2010 Chevrolet Camaro: A hot-looking, 29 mpg muscle car

By Lary Coppola

I saw the first prototype of the new 2010 Chevy Camaro at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, and thought to myself, “This is hot! If GM builds it, they’ll sell every damn one.” Of course that was before the economic meltdown of 2010. During the week I test drove the new rear-wheel-drive Camaro, it attracted more attention and excitement than anything I’ve driven in 18 years of doing this. While the new Camaro has that retro look, it actually looks totally new at the same time.

There are three models, the LS, LT ad SS. The SS also has special exterior trim, including 20-inch painted aluminum wheels, four-piston Brembo disc brakes, a beefier suspension, that uses the same design as the LS, but with firmer shocks, springs and anti-roll bars, producing great handling and ride under more demanding circumstances.

Walkaround: Chevy designers did a good job of delivering smooth retro styling, while avoiding the temptation to blatantly overdo it. Someone clued me in that if you look down on the new Camaro from above, the lines of the 1963 split-window Corvette will magically appear.

The long hood ends in a shark-like, v-shaped nose and a black mesh grille prominently sporting the Chevy bowtie. The simple headlights are intentionally reminiscent of the ’69 Camaro.

Very subtle twin-cockpit humps on the hood are visible at the top of the steeply raked 67-degree windshield. All models utilize an aluminum hood with a 2.5-inch power dome having no real function other than appearance, but intended to look like cowl induction. Gills located just forward of the rear wheels add another nice, non-functional styling touch. And while the gills, power dome, and hood intake aren’t functional, they don’t come across as bogus either, and do enhance the styling. The SS has a wide and thin black simulated intake on the nose. Knowing this, you now know how to tell whether there’s a V8 or V6 under the hood.

Interior: Interior materials of the new Camaro are above average, but the overall design doesn’t rival the exterior or stir memories of the original. In what appears to be a nod towards the original Camaro, the instrumentation offers a recessed speedometer and tach stylized in square chrome housings.

The standard cloth upholstery is first-rate, with optional leather available. The standard cloth bucket seats are comfortable, with decent bolstering. However, I’m not sure they’ll keep an aggressive driver firmly in his or her place under hard cornering.

The stitched leather wrap on the three-spoke steering wheel is nice, and the wheel tilts and telescopes for drivers of all shapes and sizes. Based on previous Camaro sales history, a high percentage of female buyers are anticipated.

The climate controls located on the center stack seem designed more for looks than for ease of use — but I’ve experienced worse. There are four optional gauges positioned down on the center console forward of the shift lever, and I expect most Camaros will probably have them.

Rear seat legroom measures 29.9 inches — slightly less than the 30-inch benchmark most cars use.
The trunk is surprisingly deep considering the relatively short deck lid, but it’s almost flat and the opening itself isn’t all that large. Good thing there’s a pass-through to the trunk behind the rear seat.

The LS comes pretty well equipped, including the aforementioned telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, A/C, limited slip differential, 18-inch steel wheels, and a six-speaker AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 sound system, with GM’s OnStar Safe & Sound plan free for the first year.

Available upgrades include leather upholstery with six-way power reclining driver’s seat; foglamps and integral front fascia; 18, 19, or 20-inch painted aluminum wheels; heated mirrors and seats, nine-speaker, 245-watt audio system, Bluetooth and USB port, leather shift knob and steering wheel with audio controls, remote starting, and console mounted gauges including oil temp and pressure, volts and transmission fluid temp. A sunroof is also available.

Safety equipment on all Camaros includes electronic stability control with traction control, anti-lock brakes, frontal airbags, front side airbags, airbag curtains, and tire pressure monitor.

Under The Hood: Our test model LS featured the surprising, 7,000 rpm, 304 horse, 3.6-liter Cadillac V6. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, although our test model was equipped with the optional six-speed automatic with the manual shift feature.

The SS model boasts the killer 6.2-liter Corvette V8 with a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox. It delivers 400 horses with the optional six-speed manual automatic, or 425 with the standard six-speed manual.

Behind The Wheel: Like the impressive Pontiac G8 architecture it’s based on, the Camaro’s chassis was developed in Australia, However, the rear wheels were moved forward six inches, the front wheels slid forward three, while the windshield was set back three inches. The final touch was lowering the front suspension for better handling.

I found the handling, ride and brakes exceptional — especially for an American muscle car. The structure is rigid, but in a week of driving over numerous terrains — including major freeways as well as winding two-lane blacktops, I didn’t encounter any harshness in the ride.

One small problem is that the cabin is so quiet, thanks in part to liquid sound deadener, you’ll find yourself regularly exceeding the speed limit unintentionally.

Whines: Rear visibility over the driver’s shoulder isn’t very good, because of the sporty roofline. The retro instrumentation, lacks the sleekness of the rest of the car.

Bottom Line: The new Camaro is a hit on all fronts — drop-dead gorgeous styling, potent and efficient powerplants courtesy of Cadillac and Corvette, great handling and ride, and outstanding pricing. Compared to major segment competitors, — the Dodge Challenger and Mustang GT — the Camaro more than holds its own — and delivers traditional Chevy value.