2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS V8 - Short Take Road Test
The arrival of the Chevy Camaro finally completes Detroit’s pony-car trifecta. But did Motown save the best for last?
BY STEVE SILER
Since the last pill-shaped F-body Camaro rolled off the line in 2002, the long-fought, often contentious pony-car game has been one of solitaire, played solely by the Ford Mustang. The Mustang went all retro in 2005, and the ensuing craze prompted Dodge and Chevy to rouse their own dormant nameplates (and fans) to take on the foe-less leader. Dodge was first in 2008 with its resurrected Challenger, and now—just as Ford is launching its significantly updated 2010 Mustang—Chevrolet has finally commenced production of its reborn Camaro, completing the new-age pony-car trifecta.
While we will save the official comparison test for later, we can aver that the neo Camaro offers the freshest and most modern package of the three. Built as it is on GM’s superb Zeta full-size platform, it sports a fully independent suspension, along with evocative, contemporary styling that thankfully misses being totally retro. We entered into this first test of the long-awaited 2010 Camaro with high expectations. Indeed, with a 304-hp, 3.6-liter V-6, the base
Camaro is nearly as powerful as the Mustang GT, and so we were champing at the bit to see what the Camaro could do in SS form, with a 6.2-liter V-8 stuffed under its hood.
How Quick Is It?
With the six-speed automatic, the Camaro SS can hit 60 mph in a scant 4.6 seconds, with the quarter-mile arriving in 13.1 at 109 mph. At 4.8 seconds, the Camaro with the six-speed manual takes 0.2 second longer to hit 60, but overtakes the automatic by the quarter-mile mark, clocking 13 seconds flat at 111 mph. (The L99 V-8 hooked to the automatic is rated for 400 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque, while the LS3/manual combo is good for 426 hp and 420 lb-ft.) For comparison, both the 315-hp 2010 Ford Mustang GT and the 376-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi-powered Dodge Challenger R/T do the trick in 5.1 seconds. The better-matched but pricier Challenger SRT8—with a 425-horse, 6.1-liter Hemi—hits 60 in 4.8 seconds. So until Ford gets the Mustang GT into the gym and stuffs more power under its hood, Chevy has earned bragging rights in the segment where burliness arguably counts the most.
On a drive that took us along the scenic roads east of San Diego, California, we also found the Camaro’s roadholding to be quite stellar—it grips with 0.92 g on a skidpad—thanks in part to the independent multilink suspension out back and the stickiness of the fat, Z-rated 245/45 front and 275/40 rear tires mounted on 20-inch wheels. The variable-ratio steering rack delivers great on-center feel, similar to that which we’ve praised on the Camaro’s platform-mate, the Pontiac G8.
Quiet + Calm Ride = Surprising Comfort
The Camaro SS packs a few surprises, however. The engine is remarkably—and to some, disappointingly
—quiet, at least from inside the cabin (based on the shell-shocked looks on the faces of people we blew by, it appears that it’s plenty loud on the outside). For high-speed cruising, this is a good thing, as there is no shred of that exhausting boominess that can add misery to long-haul muscle-car motoring. But at the same time, we found ourselves wanting a bit more of an audible reminder that we were driving something with 426 freakin’ horses
under the hood. Even at full tilt, the engine didn’t seem to have the trumpet-like blat of the Challenger R/T’s 5.7-liter, let alone the NASCAR-worthy howl of the 6.1-liter in the SRT8.
Another surprise is the eerily serene ride, which makes the quietness seem even quieter. Particularly at freeway speeds, the Camaro’s Zeta roots pay dividends, striking a brilliant balance between lively, grippy roadholding and wonderfully compliant damping. Meanwhile, the SS offers decent feedback through the steering wheel. A guy could cruise all day in this thing and never feel beat up.
At higher speeds, however, is where one misses things like outward vision. The very low roof, high waistline, and wall-like rear pillars make the car drive big (not good for twisty two-laners), although the Challenger drives bigger yet. Lane-changing is a point-and-squirt affair rather than anything involving an over-the-shoulder check. The exterior mirrors help, with the bonus that they give you a close-up view of the Camaro’s sexy hips. The interior mirror is utterly useless; all one sees when glancing rearward is an ocean of black roof and C-pillars the width of a Sequoia (the tree or
Also disappointing are the hard plastics that we had hoped were banished from GM interiors, but they’ve clearly found their way inside the Camaro. Furthermore, the inset dashboard trim piece that was to be rendered—at least optionally—in a cool illuminated band of light-tube trickery has now become a cloth insert. And finally, as great as the high-mounted squircle-shaped gauges and cool center stack look, the script is tiny and the buttons can be ergonomically challenging in operation.
But the Camaro is beguiling. It has a strong design, a strong heritage, and delivers seriously strong acceleration. It will do well with its established fan base, and should even earn a few more admirers in its new life. And not insignificantly, the EPA just gave it excellent fuel-economy ratings
. Could it be better? Absolutely, but at least its deficiencies involve its interior detailing more than its dynamics. Besides, in these tumultuous, unpredictable times, we should celebrate the mere fact that pony cars like this are here at all. Welcome to the herd, little pony.