Bill Shakespeare said it best when he penned, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” And even though there were no Camaros back in jolly ol’ England, it speaks volumes about GM’s newest offering to the renewed horsepower war: the 2010 Camaro. You see, the marketing wizards over at GM insist on referring to the new Camaro as a “sports car.” In fact, one gets the feeling that they’re actually going out of their way to dodge the term muscle car. But that’s what it really is. It’s a muscle car designed to intimidate lesser nameplates at a stoplight, and destroy tires when the clutch is dumped. It’s not a cup of Earl Grey tea; it’s black coffee that’s been on the burner for a while.
When GM sent us the invite to pilot the new Camaro down in sunny San Diego, California, it didn’t take much arm-twisting for us to accept. In fact, the week before the drive was mainly spent daydreaming about finally getting to drive the car we’ve been teased with for so long. A year ago, the thought of actually sitting in a real production Camaro seemed about as likely as stumbling across Big Foot in downtown Los Angeles, or riding a unicorn at the Orange County fair. But GM wanted to get it right, and it turns out the wait was well worth it.
For our drive session, GM provided a veritable cornucopia of Camaro goodness for us to sample. There were Camaros of almost every color and option package, so deciding which one to drive was a bit challenging. Actually, that’s a big, fat, lie since our sights immediately fell on a Victory Red SS six-speed. After licking the door handle to claim temporary ownership, and keep the other grubby journalists away, we loaded up our gear and hit the road. The prescribed drive would start us out in urban San Diego and eventually wind us through some more rural and curvaceous countryside.
First things first. Anyone who remembers the fourth-gen iteration of the Camaro can attest to how hard it was to physically get into. The extremely long doors and low seating position, while sporty, were a pain in the backside to live with. The 2010 fixes all of that with a design decision sure to help sales among those not focused primarily on performance: the individuals that GM cryptically refers to as “Life Enthusiasts.” The trunk is roomy enough at 11.3 cubic-feet, but the opening to get to all that space is a bit constrictive. Can it accommodate a bag of golf clubs? Hell if we know, but there’s ample room for a few cases of brew and other necessities of life.
All the good karma we’d accumulated over the last year paid off when we turned the key, fired up the raucous 426hp LS3, and laid into the throttle for the first time. Having this much power on tap made the 3,849-pound SS (curb weight) feel downright svelte. The suspension was firm without being harsh, and combined with the steering, we felt connected to the road rather than isolated from it. The sometimes-maligned independent rear suspension felt more than capable of sucking up road irregularities and keeping the tires firmly pressed to the highway.
Even with the short side glass, sightlines were good, but the blind spots caused by the B- and C-pillars took a bit getting use to. And while the power from the LS3 makes the car feel lighter than it is, other aspects conspire to make the Camaro feel a bit larger than it actually is. The aforementioned short side glass, steeply raked windshield, and high-mounted small rear window give the car a closed-in feel, almost like you’re in a turret of a Sherman tank. It also takes a while to get familiar with where the corners of the car are located, but these are all things that can be adjusted to. Wind noise, thanks to the auto-indexing side glass, was almost non-existent. In fact, the ride was so quiet that we often found ourselves going quite a bit faster than we should have.
While the new Camaro looks like a brick compared to the sleek fourth-gen, it’s actually quite aerodynamic. The long hood and short deck work with a 67-degree windshield rake to net a 0.35 Cd on the SS model and a 0.37 Cd on the V-6 version. Fairly close to the 0.33 Cd of the previous generation.
The leather seats in our SS were surprisingly comfy—not too soft or too hard—with enough side bolsters to hold us in place while carving through the mountain roads. The biggest ergonomic faux-pa is the arrangement of the pedals. The throttle and brake pedals are too far apart, so forget heel-toe downshifting, and the dead pedal is a bit too far forward. The front seating area is roomy, but the back seat is only suitable for children or Chihuahuas. The steering wheel is a bit overly styled and bulky for our tastes, but the precise and quick 16:1 steering (2.5 turns lock-to-lock) helped us forgive the oversight. The biggest upshot of the new Camaro? It’s fun. Mashing the gas while dropping down a gear put a stupid grin on our face, while slicing through mountain roads made us feel like better drivers than we really are.
At the end of the day we were given the chance to drive a base-model RS V-6 automatic six-speed car. Unfortunately, after whizzing around all day in the SS, the 304hp V-6 felt anemic, even though it’s actually fairly quick. The V-6 manual six-speed car felt a lot closer to the SS, but it was still a far cry from its 8-cylinder cousin. The upside to the V-6 is that it manages to knock down 29 mpg on the highway and it can be scooped up for as little as $23k, while a base SS stickers at $31k. Still, we would happily sacrifice the four to five mpg, and additional cash from our pockets for the added performance of the SS package.
So, no matter what GM decides to label the new Camaro; muscle car, sports car, pony car, or whatever. We’re going to just call it a winner.
Silver Ice Metallic
Red Jewel Tintcoat
Cyber Gray Metallic
Aqua Blue Metallic
Inferno Orange Metallic
Imperial Blue Metallic.
The front suspension has a dual-ball strut system, with a direct-acting stabilizer bar that measures 0.87x0.16 inches on FE2 and 0.91x0.17 inches on FE3. Hollow bars are used for mass savings. The front spring rates for the FE3 suspension are also a bit stiffer compared to the FE2 offerings found on the V-6 Camaros. The design includes the rack mounted forward of the front axle centerline that enhances handling and provides a stiffer system, while maintaining a degree of lateral force that helps vehicle stability during turn-in. The steering ratio is 16.1:1 on all models, with 2.5 turns lock-to-lock. The turning circle diameter is 37.7 feet for all wheel-and-tire combinations.
The 90-degree V-8 includes an aluminum block and aluminum cylinder heads. The bottom end of the engine includes a new structural cast aluminum oil pan, with an oil capacity of 8.9 quarts, while the two-valve cylinder head design is based on race-proven airflow dynamics. The intake valves measure 2.16 inches and exhaust valves are 1.60 inches in diameter.
Rear suspension features include high lateral stiffness for handling via three lateral ball joints per side. A subframe at the rear is double-isolated to minimize vehicle body motions and dampen road imperfections. The FE2 with a manual transmission includes a spring rate of 53 Nm, with wheel travel at 115 mm, and employs a limited-slip differential.
The FE3 rear axle uses a limited-slip differential on both manual- and automatic-equipped models; and the rear spring rate is increased to 66 Nm and wheel travel is reduced to 100 mm. Coilover shock absorbers are used in the rear with a decoupled, hollow stabilizer bar. The FE2 includes a 21.7x3 mm rear bar, while the FE3’s large bar measures 23x3 mm.
Here’s a spotter’s tip: If you see SS badges with a red fill, that car also has the RS option, while non-RS Super Sports have white-filled badges. Also, with an RS option, the wheels and tail light lenses have a slightly smoky look.
An optional console-mounted gauge package includes oil pressure, oil temperature, volts, and transmission fluid temperature. The gauge package is included on 2LT and 2SS models.