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2010 Chevrolet Camaro V6 2LT Review


SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyers Guide


2010 Chevrolet Camaro V6 2LT

The "baby" six-cylinder versions of pony and muscle cars (different classes in the past but pretty much one and the same today) have always been disparaged -- "secretary's car" was the (oh so derogatory) term in the days before political correctness -- but don't try that with the current Camaro. The weak little V6 only has 304 horsepower, boo hoo. Oh wait, did I just say "304 horsepower"? Isn't that more than the last version's V8 when that car debuted? By almost 30 ponies… and about even in horsepower with the fourth-generation Camaro's base V8 at the end of its run.

The new Camaro's 3.6-liter (217 cu. in.) V6 is a lovely, and very civilized, modern engine. It can loaf along at under 2000 rpm sipping fuel, or scream up to its 7000 or so rpm redline. Don't look for the pushrods of the current V8, or predecessor 3800 and 3.4-liter V6es -- this one is a contemporary dual overhead cam powerplant with variable cam phasing, aluminum alloy block and heads, and direct fuel injection. Which allows high compression for maximum power and efficiency -- while running happily on regular unleaded gasoline. Like the V8 models, V6 examples of the 2010 Chevy Camaro are matched to six-speed transmissions, manual or automatic, also benefitting both efficiency and performance.

Other than engines and some chassis specifications to deal with the V8's greater power, differences between the V8 SS and V6 LS, 1LT, and 2LT models are few. The SS gets a faux scoop in its hood and other styling differences, and has larger, stronger brakes and bigger wheels and tires to better deal with its 400-plus horsepower. LS and LT models get the same basic Generation One-inspired style, front-engine, rear-wheel drive unibody chassis layout, and fully-independent suspension (although tuned slightly less aggressively) as the SS. All 2010 Camaros use GM's "global rear-drive architecture", with development both here and in Australia (yes that means Holden and nothing wrong there - muscle cars, like monotremes and marsupials, survived and even thrived Down Under.)

After spending time with a well-equipped SS a few months ago, I was interested in trying the V6. The SS was the full-bellow 426-hp stick-shift version, and as fine a muscle car as has ever been made. But historically, although the V8 is the aspirational car, the more-affordable V6 is the bigger seller. So when I was asked if I would consider a V6 Camaro instead of the car that had been scheduled but was suddenly unavailable, of course I said "yes".

The Camaro V6 delivered was a 2LT with the automatic and the RS wheel and appearance upgrade package. Meaning the top of the V6 line. As such, styling and comfort differences from the SS are few. The suspension is not quite as stiff, for a more comfortable but still very sport-oriented ride, and there's not as much thrust when the right pedal is depressed. Which is not to say that there's no thrust, as it's "deficient" only in comparison to the bad-boy V8. For all but the hardcore Chevy V8 performance fan, the V6 will be just fine -- and easier on the bank account.

APPEARANCE: Differences between the LT and SS models are minor. Most notably, the small false air intake at the front of the SS's hood bulge is absent from the LT and LS, and the stock wheels are tires are smaller. But the LT can be fitted with the RS 20-inch wheels and halo rings around HID headlamps just like the SS. The LT's stealth factor is just as negative as the SS's, and it gets just as much attention.

COMFORT: 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 2LT's leather-faced and heated front buckets have good side bolsters, useful when cornering, but are not too high to impede access. The do offer good support and comfort, and the driver's is power adjustable. 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, whether LT or SS, 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 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, even the V6.

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: The first-ever fully-independent suspension in a Camaro -- modified struts in front and a multilink system in the rear -- makes the 2010 version the best-handling and most-comfortable ever. Even with the RS Package's huge and ultra-low profile Pirelli P-Zeros -- P245/45 ZR20 in front and P275/40 ZR20 at the rear, the ride is reasonably supple, and the tires stay in contact with the pavement even on rough roads, very good for traction and roadholding. It's a large, wide car, and relatively heavy at 3700+ pounds for the V6, but it's also a very well-behaved car. Steering and brake efforts are moderate, neither too light nor too stiff. The LT makes do with smaller vented brake discs compared to the SS, and single-piston instead of four-piston Brembo calipers, but it still stops quickly and securely.

PERFORMANCE: Hold the pushrods! Camaro LS and LT models get a thoroughly modern 24-valve 3.6-liter aluminum alloy V6 with dual overhead cams, variable cam phasing, and direct fuel injection. Direct injection, which allows ultra-precise fuel metering for maximum efficiency and minimum emissions, and high compression for further efficiency and power output, is the reason the engine the engine makes 304 horsepower (at 6400 rpm), with a maximum of 273 lb-ft of torque at 5200 rpm -- on regular unleaded gasoline despite an 11.3:1 compression ratio. I suspect that the six-speed manual is the way to go for maximum performance and driver satisfaction, but the automatic is a reasonable alternative. It has both regular ("D") and Sport ("S") shift modes, with S delaying upshifts a bit for better use of the engine's power. Still, both keep revs mostly between 1500 and 3000 for best fuel economy. The engine doesn't start to produce real power until around 3500, and then has a linear increase to fuel shutoff, making lovely six-cylinder music as a bonus. Manual-shift mode allows this, but too much of that will make for a large gasoline bill. EPA estimates are 18mpg city and 29 highway. I did see around 18 in realistic city driving; 22-24 highway is more realistic -- and still very good all things considered. Romp on the throttle, and that all goes away, but such is the price of performance. There's plenty of power available when you need it, or merely want it, and decent fuel economy for times when that's important.

CONCLUSIONS: "V8 power and V6 fuel economy" is a worn-out marketing cliché, but Chevrolet does just that with its newest Camaro V6.

SPECIFICATIONS 2010 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT

Base Price			$ 26,875
Price As Tested			$ 31,875
Engine Type			aluminum alloy dual overhead cam
				 24-valve V6 with continuously-variable
				 cam phasing and direct fuel injection
Engine Size			3.6 liters / 217 cu. in.
Horsepower			304 @ 6400 rpm 
Torque (lb-ft)			273 @ 5200 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic (opt)
Wheelbase / Length		112.3 in. / 190.4 in.
Curb Weight			3719 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		12.2
Fuel Capacity			19 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				f: P245/45 ZR20 r: P275/40 ZR20
				 Pirelli P-Zero
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc all around, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double ball-joint
				 multi-link strut /
				  independent multi-link
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 29 / (18/23)
0 to 60 mph				est 6.2  sec

RS Package - includes:
  20x8" front and 20x9 rear flangeless painted aluminum
  alloy wheels, body-colored roof ditch molding, HID 
  headlamps with halo ring, rear spoiler, RS unique
  tail lamps						$ 1,450
6-speed automatic transmission				$ 1,185
Sunroof							$   900
polished aluminum alloy wheels				$   470
Spare compact wheel and tire				$   150
Destination charge					$   795

SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyers Guide