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2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Review

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2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Coupe

SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyers Guide

"2010 Chevy Camaro - A Retro Cool Raucous Brute"

A Retro Cool Raucous Brute
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

We had to wait our turn for serious seat time in the new Camaro SS. The wait was worth it though. My turn came recently during a week of dismal winter weather here in Michigan, limiting my fun with this mighty muscle car.

I got a brief preview of both Camaros (the basic V6 and the V8-powered SS) at the famous Road America race course in Wisconsin last spring where the Midwest Auto Media Association held their annual track and road test days. The Camaros, along with dozens of other great cars, were available for hot laps on that thrilling 4-mile road course. These were pre-production versions so had a few flaws we won’t go into here.

Initial impressions were solidly impressive as I charged around the course first in the 300-hp V6 with a six-speed manual transmission, then with the SS V8. Even the V6 with windows down at full throttle and at high rpms made muscle car music that echoed off the surrounding trees. And, with the six-speed stick it had so much grunt, I had trouble imagining the need for more.

Then I hopped into the 426-hp V8 SS with over 400 pound-feet of torque and realized again that to a car guy there is no such thing as too much horsepower. I ripped and snorted around the track twice before I had to give it up to the next guy in line. Bummer. There were so many other cars that needed to be driven that day that I never got back to the Camaros.

This one arrived in my driveway a few weeks ago and got the neighbors’ attention with the optional bright orange paint and gray stripe package, about $800 worth. The base price for the SS is nearly 34-grand and, with the $1,200 RS and $500 interior trim packages, plus nearly $1,200 for the automatic transmission (coulda done without that one), our sticker shows $38,200. The SS, unlike the lesser models includes such important features as Brembo brakes, extra body cladding and detail, unobtrusive rear spoiler, impressive 20-inch wheels (8 inches wide in front and 9 in the rear)

For you bargain hunters out there, you can have the well-equipped, LS model with the 304-horsepower V6 for about $23,000, and one with a tad more content, the LT, for a base of $24,630. I’m not expecting the dealers are offering any incentives since the Camaro is still in the flush of newness.

GM stuck closely to the design of the original concept version of the Camaro we saw about 4 years ago at the Detroit auto show. I’ve read a variety of criticisms as well as many effusive raves about the design from different pundits and as many conflicting comments from car buff friends. As any good designer will tell you, if it isn’t polarizing it probably isn’t a good design.

I like it from most exterior angles except, perhaps, its bulky rear end. Based on the 1969 Camaro theme it hints at many of those retro design queues, but takes substantial liberties with, for example, the narrow squinty grill and headlight arrangements, wide stance and hippy rear view. Overall, I think the design is an excellent update of the Camaro image.

Inside, it’s a different story. There seems to be much more criticism than compliments out there among my colleagues. And, I can see why. While homage is paid to some of the shapes and designs of the original ’69 interior it seems a bit overdone in my view. There is an incongruity to it all, for example, an HVAC control pod looks like it belongs in a ’57 Chevy and a four-gauge pod integrated into the console so far forward we couldn’t read it without lurching toward the center of the car. By the way, who really wants, or needs, to know the transmission oil temperature? The interior themes seem to collide and the ergonomics suffer from being compromised for style’s sake.

I did like the quality look and feel of the leather seats and steering wheel with contrasting stitching, however, and the bright orange interior trim that matched the outside of the car – though some of my pals thought that extra orange a bit garish. Visibility is limited by the car’s overall style because of the high sill line and low roofline. In fact, the whole inside is a bit small for a car as big as the Camaro. I sure wouldn’t want to spend any time in that back seat. Of course, that was the case with the original as well.

Finally, the weather cleared enough that I had one day of good roads to have some fun. So I headed out for some of our country roads where I could turn off the traction control and make some gratuitous noise. With a few extra revs, left foot on the brake and a sudden release into a full throttle, the thrust was amazing. A substantial chirp maxed our transition to second gear and by the time we were nearing the next shift . . . well, it was time to come back down. Wow.

Even with the windows up, the rumble of that V8 at full bore reminded me of the old days when sound was as important as speed. They’ve done a fine job of tuning the exhaust note, I must say. But, it’s surprisingly quiet while cruising at extra-legal speeds on the freeway.

So, even with all that power we can expect about 16-mpg in the city and 25 in the highway on regular fuel. Still – for over 400-hp, that’s not bad. Expect 18-city and 29-highway with the V6.

Originally, they were all called pony cars after the innovative Mustang. Then big engines and better suspension came along and they became “muscle cars.”

This new Camaro SS is no pony – it’s a brute.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved.