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Sixth Generation Chevrolet Camaro V6 Review By Rob Eckaus

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2017 Chevrolet Camaro

Who the hell at Chevrolet approved this poorly designed interior for production?

By Rob Eckaus
Senior Editor
San Jose Bureau
The Auto Channel

Chevrolet updated the chassis of the Camaro for 2016 with the new Alpha platform and by all accounts the approximately 250 to 300lb weight reduction was a huge improvement. Despite having a brilliant chassis and three powerful engine choices, the interior and outward visibility hardly improved at all. I wanted to like this car, I really did. It has some really good aspects but overall it’s only good for going in a straight line, not reverse or backing up out of any parking space, on public roads or modified into a track-only car. You decide if the interior justifies a $29,000 MSRP. The 2017 model is essentially the same.

The 335hp V-6 is a great engine, responsive, sounds good and with the quick shifting 8 speed automatic, the car is capable of mid-high 13 second quarter mile ETs. It feels every bit as quick as the numbers suggest. It has no appreciable dead spots and has an excellent pull. The 8 speed auto is finicky on the highway though, downshifting at the slightest provocation when closing a gap. Undoubtedly a result of the tall gearing to achieve its impressive highway rating of 28mpg.

When in the manual mode, upshifts only occur when manually selected. Seems reasonable. But if you hit the rev limiter, it’s a long, race-losing delay before it responds to the manually selected upshift. Unfortunately you cannot manually select with the paddle as an override when the shifter is in “D” when sitting at a light to first gear or second for slippery surface. And further, if in D, and you’re manually shifting once rolling, it won’t automatically upshift at redline which it should. A software update could potentially fix this.

The ride is very well controlled, slightly bumpy over the surprisingly lousy roads in Northern California. Firm and controls body motions extremely well with a very solid structure. Transitioning into a turn at speed doesn’t generate the expected body roll of domestic. Its target was BMW and it hit it. Granted this was the base suspension, wheels and tires. The highly acclaimed 1LE suspension would have to be experienced to comment. Road and wind noise is nicely subdued as well. It could make for a great road car except for some glaring faults and odd design decisions that never should have made production.

Complaining about the rear seat room would be silly in a smaller sized front engine coupe whose engine bay eventually contains a 650hp supercharged V8 in the top model, let alone a 3.6 liter V-6 and a decent trunk. Speaking of which, the trunk in the 5th generation was a joke. This one is deep and goes all the way to the fold down rear seats. It is oddly proportioned though, more on that later.

Another surprise is the fuel tank holds over 16 gallons. It doesn’t say in the manual, but looking at a road test it indicated 19 gallons, which is really nice considering the Mustang and BMW 3-series have 16 gallon tanks. Also, it doesn’t have a filler cap, a nice touch.

But I can’t recommend this car to drive daily nor weekends. Stop reading if you don’t want to learn its long list of interior design and user shortcomings that are inexcusable in their totality in a modern vehicle, let alone the top of the line model whose MSRP is over $61,000 or this one that is $28,000 plus. It does have some great styling lines sitting on top of a tall body. The taillights are changed with this generation to a more traditional look, more integrated and less “Transformerish”. Walking up to the car, you notice how low the roofline is which translates to some compromises.

Here we go so hang on. Getting in you might hit your head against the roof because it curves downward like the Dodge Challenger on the sides. Closing the door, you sink into the seat to where your glutes seems pinched front to rear. Later as you drive, if you’re broad shouldered, you can feel the seat pressing on your rear deltoids.

Sitting low and looking left through ten inches of vertical side glass, you can’t see the wheels of the car next to you or the parking curb unless you crane your neck and then you might hit your head on the interior roofline. The door has the tiniest storage cubbyhole that may not even be suitable for a pen. You need a deformed left T-rex arm to activate the window and mirror controls too. Forget putting your arm on the window sill while driving, it would mean your forearm would be up near your ear.

Looking forward, the left bubble for the gauges obscures part of the hood and fender. The hood does slope down nicely but you don’t really know where the right tire might be. The airbag warning on the sun visor is almost as large as the small visor itself. The thick, flat bottomed steering wheel feels as good as any but at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, the paddles are mounted too close to the steering wheel leaving too little room for the fingers. It also obscures one-third of the tachometer and speedometer and despite the controls that work and feel well for the radio, display and cruise control, the icons are so tiny they are difficult to see and unlit, a big miss. The right shift paddle and windshield wiper stalk completely obscure the start button and the little ridge under it makes it more difficult to find by feel.

The entertainment system works extremely well, and the Apple Car Play starts immediately upon plugging in the phone. For some reason the screen is tilted downward which makes absolutely no sense. The controls have a quality feel to them and the electronics are well integrated from the user interface to the lighting. It has a lateral and acceleration/braking g-force display as part of the menu showing fuel economy, reminders for turns signals and more. Even the remote itself is nice and feels like a quality piece. R

Aim the large ventilation vent carefully or you’ll heat or cool your hand on the gearshift or your right thigh. The only place to put your phone is in one of the cup holders in the center console. There is hardly a place for your right elbow on the narrow center console cubbyhole lid. And your elbow ends up above your head when you open the long door to access the two USB ports and an itty, bitty storage hole. I’m not even sure if the silly Fastrak toll transmitter will fit. Sunglasses only fit in the glove box, period. Same with a radar detector.

The rear visibility makes a back-up camera an absolute requirement, and luckily it’s equipped with one. A reminder again of the downward sloped screen. There is no looking back to change lanes, it’s a useless attempt. Only the side mirrors are suitable. The rear end is so high and the rear visibility so bad, if a vehicle is following you at a standard distance, you can’t tell what make or model it is by looking in the small rear view mirror. Who the hell approved this interior for production?

The trunk is a vast improvement versus the 5th generation but the depth of the opening is only 12 inches. What that means is your laptop or gym bag has to be turned sideways in order to load it. The opening width is 35” which is rather narrow. However, these are trade-offs that are a big improvement from previous years. Despite the trunk not having much of a lip to lift it, nor an interior handle to close it, it closes with superb precision and dampening.

The arch rival Mustang is clearly a better choice for day-to-day driving and livability. It’s like a domestic that went to finishing school in Europe and came back modernized and improved. The Camaro is like a European car that visited the US in the 1980s and picked up some really bad habits and ideas. The Camaro is the definition of a great powertrain and suspension desperately needing a vastly improved interior design and ergonomics. Some don’t care or dig the weirdness, but if where you spend time driving matters to you, there are other choices but they just won’t be as brilliant in the curves in the V-6 price range.