So much time has elapsed from the inception of the fifth-generation Camaro to now that it seems many GM faithful have boiled over, like a pot of water, in anticipation. In our current culture of high-speed Internet, digital cable TV, fast food, etc., patience is a virtue no longer coveted. But if you intend to buy a 2010 Camaro that is exactly what you will need. Between the current instability in the dealer network to the limited allocation of new Camaros being dolled out, it may take some perseverance in acquiring one. However, GM's precise ordering process will at least ensure that you will get exactly what you want. GM has already taken some lumps on the message boards because of the continued wait, but it's apparent how much is at stake (given GM's financial situation) and the implications of a major recall or mechanical flaw. Furthermore, few owners have given a less than glowing review of their new hot rod. These are two small, but very important, steps in the right direction. Now this begs the question, is the new Camaro worth the wait?
We think so. Between the outstanding build quality, use of materials, and performance potential-the 2010 Camaro SS is a formidable competitor. One of the few negatives, besides its lack of availability, is that despite its technological advancements it seems GM has still left some horsepower and ET on the table-in other words, there is room for improvement. To us hot rodders, obviously, that just gives us an excuse to open our tool chests and get to work. Upon track testing both the automatic version at Bradenton Motorsports Park and the manual version at Englishtown Raceway Park, it was immediately apparent that, though stylish and well-performing on the street, the factory 20-inch wheels and thin-sidewall tires could do little to harness the 6.2L mill's power-despite adequate track prep. In addition, the height of the tire (over 28.5 inches) was no doubt killing the stock 3.45 (manual) and 3.27 (auto) ratio gear. With the manual, there was little room for error when slipping the clutch off the line as the margin between bogging the motor and spinning the tires was minimal-and unfortunately wheelhop seemed inevitable once you found the sweet spot. A 17- or 18-inch drag wheel, such as those used on the C5 and C6s, with a sticky tire would be a wise first investment for the serious drag racer.
With the stock converter and tires, it just didn't seem possible to go faster than a 2.01 short time with the six-speed automatic. The manual, on the other hand, seemed to have more to give coming out of the hole, but was difficult to coax. I think with more seat time and better weather, it would have been easy to surpass the 2.14 short time the manual limped to. Later testing showed that the stick will get the 3,880-pound coupe to the same mark in under 2-seconds. Had we placed the two cars in a virtual drag race, though, our sub-par launch in the manual mattered not as it caught the automatic somewhere between the 330-foot and the 1/8-mile marker. Just beyond the rpm limit of Third gear the manual eclipsed the traps in 13.09 at 110.3 mph, power-shifting through a noticeable wheelhop. The automatic, hampered by torque management and other safety devices as well as (typical Florida) sweltering humid heat, was sucking wind by mid-track and finishing with a 13.38 at 105.2 mph.
It is unclear whether the weight, the factory tune, or the nearly 29-inch tall tire is the culprit, but the Camaro is certainly slow off the line and only shows its guts as you begin to row through the gears. The wheelhop we experienced with the manual trans was also troubling, but only seemed to rear its ugly head on the extremely sticky E-town track and was impossible to induce on the street. We're guessing the GM engineers didn't have the benefit of one of the best dragstrips in the country and thousands of dollars worth of VHT to test out the Camaro's rear. Or maybe this is just the inevitability of having an IRS. I should also take this time to mention that we did not use the Launch Control feature, which is basically a pre-programmed two-step rev limiter built into the Competition Driving mode that is supposed to "provide controlled wheelspin for consistent acceleration." Perhaps had we used this feature we may have avoided wheelhop, but then again this feature may also have held us back-as some have already said.
Another difficulty we experienced during our testing of the manual version was that apparently it had received a tank full of 87-octane before it left the dealership. And with only 225-250 miles on the odometer, it had not yet had the chance to fully run its way out of the fuel system. As the result, our datalogs from the passes that day all showed 4-5 degrees of knock retard. This could have easily been worth a tenth or more, and even though Redline Motorsports attempted to tune the LS3 for its final two passes of the day, there was no tuning around a bad tank of gas. It only managed a 13.08 (with a 2.17 60-ft.), which easily could have been attributed to raising the rev limiter in order to hang it in Third gear going through the traps.
Conclusions? If you are only concerned with numbers-then low 13s with the potential to run high 12s (in the manual version) isn't too shabby, though not far off from its predecessor. Only time will tell whether the IRS is something to be concerned about, but after a day full of hard launches and burnouts as well as hundreds of miles of spirited street driving, both cars still seem to be holding up. That is more than we can say for some of GM's past efforts. Speaking of past efforts, digging up some of our old track times with stock '04 and '05 GTOs-the Camaro marks an obvious progression. Our best short times with the (equally heavy) stock six-speed Goats were 2.03 and 2.06, assuming the fifth-gen is capable of high to mid 1.9 short times as we later found out, that marks a clear improvement in chassis and suspension design. Even the solid axle fourth-gens were hard pressed to break 2.0 in stock trim. Further comparisons to the fourth-gen are not so pleasant considering many, including GMHTP, managed to run 12.90s with the (nearly as heavy) '01-02 SS/WS6s despite having over 80 less horsepower.
For the moment, I think we can chalk the fifth-gen's lack of performance up to a simple lack of familiarity with the new chassis. Even the most skilled drivers need considerable seat time before they can reach a car's true potential. Case in point, the owner of our manual '10 Camaro SS went 12.89 (with the previously mentioned improvement in 60-foot) a week or two later. Even still, some will throw the new Camaro into the fire for not surpassing the LS1 fourth-gen (in terms of its straight-line performance) by leaps and bounds given its significant increase in horsepower-most obviously because of its weight. But with that weight has come a safer, better built, and better quality car at an affordable price. This sort of responsible auto-making seems almost out of place on a Camaro, given how juvenile the fourth-gen is in comparison, but perhaps this is just the new face of GM, a historic company searching for its identity in a new world, and we will all just have to get used to it.
2010 Camaro SS vs. 2009 Challenger R/T Classic
As an added bonus, we decided to compare the Camaro SS to its nearest rival in size, cost, and power-the 2009 Challenger R/T. Our good friend Melvin Benzaquen of Classic Restoration Enterprises, responsible for the amazing paintjob on our Project LT1 Formula, happen to purchase a B5 Blue Pearl Challenger R/T Classic despite being a pretty devote GM guy. Melvin was happy to come thrash on his 5.7-liter Hemi-equipped R/T at E-town with us, which just so happened to stack up very evenly against the '10 Camaro's 2SS package. With the optional six-speed manual transmission, the R/T came with a number of high-performance upgrades (known as the Track Pak) including a 3.92 gear, anti-spin differential, performance steering, and Mopar cold-air intake. The 5.7L Hemi packs a sizeable punch with 372 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque thanks to variable cam timing and dual ignition (two spark plugs per cylinder). The Classic trim level posses a number of retro styling cues, including the Bodyside stripes, as well as a well-equipped leather interior (Boston Acoustics 276-watt sound system, heated seats, etc.) and special 20x8 wheels with 245/45VR20 all-season tires. All of these features parallel the 2SS, give or take a few gadgets, and cost only around a grand more ($34,225 vs. $35,625).
Unfortunately, the nearly equivalent price did not translate to the track. The Challenger's hefty beltline, measured to be 4,144-pounds without driver, was evident at the starting line. Release the ultra-soft clutch and feed in the throttle, and the Hemi labors to pull the huge sled off the line. We only had a few runs in the Challenger, but with the all-season tires the best short time we could manage was a 2.26 on the way to a disappointing 14.17 at 100 mph. Under better conditions, the R/T definitely has a 13.9 or a 13.8 in it, but our brief experience with the Mopar told us all we needed to know. The interior was comfortable and seemed well designed, filled with quality materials, but without losing 300 pounds (or more) the R/T is certainly no match for the SS. The 6.1L SRT8 model may have had a better shot at keeping pace with the Camaro, but at a base price of $42,645 that hardly seems fair. Score one for the Chevy, but don't be too excited until the Camaro can match the Mustang's performance per dollar.