First off, this is unmistakably a Camaro, yet one that looks fresh and modern. It's a powerfully built car that almost has a pugnacious appearance to it. Almost. But the size and proportions are well balanced, and it looks good from every angle.
Come back Monday (3/23) at 12:00PM EST for Autoblog's own First Drive of the 2010 Chevy Camaro. We'll be working on it all weekend, so you won't want to miss it.
Inside they kept it clean and simple. The belt line wraps around the entire interior in one unbroken line. The dashboard is big and expansive with all the instrument gauges clustered immediately in front of driver. The radio and HVAC controls are mounted in the center, lower part of the dash. This uncluttered look creates an impression of simplicity and solidity with no frivolous design cues to distract you from the job at hand: you're in this car to drive!
And the performance this car offers is awesome. Even the base 3.6-liter V6 will thrust you from 0-60 mph in about 6.5 seconds. That's better than the 1969 Camaro did with its base V8. Yet the new one (as you probably already know) is rated at 29 mpg on the highway. Go easy on the gas and you should be able to eke out a combined 24 mpg.
But if you're really after power, try one of the 6.2-liter V8s that come in this car. Talk about brute force. The LS3 version, with 426 hp and 420 lb-ft, will rocket to 60 mph in about 4.7 seconds and still deliver 25 mpg on the highway.
When you stomp on the 6.2-liter it sounds fantastic, everything a V8 should be. But at steady highway speeds in 6th gear, I found the exhaust note became a droning, low resonance boom. In fact, I found myself downshifting into 5th gear just to raise the pitch of the note and get rid of the boom. I suppose some people will actually like that boom, but not me. The V6, on the other hand, has a nice balance. Jump on it, and it growls like it means it. Cruise at highway speeds and you can barely hear it.
You can really fling this Camaro around. Stability control, ABS and traction control mean you will have a hard time getting in over your head unless you do something really stupid. But if you deliberately want to hang it all loose, you can always turn those controls off.
One reason the car handles so well is its independent rear suspension. It may add some weight to the car, but it sure pays off in the handling department. On bad, bumpy roads the car can feel like its bouncing all around, yet the wheels stay planted firmly on the ground, even when cornering hard, thanks to the IRS.
And when you need to come to a stop, you do it in a hurry. The standard brakes are good, the optional Brembo brakes are exeptional.
I like the Camaro a lot, with certain exceptions. For example, the steering wheel is a bit weird. It seems like they wanted to have a deep-dish look, to resemble the ones from the 1960s. It has a very thick rim that is shaped funny. If you grip it at 10 and 2 it feels comfortable. Otherwise it feels awkward to hold.
And despite the clean look of the instrument panel, I was surprised to see hard plastic on the dash, dash top and the top of the door trim panels. Even on the +$30,000 V8 versions it's all hard plastic. Fortunately, the places that you would normally touch are padded or covered in cloth, like the arm rests and the door trim panel next to your arm.
Pony cars are not meant to be family cars, and this is especially true of the new Camaro. There is next to no rear seat leg room. Plus, the trunk opening is inky-dinky. There's a fair amount of trunk room, but good luck trying to fit something through that opening.
There are two different 6-speed manual transmissions. One is made by Japanese company Aisin and comes with the V6. I found it kind of clunky and notchy to use. The other 6-speed is made by Mexican company Tremec and shifts very nicely with short throws that are precise and sure.
But it's difficult to heel-and-toe in the Camaro. I've been *****ing at GM for decades that their sports and performance cars are not designed for enthusiasts who truly love to heel-and-toe, yet no one has ever been able to explain why this is so. Strangely, the GM truck group comes out with manuals that are easier too heel-and-toe with. Go figure.
But I quibble. This car is great to look at and an even better to drive. My guess is that Chevrolet has an opportunity to sell Camaros to people who would otherwise never be caught dead walking into a Chevy store.