gross (no auxiliary equipment) curb weight: 3269 lbs, 11.0 lbs/hp. 4-speed manual gearbox, 3.31:1 axle ratio. Vented front discs (highly unusual in those days), rear drums, what's "antilock" or "stability control" if not for the driver's abilities? independent unequal-length wishbones in front, with coil springs; solid axle with single-leaf springs at the rear. 0-60: 7.8 seconds. 13-16 mpg. price not available (probably pre-production).
<1967 Camaro Z28: 302 cid / 5.0-liter cast iron push-rod V8 with 1 4-bbl Holley carb, 290hp @ 5800 rpm, 290 lb-ft @ 4200rpm. Curb weight 3250 lbs, for 11.2 lbs/hp. 4-speed manual gearbox, 3.70:1 axle ratio. Vented discs/drums. Same suspension architecture as the SS but with a different tuning. 0-60: 6.7 seconds. 11-15 mpg. $4051
1967 427 hot rod: blueprinted 427cid / 7.0-liter cast iron pushrod V8 with 2 4bbl Carter AFB carbs, 550hp @ 6500 rpm, 440 lb-ft @ 5500 rpm. Curb weight 3340 lbs, for 6 lbs/hp. 4-speed manual gearbox, 3.73:1 axle ratio. drum brakes all around. Same suspension, optimized for drag racing. 0-60: 5.6 seconds. 7-10 mpg. $5922
Ok... the 350 was likely a pre-production or early production car, tested before prices were set. The original Z-28 was a limited-production homologation special, made for eligibility for SCCA Trans-Am racing. The Nickey/Thomas car was a non-factory special, with a specially-prepared big-block dropped in and chassis optimized for going a quarter mile at at time, very quickly.
Engine outputs between now and then are not directly comparable, as the standards then were quite a bit looser, usually measured without losses from various belts and accessory drives. But if the 350 and Z28 were perhaps a little optimistic, the breathed-on 427 wasn't, although that engine was a $1500 item -- I think a VW Beetle was about $1800 in those days.
Pretty much everything in the 2010 Camaro would have been exotica and unobtainable 40 years ago. Yes, there were aluminum-block Chevy V8s, but if you didn't have a good connection inside Chevrolet, you weren't likely to get one. 6-speed gearboxes were Formula One material, maybe. Even there, five was more likely. And Can-Am, with highly-tuned, production-based American V8s? 4, maybe 5. Credit to materials science and metallurgy over the past decades... and (unintentionally) Federal fuel economy legislation. And yes, 6 still do cost more than 4.
Fuel economy? Fuel injection wastes much less fuel than carburetors, and modern engines run leaner for emissions purposes. Advances in design and materials allow this. Multi-speed gearboxes allow lower lows, higher highs, and closer steps between, for improvements in both acceleration and fuel economy. And yes, if you ran a Camaro SS in 2nd gear exclusively, you'd have quite a soundtrack and probably 5mpg at best...
The biggest improvements have been in brakes and tires, especially tires. Late-60s street-spec tires were starting to get wide, but still had high aspect ratios (like 80%) and bias-ply construction. Radials were rare imports from Michelin or Pirelli, and expensive. The best racing tires of the day would be eclipsed by any decent mid-level performance tire of today, and the 010 Camaro's Pirelli P-Zeros are considerably above that. I suspect that an old car with new rubber could knock a few seconds off acceleration times. And improve cornering behavior immensely, although suspension modifications may be necessary.
Independent suspension of the driven wheels requires strong constant-velocity joints that can withstand tremendous torque loadings. These didn't exist in the 60s, and u-joints and sliding half-shafts were fragile, none-too-reliable, expensive race car material. With the advent of front-wheel drive, for packaging efficiency and traction at constant speeds, came necessary development of CV joints, eventually benefiting rear-drive traditionalists. And since that GM "world rear-drive platform" on which the new Camaro is based has a high volume of production, costs can be spread out more than if the car was based on it's own unique platform as was the case with the old "F-body" Camaro and Pontiac Firebird.
So, celebrate the past, but today's Camaro can whup any previous production version at the strip, and can even hold its own against drag-race specials. Down a winding road, forget the past. Today's tires, suspension, and brakes will see to that. No, they don't make them like they used to - they make them better. cr