The rebirth of a classic musclecar
At last, the highly anticipated Chevrolet Camaro is within our reach. Since its concept debut three years ago at the Detroit Auto Show, the new Camaro has been one of the most talked about and highly publicized vehicles to come to market, and it won't be much longer before it finally arrives in a dealership near you.
It doesn't matter if you're a mom or a motorhead, the classic ponycar evokes an emotional response right here (covering my heart with my hand) in a way that no other car does. Many of us older folk remember them warmly from our own younger days: Heck, I will always reminisce about my first musclecar, a 1968 Ford Mustang which I purchased from the original owner. And I also fondly recall riding as a passenger to a high school homecoming in a 1970 Camaro. Ah yes, those were the days.
Regardless of whether you're a fan of the Mustang, Camaro, or the Challenger, the memories feel the same. Which is why this new generation of musclecars is so attractive to so many. If you're older, they bring back memories of our youth; if you're younger they embody thrilling style and ultimate performance. I have a mom friend who has grown children in college, and when she sits behind the wheel of her 2009 Challenger R/T with her hair in a ponytail, she is 17 again. She even burns rubber at stop signs. That's the typical response to this new generation of musclecars.
Car fans searching for their vehicular fountain of youth will be pleased to find the new 2010 Camaro overflows with powerful performance. We've been offered many views of its exterior during our long courtship and have enjoyed its provocative design that combines elegant curves and sharp edges. It's a sexy car from every angle, but now that I've had a chance to drive it, I promise you, it is also especially arousing from the inside, with your hands on the steering wheel, and a foot on the throttle!
A small group of media were invited to participate in a ride and drive program this week to finally experience the new Camaro from the driver's seat. I had the great privilege to join the West Coast tour, which originated at the fabulous Tower 23 hotel in San Diego, California, and featured several hours of seat time on a variety of challenging roads meant to display the car's true driving style.
Honestly, the production model, which is heavily inspired by the first-generation Camaro, specifically the 1969 version, is an amazing car and truly honors the concept's promise to deliver performance worthy of the car's classic heritage. I drove several models in the lineup, including both manual and automatic V-6 models as well as a V-8 SS automatic. As one who specifically enjoys a manual transmission, I must say my absolute favorite was the 304-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 paired with the six-speed manual tranny -- thanks especially to its delicious engine growl and excellent power delivery with every shift. (I'm a practical person and most appreciate the efficiency and pricepoint of the V-6 - I know others may want the bigger V-8 engine and its increased horsepower, but I feel this model offers the best combination of performance, price, and fuel economy of any of its kindred.) Honestly though, any one of them will deliver thrilling performance that will not disappoint the memory of the Camaro loyalist: Chevrolet promises that the V-6-powered Camaro can run from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, and boasts 4.7-second times from the V-8 version.
If you choose to upgrade to the V-8 SS model, performance fanatics should know that two different 6.2-liter V-8 engines are installed depending on your transmission choice: the 400-horsepower L99 V-8 is paired with the automatic transmission, while a 426-horsepower LS3 is mated to the manual tranny. Both V-8 engines are offspring of the LS3 found under the hood of the 2008 Corvette. Vroom, Vroom, indeed.
While I've made it clear that I prefer the six-speed manual tranny, those who opt for the six-speed automatic transmission (the first ever offered in a Camaro) will enjoy a manual mode accented by steering wheel tap shifters, as well as slightly better fuel economy. Final EPA figures came in at 18 city/29 highway auto and 17/29 manual for the V-6, and 16/25 auto and 16/24 manual for the V-8. Impressive!
The rack-and-pinion steering is firm and responsive; plenty fun when steering in twisties, easy to control on the straights, but not so firm as to be tiring on long road trips. If you'll be doing donuts in your local parking lot, you'll need 37.7 feet for that turning circle. The ride is comfortable with minimal body roll in turns, and the interior is surprisingly well isolated from road noise. Seats are especially supportive, even during aggressive driving, and the optional heated leather seats are deliciously supple.
All Camaro models include a four-channel StabiliTrak electronic stability control system that incorporates anti-lock braking, traction control, and an active braking system to control wheel slip, optimize traction and enhance stability in wet, snow-covered or icy roads. The V-8-powered SS models feature a competitive/sport mode which optimizes the electronic stability control system for competitive driving and track conditions.
The interior is definitively snug; even though it's a four seater, the back seat is almost fictional. It's fine if you're short (5'2") like me, but if tall front-row passengers stretch out, those in the back will find their legs smooshed. Put the basketball player in the passenger seat, save the back seat for the littlest kids, and you'll be fine. Parents should be thankful for that diminutive back seat, as it will deter their teen-aged drivers from engaging in any 'hanky panky' back there. It's got LATCH anchors and tethers for two childseats, but it's a snug space no matter who is sitting in back.
The roofline is very low and the beltline is high, which means that visibility from within the car can be challenging: The rear pillars are bulky and create large blindspots behind the driver's shoulders; unfortunately the wide but shallow side mirrors might look great, but they don't help the driver see much of what's outside. Taller passengers may find headroom limiting, especially in models equipped with a sunroof.
The 11.3-cubic-foot trunk is cozy too; the gorgeous shape of the trunklid sacrifices access to the interior, which could inhibit storage of bulky items like strollers or golfclubs. Groceries, average suitcases, and baseball gear should be fine.
The dashboard is straightforward and honors the simple legacy of the original 1969 Camaro on which it is designed with such modern features as a digital clock/temp/radio display instead of old-fashioned analog controls. Large, round speedometer and tachometer are recessed in square, chrome-outlined bezels, while an optional assortment of gauges can be added to the center console.
Heated leather seats are optional, as is a Driver Convenience and Connectivity package which includes Bluetooth and USB port, iPod interface, and remote start (with automatic equipped vehicles). A single-CD radio with six speakers is standard on LS, LT, and SS models; a premium, 245-watt Boston Acoustics nine-speaker audio system can be ordered on 1LT and SS models. XM Satellite Radio and OnStar service with Advanced Crash Response system will be standard on all models.
The Camaro protects passengers with an integral safety cage and a robust body structure built of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels. It also features driver and front passenger dual-stage air bags as well as driver and front passenger seat-mounted thorax side-impact air bags. A front passenger detection system senses children and small-stature adults (or groceries and gear) to suppress air bag deployment when appropriate. Head curtain side-impact air bags are also available for both front- and rear-seat occupants.
Production on this car finally began this week and vehicles should be in dealerships very soon. Suggested pricing begins at $22,995 for the V-6 LS Coupe, up to $27,330 for a nicely outfitted 2LT/RS V-6 Coupe. The more muscular V-8 begins at $30,995 and ranges up to $34,180.
If you're not already in love with this vehicle, Camaro is posting a series of entertaining videos at YouTube.com, and has developed an informative Camaro microsite where consumers can get additional information.
I'm not one to gush over many cars, but this car speaks to me in a way that makes me want it enough to overlook some of its size-related impracticalities. The new 2010 Chevrolet Camaro is a gorgeous car that definitely makes my heart sing. It offers an ideal combination of retro heritage, modern technology and high performance, while also being well-priced among its competitors. Camaro expects to sell at least 30 percent of them to women, so if you want one, you'll have to stand behind the 14,000 people who have already put in their orders! And maybe me...
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