So it's finally here?
We can't tell you how many people asked us this question when we took the car out in public. Yes, some of us were starting to wonder if the new Camaro was going to appear on screen in another Transformers movie before anyone actually got to drive one, but as of March 16th, 2009, the new Chevrolet Camaro is finally rolling off the production line. It's been seven years since the last Camaro was sold, three years since we first saw the new generation concept, and in the 43 years since the Camaro first went on sale, rarely has there been a model so eagerly anticipated.
By Elliot Darvick
Photos courtesy of: Chevrolet, unless noted otherwise
How does it look in person, on the street?
There is something about seeing this vehicle without all the lights and glamour of the auto show circuit. It's real, you can touch it, and it...looks...good. You really appreciate in person the small exterior details like how the tires take up just the perfect amount of space in the wheel wells, and how small and aerodynamic Chevrolet's designers were able to make the side view mirrors. You can't help but smile the first time you see one.
Can you show us what the original concept looked like? How does it compare?
At its 2006 Detroit Auto Show unveiling, the positive reaction to the Camaro Concept was nearly unanimous among the crowd, garnering numerous "best concept of show" awards for Chevrolet. Point being, if Chevrolet released a production car that didn't live up to the sky-high bar the concept set, the collective groaning among hundreds of thousands of people waiting for its return would likely keep Chevrolet's team awake for weeks. If any noise is keeping them awake now, it's the sound of clapping, as they nailed the translation of concept design to production.
Would you call this a retro-interpretation of the Camaro?
There are certainly elements of the new Chevrolet Camaro that call back to Camaros of old, like the long hood and muscular rear-quarters of '69 Camaro, but retro really wasn't the goal of Chevrolet's designers. In their opinion, if someone is that attached to the 60's era Camaro, by all means there are plenty for sale. For a new Camaro to be successful with a younger audience not alive when the '69 Camaro was the car to buy, it had to appeal to emotions inspired by compelling modern design, not just nostalgia.
Is it comfortable on the inside? I'm thinking I might like to road trip in it.
It's intimate, or slightly claustrophobic depending on your comfort level. The raked windshield looks great from the outside, but makes for decreased visibility. We got used to it quickly, but if you like a commanding view of the road, this is not your ride. As to road tripping, for long stints up the California coast or through the Blue Ridge Parkway, we found the seats comfortable and supportive, perfect for long driving sessions.
Photo Credit: Tom Drew
What do you think of the interior design?
We find it somewhat under-whelming. The driver's side is elegantly simple, and the gauges a nice shade of retrofuturistic, but in the all-black interior we had, the passenger side is a dark expanse of dullness. In fairness to Chevrolet, we were in a pre-production model and were told the production models will have slightly alternate material on the upper passenger-side dash that offers a higher degree of contrast. Design aside, the quality of material was high, everything was logically laid out, and we appreciated details like contrast stitching on the leather and the "deep-dish" steering wheel.
Photo Credit: Tom Drew
Does it handle like my cousin's '75 Camaro?
We haven't driven your cousin's '75 Camaro, but chances are it was built for straight roads and drag racing; our guess is that "handling" isn't one of its more rewarding attributes. Not so with the new 2010 Chevrolet Camaro. At no time in our drive did we feel like the rear suspension was anything but planted firmly, and the steering felt sophisticated and confident, if not a bit too isolated from the road. We preferred the stiffer suspension on the upgraded Camaro SS, but the base suspension was plenty competent, and was just as fun to drive at high speeds through twisted roads--something you probably wouldn't want to attempt in your cousin's vintage beauty.
I know it's fast, but how fast?
The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro currently comes in two varieties: The LS or LT trim which offer a 3.6L direct-injected V-6 with 304 horsepower, and the SS trim, with a 6.2L Corvette-derived V-8 good for 426 horsepower with a manual transmission and 400 horsepower with an automatic. The V6 will get you to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, and the V8 will have you yelling Jumanji in 4.7 seconds as you pass the 60 mark on your speedometer.
Muscle cars don't get good mileage, do they?
Intuition would tell you that if you were looking for a fuel efficient ride, you might want to choose something that gets 30 mpg on the highway like a Honda Accord with a 190 horsepower four-cylinder engine. Consider then that the Camaro gets an EPA-certified 29 mpg on the highway from a 304 horsepower V6. Follow us? For the first time a muscle car could almost be a "sensible" choice when it comes to gas mileage. Even the V8 Camaro SS gets 25 mpg on the highway. Does that answer your question?
I'm torn between the V6 and the V8.
Historically, going with the V6 was an option for those that wanted the looks of a muscle car but couldn't afford the performance of a V8. It was socially unacceptable among true gearheads. With 304 horsepower, 0-60 in 6.1 seconds, a great exhaust note, and gas mileage of 18/29 mpg, the V6 all of a sudden looks like a really compelling option, especially at a starting price of $22,245. Not so unacceptable after all. Consider too that cosmetically, you can option a V-6 Camaro to look very similar to a V-8 Camaro SS; all you'd really be missing out on would be SS badges, a non-functional hood-scoop, a slightly different front fascia, and Brembo brake calipers (which do look awesome). That said, if you just love raw power, spend the extra $8,000 and you won't regret it the minute you mash the V8's accelerator.
Any options I can't live without?
Chevrolet has made an RS package available on all but the base trim Camaros. Depending on your level of trim it varies in price from $1,200 to $1,750. With the RS package you get 20-inch aluminum wheels, dark-tint tailamps, a subtle rear spoiler, and our favorite -- HID headlamps with LED halo rings (see inset). The halo rings are a unique and sinister-looking touch that really set the Camaro apart. We should also note that if you do choose the automatic transmission option, it's a great unit that always seemed to find the perfect gear.
Any options missing?
There are two options we really wish were available on the Camaro. One is a GPS navigation system. While Chevrolet offers OnStar's Turn-by-Turn navigation, we really like having a visible map, the option to easily re-route on the fly, and traffic updates and information. Second, given the restricted rear visibility of the Camaro, a backup sensor or camera would be welcomed, especially if you plan on parallel parking this on a regular basis. While we're sure these options were omitted to keep costs down, the Ford Mustang offers both navigation and a rear-backup camera.
How much can I expect to pay?
Not including tax, title, and other unhappy fees, you can walk out the door with a Chevrolet Camaro V6 for $22,995. For $27, 330, the Camaro LT2 represents a great value that includes leather seating, Bluetooth, a USB iPod connection, remote start, 19-inch rims, a Boston Acoustics 9-speaker stereo system, and free OnStar (including Turn-by-Turn) for a year. Add in the RS package and you are looking at $28,780. If you just want to go all out, a fully-loaded Camaro SS V8 with a manual transmission will run you $36,780.
How much stuff can I haul with this car?
If by stuff you mean people, not a lot. There are two "back seats" and we place that term in quotation marks because you'd laugh if anyone asked you to sit back there for more than a one-hour drive (we're only slightly exaggerating). If by stuff you mean golf clubs, we found a video of a guy who puts not one, but two sets of golf clubs in the trunk with room to spare. Now it's possible the back seat was folded down, but take his feat for what it's worth.
Photo Credit: YouTube
People are mostly cross-shopping this with other muscle cars, right?
Historically, you would be correct. You will certainly have a lot of shoppers comparing this with the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger. Chevrolet isn't quick, however, to play up the muscle car story. They want to attract a wider audience of buyers looking for sports coupes and are positioning the Camaro against the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, the Nissan 370Z, and even cars like the BMW 3 Series Coupe and Audi A5. While the last two are probably a bit of a stretch to most consumers, consider that a Camaro 2LT with more horsepower and better gas mileage, and arguably just as attractive exterior design, costs $14,000 less than an Audi A5. The Audi interior blows the Camaro away, so the argument is only half compelling.
What type of accessories can I expect from Chevrolet for the Camaro?
As seen here, ground effects, wheels, and vinyl racing stripes (yeah, that will really win the Audi A5 shoppers over) are already available as part of the normal vehicle configuration process, and we expect performance oriented items like custom intakes and exhausts as well. The nice thing about adding these parts during the ordering process is that you can finance them (assuming you can get financing).
Photo Credit: Oliver Bentley
Please tell me a convertible is on the way?
This question is the automotive equivalent of "do you think Britney is pregnant again?" only we really care what the answer to the former is, and people obsessed with the latter have issues. The answer we are getting from Chevrolet right now is that there will be one in 2011. Certainly a lot can change between today and 2011, so we say buy a Chevrolet Camaro with a sunroof now and enjoy it for the next two years.