Growing up in Metro-Detroit, there were few cars that caused more of a ruckus in the high-school parking lot than the muscle cars from our home town. The Chevrolet Camaro, in particular, was the stuff dreams were made of. By that point, all of the affordable '60s and '70s iron had long since rusted away, leaving us to fend for '80s mullet-mobiles and early '90s Camaros with puny V6s that substitute teachers sold at the park-n-ride around the corner.
I remember these days fondly, and it all came back to the forefront of my memory as I greeted our bright yellow 2010 Camaro with a V6 engine and automatic transmission. Though perhaps not the most talked about drivetrain (most go for the V8), it still oozes aggression with its tiny greenhouse, long hood and massive wheels, all while striking a perfect balance of retro and modern styling. I had heard that GM put serious effort behind the new V6, so before I passed judgment, I had to see for myself.
2010 Chevrolet Camaro Interior" width="293" height="220" align="left" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="4" />The interior design is straight throwback to 1969, and as a classic gear head, this interior makes me feel right at home. I love the style and fit and finish, but the quality of materials inside lets me down. Aside from the steering wheel, center armrest and seats, there are few places you can touch or tap in the interior without a clunk. There’s a massive expanse of hard plastic, making the interior feel a bit sub-par in our $31,450 tester.
My sentiments are shared by other members of our web team as well. From merely sitting in the car, our Search Engine Marketing Analyst, Ellerton Whitney commented, “Better than the Rubbermaid Grand Am interiors of yesteryear, but still not up to snuff.” He went on to say that the styling is “too retro”, and was also particularly irked by the odd placement of the door lock button on the center of the dash.
Sarah Fairfield, our Web Content Specialist, agreed while adding that the interior is “so retro that it compromises some practicality.” She went on to point out that the OnStar buttons on the rearview mirror took up a lot of space considering the already limited visibility through the windshield due to the hood, and that entrance to the rear seat is difficult due to the cumbersome two-step process of moving the front seat out of the way.
While the lever on the back of the front seat folded the seatback forward, the entire seat had to be slid forward by reaching for the fore-aft adjuster on the front in-board side of the seat. As such, upon returning the seatback upright, the incoming front seat passenger would have to adjust the front seat to fit his or her legs without crushing the rear seat passenger. Buyer beware: if you carry more than yourself and one passenger, backseat access gets old on a daily basis.
Overall, I would say that GM nailed this interior. For the car, anything less would have been a disappointment. Besides, development dollars were spent in a much smarted manner elsewhere...like the electronics and powertrain.
ElectronicsOur Camaro was well-equipped in the electronics department, lacking only navigation. First of all, it’s really nice to see GM integrating Bluetooth communication technology in its cars. Heavily relying on its OnStar system in the past, I was doubtful as to whether or not Chevrolet would ever offer Bluetooth.
Not only can Bluetooth be integrated into the Camaro, it’s a pretty easy-to-use system to boot. Pairing was a refreshingly simple process that required no paging through the manual to complete (press config button, then phone settings, Bluetooth, pair device (phone) and audio prompts take you the rest of the way). A few quick test calls revealed clear sound for both myself and the person on the other end.
A lesser known fact about the optional Bluetooth in the Camaro is A2DP audio streaming. No, not a new Star Wars character, A2DP lets you connect your A2DP Bluetooth device to a compatible stereo to listen to audio wirelessly over Bluetooth. That’s right, no USB, no headphone input (though the Camaro has those too), pure wireless goodness. My Motorola Droid was paired within minutes (tap the AUX button, hit the menu button, select the option for Bluetooth audio, follow the familiar pair process), streaming Pandora Internet Radio over the speakers with quite acceptable sound quality. A connection through the headphone jack might have yielded slightly better sound quality, but man, is it cool to get in and out of the car without having to plug your phone in (unless maybe to charge).
Speaking of audio quality, the optional 9-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system cranked out the jams with aural splendor. Easy to tune to meet any sound preference, this is an impressive system. The best part is GM’s method of letting all band presets (AM/FM/XM) live together in harmony on three master sets. AM talk radio can be on preset 1, XM Hair Nation on preset 2, FM 106.7 on preset 3, no need to change bands or preset sets. All included with the 2LT trim that rings in at $26,875? Bargain.
PowertrainConsidering the plethora of available features in the V6 Camaro, it’s certainly the car’s performance that draws the most initial doubt. V6 pony cars have never been performance stars, generally being relegated to rental duty for businesspeople and vacationers looking to break away from their mundane everyday midsize sedan-ified existence. I can only imagine the look on their faces when they first press the go-pedal and lay rubber down out of the Avis parking lot.
300 horsepower is no lie, the 3.6-liter direct injected V6 in the Camaro flat-out goes like stink. Torque is bountiful, throttle is linear, but the exhaust note is a little shrill. Yes, the only complaint with the V6 under the hood is the exhaust note that groans with every downshift and tickle of the throttle. Fuel economy is rated at 18 city/29 highway by the EPA, which are impressive numbers for such a rambunctious pony. The days of slow, penalty-box V6 pony cars are finally over!
The 6-speed automatic transmission feels like it was born conjoined with the engine, as perfect acceleration is but a simple, although sometimes sluggish, downshift away. Rarely hunting for the right gear, the transmission and engine feel like two units working as one. When the road gets sporty, the paddle shifters (buttons, actually) mounted on the back of the chunky steering wheel let you dictate which gear is best, only overriding your command if the tach needles starts bouncing off the rev limiter. However, given the perfect symbiotic relationship of the engine and transmission, you’ll actually get a more rewarding driving experience leaving the gear shift in D.
It’s a mixed bag in the handling department. The four-wheel independent suspension helps the Camaro handle surprisingly flat for a 3,700+ lb. car. Grip is certainly adequate, and the steering precise albeit numb. The awkwardly large horizontal spokes on the steering wheel make for a never quite perfect hand grip, but overall, the Camaro’s handling is impressive. Not best-in-class, but you really won't care. It’s the lusty horsepower under the hood that you’re after. Straight-line acceleration has always been key with these types of cars, and the fact that the Camaro can hold its own when the road curves is just a nice added bonus. Euro sport coupe it isn’t, fun muscle car it is. Yes, I'm still talking about the V6.
On the highway, visibility is naturally limited. You better adjust the side mirrors correctly, because the massive C-pillars create blind-spot city. However, there’s something about peering through the tiny windshield and down the long daunting hood that just makes you feel like you’re in a car that could handle anything. Cruising at 70 mph is a breeze, and the soft leather seats provide plenty of support for long hauls. As the miles rumble on, the car starts to shrink around you, feeling much smaller than it did when you first sat down. However, it takes practice to learn where the outer boundaries of the car lay. In my week with it, I still couldn’t quite park the Camaro straight in a parking spot.
At the end of the day…
The 2010 V6 Camaro is an excellent car for the right person. I’ve never received more honks, thumbs-ups, waves and comments than with the Camaro. This car is clearly designed for an extroverted individual. Or, an individual who prefers driving without anyone in the way. A spirited drive down some twisty roads resulted in three different people pulling over to let the bumble-bee Camaro pass by…a simply unheard-of action from LA’s selfish and competitive motorists. This is worth all of the attention the car garners in my humble opinion, though your actual results may vary.
Ringing in at $31,450, our tester’s cost is a tough pill to swallow. After all, that’s just a few Benjamins away from 426-horsepower rip-snortin’ 1SS shenanigans. But, if you can do without the RS package (20” rolling stock, HID headlights, rear spoiler, special taillights) and the Transformers special edition (which, except to the most die-hard fan, is just stickers and emblems that add nothing besides $995 to the bottom line), you’re left with a very well-equipped muscle car for under 27 grand. Mixing the best of yesterday and today wrapped in a package that’s impossible to ignore, the Camaro is everything a pony car should be. Even when equipped with a V6.
Photos by MyRide Staff